We’re all in such a jolly hurry these days. We tap our feet in the airport queue and prefer to sit in our cars on the ferry so we can drive off immediately. But if you're in accordance with T.S. Eliot, that ‘the journey not the arrival matters’, there surely can’t be a more relaxing way to enjoy the journey than by train. Here’s some trips long and short to start you scheming.
If you fancy…
…28 days on a train: Pride of Africa (Africa)
Photo Courtesy: Pascal Parent, Flickr
You’d better fancy five-star luxury (and associated costs) too, as this train bills itself as “The Most Luxurious Train in the World.” No pulling any punches there! The four week journey includes a luxury air safari and lake cruise, combining to show guests sights like the Victoria falls in Zimbabwe, chimpanzees in Uganda and pyramids in Egypt. Start planning now – the trip departs only once every two years, with the next scheduled for January 2014.
…6 days on a train: Trans-Siberian Railway (Russia)
This is the world’s longest single service railway, around 8,000 kilometres across the barren expanses of Siberia. There are three main lines; the classic trip runs from Moscow to the port of Vladivostok, the other two end in Beijing. You can opt to do it all in one hit, but breaking up the trip will give you a chance to explore forests, plateaus and traditional villages along the way. Winter is a beautiful time of year to take this journey, although keep in mind that temperatures outside will drop to below zero and daylight hours are as sparse as the plains rolling by…
…5 days on a train: Dibrugarh - Kanyakumari Vivek Express (India)
You can’t mention train trips without mentioning India. Trains are the arteries of the country, pumping travellers, stock, pilgrims - just about anyone and anything through its hectic body. The longest trip on the subcontinent is the weekly train from Dibrugarh in the north-east to Kanyakumari at the southernmost tip of the mainland. Sip sugary chai sold by Chai Wallahs regularly walking through the cars and marvel at the chaos of colours whipping past the window.
…4 days on a train: Tren Crucero (Ecuador)
Recently reopened after extensive restoration, the Tren Crucero runs from Ecuador’s port town of Guayaquil up to the highland capital, Quito. Along the way the train undertakes the dramatic feat of ascending from 970ft above sea level to nearly 10,700ft in just 80 kilometres. It does this by navigating several switchbacks up the ‘Devil’s Nose zigzag’, reputably the most difficult railway climb in the world. There's plenty of side trips along the way to help stave off cabin fever, giving you the chance to explore national parks and cloud forests, eat at markets and haciendas and meet indigenous communities.
…3½ days on a train: The Canadian (Canada)
You’ll certainly get a feel for Canada’s sheer size on this trip, but take along a pack of cards. After the train has trekked its way through forests and then the central prairies, the spectacular Rocky Mountains will be a welcome sight and make the seemingly endless trees of Ontario worthwhile.
…3 days on a train: The Ghan (Australia)
The Ghan is named after Afghan cameleers who traversed the route in the late 19th century while helping settlers explore the harsh interior of the continent. The red heart of Australia certainly isn’t hospitable to hikers, but viewed from the comfort of your carriage it’s spectacular. Running up the centre of the continent like a zip, the Ghan will take you from the Adelaide Plains and Flinders Ranges in the south, through the outback town of Alice Springs and to the tropical city of Darwin in the North.
…2 hours on a train: Flåm Railway (Norway)
It’s a big jump down in time and temperature from the Ghan, to a trip that is a mere 20 kilometres. So brief you might think that if you blink you’ll miss it - in truth, you won’t want to blink at all for fear of missing out on the spectacular scenery as the train winds its way past Norwegian fjords, rivers, ravines and tiny mountain villages.
About the author: Susy Peddie is from New Zealand, now based in Berlin, working with GoEuro and taking as many train trips as possible. All the photographs in this post have been picked by her from Flickr – creative commons.