Golden Eagle

Europe
Luxury

No question about it: there is no better way to see Siberia. The Golden Eagle was launched in 2007 to much fanfare in Moscow. The UK operators of this train have made a huge push to up the ante with the Imperial Suite, as well as Gold and Silver Class accommodations, all with en-suite bathroom. The train also has two dining cars and a lounge car. It plies the famous Trans-Siberian route between Moscow and Vladivostok, as well as special tours of the Silk Road, Russia’s Arctic, Iran and the Caspian region.

Two Imperial Suites are available on all Golden Eagle departures. This type of compartment, the most spacious at 120 square feet, has been a huge success for luxury travelers. It offers a fixed king-sized bed, a dedicated dressing table, and lounge area. All passengers will enjoy the upgraded service, presence of a quality control manager and improved food and beverage service throughout the Golden Eagle.

Latest News: Click here for owner Owen Hardy’s blog on improvements in 2012 on the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express.

 

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (VSOE)

Europe
Luxury

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (VSOE), with its restored, 1920s vintage cars, is the world’s most authentic luxury train. Made famous in the Agatha Christie story, the train still runs on the legendary route between Paris and Istanbul. Many other itineraries are also available, featuring European gems such as Prague, Vienna, Budapest and Paris.

NEW for 2018: For the first time ever, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is adding fully en-suite cabins. Three Grand Suites will be available on every departure, beginning in March 2018. These will include a private bathroom with shower, washbasin, and toilet, living area with space for private dining, and a sofa which can be converted into an additional small bed. Additional amenities include preferential seating and guaranteed dining time for meals, caviar upon arrival, free-flowing champagne, private transfers to/from train stations, and complimentary designer art deco bathrobes. A complimentary alternative “a la carte” menu will also be available during lunch or dinner for Grand Suite guests.

Rovos Rail Pride of Africa

Africa
Luxury

Rovos Rail’s Pride of Africa offers an old-world elegance and luxury to a degree that was never equaled in the 1920s. Many seasoned IRT Society travelers consider it their favorite rail experience. Celebrated not only for its fabulous equipment, the train is rightfully proud of its stellar dining and on-board service. In short, the entire experience is an exciting luxury rail adventure.

Golden Eagle Danube Express

Europe
Luxury

The newly dubbed Golden Eagle Danube Express has a capacity of 56 passengers and comprises six sleeping cars, a lounge car and two dining cars. Four of the sleeping cars contain Deluxe cabins, while a new sleeping car contains Deluxe Superior accommodations; the sixth car carries Heritage class cabins. The Deluxe Superior and Deluxe cabins are spacious and offer some of the best sleeping accommodations in mainland Europe.

Well-planned itineraries on the Golden Eagle Danube Express take in highlights of Eastern and Western Europe, such as Budapest, Prague and Sarajevo.

Tours on the Golden Eagle Danube Express are fully inclusive (food, drinks, gratutiies, touring, transfers), making it a truly worry-free adventure.

Belmond Royal Scotsman

Europe
Luxury

The Royal Scotsman is a standout train and one of our favorites in the world.

A small venue—just 40 passengers—it’s great for those who wish for a more intimate, luxury setting with gourmet, five-star dining, wine-pairing and superior service.

All the train’s cars, save the 1928-era diner, are of 1960s vintage equipment, but they have been recast into an Edwardian confection of varnished woods, polished brass and fine fabrics.

Simply put, it is one of our favorite hotel trains.

Latest News: Click here to see our video of Society President Eleanor Hardy’s May, 2012 trip on the Royal Scotsman.

El Transcantábrico

Europe
Luxury

The 52-passenger Clásico El Transcantábrico train, which traverses Northern Spain, started in 1983.  Its launching was one of the first stories in The International Railway Traveler, founded the same year. The train set has six sleepers, each with four double compartments with ensuite facilities.

In May, 2011, a new luxury service, called Gran Lujo, was inaugurated. It features all Preferente Suites, which are each half a train car. These cabins are about 129 square feet. This will make a huge difference to some travelers who require more space and private lounge area.

The Preferente Suites have a double bed, long sofa, flat-screen DVD, computer for your private use (wifi when in stations) and lots of storage in closets, under the bed, and under the sofa. The Gran Lujo train will only take 28 passengers, and thereby be able to offer a much more intimate travel experience for discriminating travelers. However, these cabins can also accommodate three persons.

Belmond Grand Hibernian

Europe
Luxury

The company that brings you the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express and the Royal Scotsman has built another of its “Grand Hotels’ on wheels: the Belmond Grand Hibernian.

Debuting August 2016, the Belmond Grand Hibernian will be the first luxury overnight rail experience of its kind in Ireland.

The train “will tour the magnificent open countryside, dramatic coastal scenery and fascinating cities of both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland,” Belmond says.

Eastern & Oriental Express

Asia
Luxury

In 1991, the Orient-Express company acquired New Zealand’s famed Silver Star, transported it to Southeast Asia and, following refurbishment, re-christened it the Eastern & Oriental Express (E&O). The train runs 1,262 miles between Singapore, Malaysia and Bangkok, Thailand.

 

Al-Andalus

Europe
Luxury

Southern Spain’s opulent, broad-gauge Al-Andalus returned to the rails May, 2012, with its 1920s-era cars newly renovated. The Al-Andalus includes bar, lounge and two dining cars, as well as all-en suite cabins. The train combines stellar service, exquisite Art Deco styling and excellent cuisine for a unique tour of Andalusia.  Maximum occupancy is 64 passengers. Please see IRT’s review of Al-Andalus in our Track 25 blog from spring, 2012.

Rocky Mountaineer

North America
First-class

The Rocky Mountaineer has graduated to international status, as it has added Seattle, Washington to its repertoire in Western Canada. The train is comfortable and classy. Its luxury GoldLeaf Service, with custom-built glass dome coaches, offers fine dining on the lower level, including local wines, plus wind-in-the-face, outdoor viewing at the rear platform.

There are four routes offered by this train: Vancouver to Banff and Calgary; Vancouver to Jasper via Kamloops; Vancouver to Jasper via Quesnel and Vancouver to Seattle.

To enjoy the cross-border link, board in Seattle, have a half-day trip that ends in Vancouver. You’d then spend one to two nights in Vancouver and continue on to any of the itineraries. You can’t purchase the Coastal Passage by itself – always with two additional days of rail. You can take this service in Silver or GoldLeaf. It usually leaves on selected Saturdays during the season.

Belmond Andean Explorer: Luxury Sleeper Train

South America
Luxury

South America’s first luxury sleeper train, the Belmond Andean Explorer, is scheduled to launch May, 2017.

Running along one of the world’s highest rail routes, traversing the Peruvian Andes from Cusco to Lake Titicaca and Arequipa, the new luxury train will explore natural wonders and ancient kingdoms on one- and two-night journeys.

Guests will have the opportunity to explore the vast Colca Canyon, then continue towards the city center of Arequipa, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The reverse itinerary, from Arequipa to Cusco, also will be possible, Belmond says.

Travelers should be aware that journey involves high altitudes. Bottled oxygen will be available if needed.

Deccan Odyssey

Asia
Luxury

The Deccan Odyssey is one of the subcontinent’s most luxurious trains, with comfortable private cabins, lounges and even a luxurious spa car.  Recent reviews of the service and food on board have been excellent. In addition to its popular Rajasthan itinerary, the Deccan Odyssey ventures to fascinating parts of India not covered by other luxury trains, such as Gujurat, Nashik & Hyderabad.

Shangri-La Express

Asia
First-class

The private Shangri-La Express is not a luxury train, but it is at this writing the most modern hotel train in China. It far surpasses regular train service.

During our fall 2013 trip, we (Society of IRT co-owners Eleanor and Owen Hardy) were pleasantly surprised by the train’s comfort. The glass-like Chinese rails made for one of the smoothest rides we’ve had anywhere.

The train is modern and air-conditioned. It  has two cabin classes.

Diamond Class cabins are en-suite and have a large double bed. Heritage Class cabins have two lower twin beds and shared toilets and showers.

Glacier Express

Europe
First-class

The Swiss proudly hail the Glacier Express as the world’s slowest express. The train takes almost eight hours and the services of two private, narrow-gauge railroads to traverse the 168 mountainous miles between two posh resorts—Zermatt and St. Moritz. The Alpine route of the Glacier Express is what makes this train so marvelous. A serious quibble: we long for the old, second-class equipment which allowed us to open windows and photograph the fantastic scenery.

Kyushu Seven Stars

Asia
Luxury

Since its inception in 2013, the Kyushu Seven Stars, Japan’s very first luxury train, has been selling space based on a lottery system to account for the overwhelming demand for this exclusive and utterly unique rail travel experience.

This “Cruise Train” is a beautifully designed fusion of Japanese and Western elements, painstakingly thought-out with an eye to detail. Intricate woodwork and sumptuous textiles abound in the lounge and dining cars as well as in the fourteen all en-suite cabins.

On the Seven Stars, passengers can enjoy the beautiful Kyushu scenery as it flows by their windows. The courses on the Seven Stars are highlights of the best that Kyushu has to offer. The train does not just push through the journey. At certain points passengers will alight from the train to participate in excursions, making this train a new kind of travel experience.

Latest News: Click here for owner Owen Hardy’s blog about his Japanese adventure on the Kyushu Seven Stars. Spoiler alert: He loved it!

Bergen Railway

Europe
First-class

The complete Oslo-Bergen line was opened in 1909 as the only year-round land transport between Norway’s two largest cities. The 300-mile length of track passes through 200 tunnels and 18 miles of snowsheds in addition to crossing more than 300 bridges. The scenery on the 7-hour Bergen Railway trip across the Hardanger plateau, the largest wilderness area in Europe, is breathtaking.

Maharajas’ Express

Asia
Luxury

The Maharajas’ Express was custom-built to be the most luxurious train in India––and perhaps the world––offering state-of-the-art facilities and amenities. All cabins have large windows, LCD televisions, wi-fi access, individual temperature controls and full en-suite bathrooms. There is one Presidential Suite which comprises a full train car—the largest suite available on any train in the world. The two elegantly decorated dining cars serve a choice of multi-course Indian and continental cuisine. Two lounge cars provide cool drinks and comfortable seating. The train is 22 cars long, taking a maximum of 84 passengers.

Bernina Express

Europe
Luxury

The spectacular Bernina line was completed in 1910 and is run by Rhaetian Railways. Beginning in Chur, St. Moritz or Davos, it passes the glaciers of Piz Bernina, making this the highest railway crossing in all of the Alps. It travels over 38 miles, climbing grades of up to 7%––without rack and pinion––to more than 7,391 feet at the Bernina Pass summit, and drops down to just 1,408 feet at Tirano, Italy.

Golden Pass Panoramic Express

Europe
First-class

Switzerland’s Panoramic Express trains boast vista-dome cars for maximum viewing of the spectacular mountain scenery between Montreux and Zweisimmen. Super Panoramic Express trains also have a special, eight-passenger viewing area in the front of the train, above the driver, for the ultimate in ringside seats.

Belmond Hiram Bingham

South America
Luxury

The gleaming blue-and-gold cars of the Hiram Bingham makes the 3.5-hour trip between Cusco and Machu Picchu every day but Sunday. The train has two 42-seat dining cars serving excellent Peruvian specialties for brunch on the journey to Machu Picchu, and for dinner on the evening return to Cusco. The train also has a gorgeous bar/observation car.

Tren Crucero

South America
First-class

The Tren Crucero began service in 2014 and was just reviewed by The Society of International Railway Travelers in April, 2017.  The daytime-only train consists of four carriages–two dining cars and two lounge cars, with a capacity for 54 passengers. It operates between Quito and Guayaquil on a 4 day/4 night journey, with touring along the way and overnights in local hotels. Perhaps the star of the show is the fabulous outdoor viewing platform — a great places to take in volcanoes, cloud forests, and Andean towns.

When Eleanor & Owen Hardy, co-owners of The Society of International Railway Travelers, reviewed this train in April, 2017, they were thrilled with what they found: great, warm and professional staff; interesting off-train outings, beautiful train equipment, lovely haciendas and hotels for overnight stays, wonderful food. And all with a refined sense of social responsibility to the communities through which the train travels.  If you have been waiting for the “Gold Star” from The Society of IRT for this program, here it is. This train was just awarded World’s Top 25 Trains status by The Society of International Railway Travelers in June 2, 2017.

This wonderful video, just posted, is a great look at the entire program.

 

The Blue Train

Africa
Luxury

The Blue Train is one of the world’s great luxury trains, and runs eight times a month between Pretoria and Cape Town. The current schedule is southbound on Mondays and the northbound on Wednesdays. The route is a 27-hour journey of 994 miles and includes a sightseeing stop in each direction. The Blue Train is operated by the state-run Spoornet.

Belmond British Pullman

Europe
Luxury

The British Pullman is a luxury, vintage day train that completes the British leg of Orient-Express journeys between Paris and London. Passengers from the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express debark in Calais, France, and board a special bus for the short “piggyback” train ride through the Eurotunnel to Folkestone. There, they board the British Pullman for the ride to London’s Victoria station. What’s not to love about this experience? Fabulous food, lovely scenery and riding on such a gorgeous and historic train.

 

Canadian

North America
First-class

The Canadian is VIA Rail Canada’s flagship train. It runs between Toronto and Vancouver three times a week, traveling 2,775 miles.

IRT recommends VIA’s new Prestige Class, introduced in 2015, with large bedroom with double bed, full en suite bathroom, plus a host of amenities including flat-screen TV (for videos only), unlimited free drinks, including alcoholic drinks, 24-hour butler service and first choice for meals (included in your fare). A major delight is exclusive access to the great dome cars for seeing the sights day or night.

The schedule from Toronto to Jasper allows three nights on board (10 p.m. departure Vancouver, 1:00 p.m. arrival Jasper.) All the way to Vancouver is four nights (three days, 14 hours and 42 minutes!) Arrival in Vancouver is scheduled for mid-morning.

The Sweet Train

Asia
Luxury

Japan’s diminutive Sweet Train — it comprises just 2 cars — proves that good things come in small packages.

Conceived by the fertile minds of railway company JR Kyushu, the Sweet Train is aptly named: it’s a four-course feast on wheels. Any trip to Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost island, should definitely include it.

The two-hour trip gives ample time for diners to enjoy an exquisite light lunch, followed by four “sweets” courses.

A dedicated, smiling staff fusses over passengers, who enjoy Kyushu’s natural beauty and the train’s gorgeous, naturalistic interior.

And while you’re traveling, be sure to ask about the Sweet Train’s “American Connection.”

(Can’t wait? Read about it here.)