White-dusted peaks jutting above a swath of lush greenery, miles of rolling meadows, sprawling creeks, and a thousand other variants of nature’s most fabulous backdrops: such are the sights available to passengers of these first-class train trips. Some carriages are outfitted with luxury interiors that mirror the majesty of a bygone age; others cut a path high above mountaintops, through rainforests, or past the remnants of ancient cities. All of these rail routes, however, offer one common draw: a truly unforgettable experience.
Cuzco to Machu Picchu: Belmond Hiram Bingham
Panels of polished wood and fine-crafted brass accentuate a 1920s motif within Belmond’s luxury cars. Peruvian mountains have never looked better than when viewed from the Hiram Bingham’s bar room, while sipping on a pisco sour. The train adopts the name–and the legacy–of the iconic explorer who rediscovered Machu Picchu. Belmond’s trip across the South American skyline seeks to reproduce in riders the adventurous ecstasy Bingham must have felt when he first laid eyes upon Machu Picchu.
This may be the ultimate indulgence in that part of the world, but the non-luxury experience is also a joy. There are also inexpensive trains that follow the same 3 1/2 hour route, from near Cusco to Aguas Calientes, the village just down the hill from Machu Picchu. The train route is so steep that the trains have to zig-zag up the mountain, alternating between going forward and backward along each section of the zig-zag track. This is a truly unique adventure.
Toronto to Vancouver: The Canadian
This four-night ride carries patrons through the full range of Canadian landscapes; from gently sloping prairie country to the jagged Rockies. Beyond the sights, travelers can enjoy sleeper cabins equipped with deluxe amenities including double beds, which no other regularly scheduled passenger train in North America provides. Meals onboard have a reputation for freshness, and for featuring regional specialties, such as smoked salmon and maple syrup themed treats.
The Deccan Odyssey
Choosing from any one of six Deccan Odysseys will send you gliding across an Indian countryside rich with architecture. Passengers ride in the “blue train,” a regional fixture known for its unmatched luxury. Along the way, riders can explore world heritage sites like the buddhist-monument filled Ajanta Caves, take a stroll through Hyderabad’s timeless bazaars, or breach the walls of Golkonda, the medieval fortress city.
Chamonix to Mer De Glace: Montenvers Railway
Built well over a century ago in the early 1900s, Montenvers Railway carries passengers deep into the heart of the Alps. There waits Mer de Glace, France’s largest glacier, the peak of which plays host to Restaurant du Refuge du Montenvers. Patrons of Du Refuge have their taste buds graced with the signature fondues of Boujon, a master cheesemaker. Nothing accentuates the French Alps’ crystalline skies and ivory peaks quite like a stomach full of delicacies, and you’ll get plenty of both on a Montenvers Railway trip.
Napa Valley Wine Train
If cruising through a 36-mile network of vineyards–and stopping off to sample their wares–while feasting on a four-course banquet sounds like a great time, the Napa Valley Wine Train is your perfect trip. On the Quattro Vino Tour, you’ll travel to St. Helena and back in a renovated 1915 Pullman train car decked with plush armchairs, mahogany millwork and etched glass paneling. You’ll gain insider access to wineries “not found on the map,” savor exquisite meals, and soak in the California countryside.