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12 of the Most Scenic Train Rides in the World

The Sky Train, Tibet With 80% of the railway cruising along at over 4000m above sea level and the peak at Tangula Pass reaching a lofty 5, 072m, the appropriately dubbed ‘Roof of the world’ train line might quite literally take your breath away. But those nervous of the high altitudes needn’t worry – the train’s ventilation system is fed with supplementary oxygen so you can sit back and enjoy the views – snow capped mountaintops, herds of yaks, mossy verges and vast, icy plateaus.

The Ghan, Australia Renowned as one of the World’s greatest train journeys, The Ghan runs the length of Australia from Adelaide in the South to Darwin on the Northern coast. This is the wilderness of the outback at it’s best – an ocean of red dirt desert, vibrant aboriginal settlements and vast expanses of unpopulated land. The Ghan also runs through Alice Springs, a popular stopover for tourists wishing to visit Uluru (Ayres rock) and through Flinders ranges and the Katherine Gorge.

12 of the Most Scenic Train Rides in the World

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The Coastal Classic Train, Alaska The tourist draws include enormous glaciers spied from the towering Kenai Mountains, glimpses of Beluga whales along the coast of Turnagain Arm and optional dog sledding in the holiday resort of Girdwood along the way. That’s not to mention the additional acres of alpine hills, wildflower-filled verges and glacial landscapes along the way. Running between Anchorage and Seward on it takes 4 hrs one way, leaving plenty of time for a few stop-overs along the way.

12 of the Most Scenic Train Rides in the World

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The Glacier Express, Switzerland A leisurely, visually delightful way to reach your ski resort Switzerland’s Glacier Express railway is Europe’s most scenic train route. Running 180 mi from Zermatt to St. Moritz, the trip takes around 8 hours, runs through some 91 tunnels and over a staggering 291 bridges. Wintertime is the best time to travel, when the snowfall leaves the countryside drenched in white, but the picturesque landscapes and quaint villages hold their own at any time of the year.

12 of the Most Scenic Train Rides in the World

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Copper Canyon Railway, Mexico Four times the size of the Grand Canyon, Mexico’s Copper Canyon etches an imposing silhouette across the Sierra Tarahumara, situated in Chihuahua, north Mexico. ‘Copper Canyon Railway’ offers the simplest yet non-the-less spectacular way to traverse the famous canyon. Running from Los Mochis to the Copper Canyon, the train cruises through some 87 tunnels and over 37 bridges, through the Tarahumara Mountains to Chihuahua.

The Blue Train, South Africa Another train vying for a place at the top of the luxury list is South Africa’s Blue Train. With gold-tinted windows, butler service, marble floor tiles and carriages that could pass as 5-star hotel suites, it’s no wonder that the train has played host to numerous presidents and royalty over the years. Running 1,600 km between Cape Town and Pretoria, the sapphire-blue carriages tunnel through rolling mountains and thick forest where wild animals roam.

12 of the Most Scenic Train Rides in the World

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The Palace on Wheels, India India has long been famous for it’s hectic yet unmissable train journeys and many a backpacker has returned to beguile their friends with tales of high-speed train ‘toilets’ or backbreaking bumpy trips through the Himalayas. Thankfully, India’s cheap prices mean that an upgrade to first class is both affordable and preferable and India’s first class is a league above most.

12 of the Most Scenic Train Rides in the World

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The Royal Scotsman, Scotland Tumbling through misty marshlands and bleak, gloomy cliffs, the Royal Scotsman railway offers up topography as varied as the Scottish weather itself. The railway line weaves through the Scottish highlands, following stretches of deserted coastline and parading a slideshow of thatched roofed hamlets, rolling glens, eerily calm lochs, and acres of unblemished countryside.

Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru The Inca ruins of Machu Picchu are perhaps most famous for the grueling 3-4 day trek that leads ambitious hikers up through the Andes, climbing to a nausea-inducing 4, 200m above sea level. Thankfully, for the less adventurous (or lazier) sightseer, there is another quicker and decidedly more comfortable route up the mountains, by train.

12 of the Most Scenic Train Rides in the World

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Trans Siberian, Russia It would be impossible to put together a list of the world’s best train journeys without a nod to the Trans Siberian. The railway, spanning some 6,000 miles, is not only the world’s longest but also one of the most popular – a journey that features on many traveler’s wish lists. Chugging at snail pace through rugged Russian landscapes and vast Siberian plateaus, the Trans Siberian also branches into Mongolia and China, offering a varied trans-continental experience.

Canadian Rockies Railway, Canada For sun-speckled lakes and virgin-white peaks, few landscapes are as famed as the Canadian Rockies, and what better way to discover the icy landscape than from the comfort of a plush, heated railway carriage? The Rockies – a UNESCO heritage site – provide a stunning backdrop of shale and limestone peaks as the railway winds through from Alberta to British Columbia.

12 of the Most Scenic Train Rides in the World

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The Flåm Railway, Norway Winding through the wild mountains of Myrdal in Western Norway, the Flåm railway is a tourist spectacle unlike any other. Famed for both its scenic vistas and innovative engineering, the railway tunnels down precipitous mountain slopes into the Flåm Valley. The 20km descent is amongst the steepest in the world, twisting through yawning ravines, cascading waterfalls, remote Nordic farmhouses and snow-dusted mountain peaks. Lasts a short but exhilarating 55 minutes.