15 Best Routes For Scenic Train Journeys

red and white train near green field viewing mountain and green trees

There is nothing like the rhythmic clatter of a train gliding over tracks, taking you on a journey through some of the world’s most stunning and diverse landscapes. These 15 scenic train routes offer an unparalleled opportunity to immerse yourself in breathtaking scenery, from the comfort of your carriage. Experience the grandeur of towering mountains, the tranquility of remote valleys, and the allure of meandering rivers—all while enjoying the luxury and romance of train travel. From the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway to the majestic Rocky Mountaineer, each route has been carefully selected to showcase the planet’s natural beauty and cultural richness. As the train carves its path across continents, you’re invited to witness nature’s masterpieces, historic landmarks, and the ever-changing tapestry of life that unfolds outside your window.

The Glacier Express, Switzerland

Embark on a journey through the heart of the Swiss Alps aboard the Glacier Express, a train ride that epitomizes the romance of rail travel. This route, connecting Zermatt and St. Moritz, is a slow-moving panorama of snow-clad peaks, deep Alpine valleys, and landscapes dotted with picturesque chalets and serene lakes. The train’s panoramic windows offer passengers an immersive experience, bringing the outside in and providing an unparalleled view of Switzerland’s pristine natural beauty. Each curve and tunnel reveals a new, breathtaking scene, from the majestic Matterhorn to the awe-inspiring Rhine Gorge, making every moment aboard the Glacier Express an unforgettable adventure.

The Rocky Mountaineer, Canada

The Rocky Mountaineer offers a luxurious journey through the Canadian Rockies, an experience that combines grandeur with intimacy. As you traverse routes like the First Passage to the West or Journey through the Clouds, you’re treated to a front-row view of Canada’s most dramatic landscapes. The train’s glass-domed cars ensure you don’t miss a moment of the majestic mountains, emerald lakes, and sprawling forests. With world-class service and gourmet meals inspired by the regions the train passes through, the Rocky Mountaineer is more than just a train ride; it’s a celebration of the Canadian wilderness.

The Flam Railway, Norway

Norway’s Flam Railway is a masterpiece of engineering, offering one of the most scenic train journeys in the world. This steep railway takes you from the high mountain plateau at Myrdal down to the serene waters of Aurlandsfjord in Flam. Along the way, you’ll pass by cascading waterfalls, through narrow tunnels, and beside steep cliffs. The journey is a showcase of Norwegian natural beauty, offering up-close views of the lush landscape and providing opportunities to witness the harmony between human ingenuity and nature’s grandeur.

The Trans-Siberian Railway, Russia

The Trans-Siberian Railway is an epic journey that captures the imagination, stretching across the vast expanse of Russia. From the historic grandeur of Moscow to the port city of Vladivostok, this train journey is a deep dive into the Russian soul. Travelers on this legendary railway will see the changing landscapes of Russia unfold, from dense forests and serene lakes to the endless steppes of Siberia. The journey offers a unique insight into Russian culture and history, providing a backdrop of ever-changing scenery that is as diverse as the country itself.

The TranzAlpine, New Zealand

New Zealand’s TranzAlpine train offers a window into the soul of the South Island, presenting a tapestry of natural wonders from the comfort of your seat. This journey from Christchurch to Greymouth slices through the Southern Alps, crossing vast plains, deep gorges, and pristine rivers. The train’s open-air viewing cars allow passengers to breathe in the fresh alpine air and immerse themselves fully in the stunning landscapes, from the Canterbury Plains to the Arthur’s Pass National Park. It’s a journey that showcases the untamed beauty of New Zealand’s wilderness in a way that’s both accessible and awe-inspiring.

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, India

Known affectionately as the ‘Toy Train,’ the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is a journey into the clouds, where the majestic Himalayas meet the sky. This narrow-gauge railway winds its way up the steep mountain slopes, offering passengers a glimpse into the life of the region and stunning views of the surrounding peaks. The train chugs past verdant tea plantations, through bustling market towns, and alongside Buddhist monasteries, providing a cultural tapestry as rich as the natural beauty it traverses. It’s a journey that connects passengers not just with the breathtaking landscapes but with the heart and soul of Darjeeling.

The California Zephyr, USA

The California Zephyr is a testament to the diverse beauty of the American landscape, offering one of the most scenic train journeys in the United States. From the urban landscapes of Chicago and San Francisco to the natural wonders of the Rockies and Sierra Nevadas, this train presents a cross-section of the country’s most iconic scenery. Passengers are treated to a rolling montage of changing landscapes, from verdant valleys to towering mountains, making every moment of the journey a discovery and every view a memory in the making.

The Bernina Express, Switzerland

The Bernina Express offers an enchanting journey through the Swiss Alps, linking the canton of Graubünden in Switzerland with the town of Tirano in Italy. This UNESCO World Heritage route is a celebration of engineering and natural beauty, featuring awe-inspiring viaducts, like the Brusio spiral viaduct, and dramatic passes, including the Bernina Pass. The train’s panoramic windows offer an unobstructed view of the stunning landscapes, from glaciers to palm trees as you descend towards Italy, making the journey as spectacular as the destinations it connects.

The Palace on Wheels, India

India’s Palace on Wheels offers a journey back in time, where luxury meets the rich tapestry of Indian heritage. This train takes passengers on a voyage through the heart of Rajasthan, offering a close-up view of its historic forts, palaces, and deserts. Each carriage is a moving homage to the former Rajput kingdoms, with opulent interiors that echo the royal carriages of yesteryear. The journey is not just a train ride but an immersive experience into India’s cultural and historical legacy, offering an unparalleled blend of comfort and discovery.

The Ghan, Australia

Traversing the heart of the Australian continent, the Ghan is a legendary journey from north to south, showcasing the vast, contrasting landscapes of Australia. From the tropical city of Darwin through the red heart of the Outback to the elegant streets of Adelaide, this train journey offers a unique perspective on Australia’s geography and its cultural diversity. Along the way, passengers witness the changing colors of the desert, the rugged Outback, and the lush wine regions, making the Ghan a quintessential Australian experience that’s as varied as it is vast.

The West Highland Line, Scotland

Scotland’s West Highland Line is a journey through a landscape of lochs, moors, mountains, and glens that seem to have sprung from the pages of a storybook. From the bustling city of Glasgow to the remote highlands, this train offers a view of Scotland’s wild beauty, including the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct, known to many from the Harry Potter films. It’s a journey that captures the essence of Scotland, offering a glimpse into its history, culture, and the rugged charm that has inspired poets, artists, and travelers for centuries.

The Shongololo Express, Southern Africa

The Shongololo Express offers an unparalleled rail adventure through the heart of Southern Africa, a journey that combines the thrill of safari with the elegance of train travel. This mobile safari traverses diverse landscapes and national parks, offering passengers the chance to witness Africa’s wildlife and natural beauty up close. From the comfort of their cabin, travelers see a continent in transition, from the savannas of South Africa to the dunes of Namibia, making the Shongololo Express a moving panorama of Africa’s enchanting landscapes.

The Coastal Pacific, New Zealand

New Zealand’s Coastal Pacific train is a scenic journey that explores the rugged eastern coast of the South Island, offering stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the Kaikoura mountain range. This journey is a celebration of New Zealand’s natural beauty, from the vineyards of Marlborough to the marine wildlife of Kaikoura. The train’s journey is a window into the soul of the South Island, showcasing its diverse landscapes, wildlife, and the vibrant communities that make New Zealand unique.

Joseph Mandell

Mandell is currently working towards a medical degree from the University of Central Florida. His main passions include kayaking, playing soccer and tasting good food. He covers mostly science, health and environmental stories for the Scientific Origin.