Luxury trains – often called “hotel cars” have several advantages over air travel. Unlike aeroplanes, luxury trains are a great way to promote tourism and have restaurants, bars, as well as comfortable sleeping areas, and washrooms. Luxurious trains offer a unique and opulent way to explore picturesque landscapes, historical sites, and diverse cultures. These train journeys are often characterized by beautifully appointed cabins, gourmet dining, personalized service, and themed experiences. Luxury trains in India include the Palace on Wheels, Deccan Odyssey, Golden Chariot and Maharajas’ Express.
Here is a list of the most luxurious trains in the world in 2023.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, Europe
The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express offers one of the most iconic luxury train rides in Europe, especially for those who wish to step back in time and experience the romance of a bygone golden age of train travel. Operating across several European countries, this train offers a truly extraordinary and romantic journey.
The history of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express dates back to the 19th century when it was originally operated by the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits and was synonymous with luxury, elegance and adventure. The train offers a range of luxurious cabins and suites, with exquisite furnishings and vintage details. The train’s carriages have been meticulously restored and decorated in the Art Deco style of the 1920s and 1930s to give its passengers a feel of vintage glamour and sophistication.
The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express operates various routes across Europe, including journeys between London and Venice, Paris and Istanbul, and other iconic destinations. The routes often traverse picturesque landscapes, including the Swiss Alps and the Italian countryside. Dining aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is a highlight of the journey. The train has many dining cars where passengers can savour gourmet dishes and wines. However dining on this train is a formal affair, and passengers are expected to dress accordingly. The train includes an observation car with large windows, providing panoramic views of the passing scenery. The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express offers themed journeys and special events, such as Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations, as well as specific holidays and occasions. It’s a perfect place to relax and enjoy a drink. The train’s staff ensures that every need of all passengers’ is met throughout the journey.
Palace on Wheels
The Palace on Wheels offers a unique and unforgettable way to explore the culture, history, and architecture of Rajasthan while indulging in the royal treatment accorded to the Maharajas of yesteryears. It has earned a reputation as one of the most luxurious and memorable train journeys in India. The Palace on Wheels typically follows a circuitous route through Rajasthan, covering Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Sawai Madhopur, Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Bharatpur, and Agra (Taj Mahal). The itinerary often includes guided tours of historical forts, palaces, and other attractions. The train’s decor is inspired by the opulence and grandeur of the erstwhile Rajputana royalty. The cabins and public areas are designed to reflect the rich heritage and history of Rajasthan. The Palace on Wheels usually operates from September to April, aligning with the cooler months in Rajasthan when the weather is more conducive to travel.
The Palace on Wheels is operated by the Indian Railways in association with the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC). It was launched in 1982 to promote tourism in Rajasthan. The train has 14 coaches, each named after a former Rajput state. The coaches are beautifully decorated in the traditional Rajput style, with rich fabrics, intricate woodwork, and polished marble. Each coach has six spacious cabins, each with an attached bathroom and amenities like a television, mini-bar, and air conditioning.
The Royal Scotsman
The Royal Scotsman is a luxurious and historic train to explore the scenic beauty, culture, and history of Scotland’s countryside. Operated by Belmond, this train is often regarded as one of the world’s most luxurious and elegant railway experiences. Travelling on The Royal Scotsman is a luxurious and culturally enriching way to explore the beauty and heritage of Scotland. It combines the elegance of classic train travel with the opportunity to discover the stunning landscapes, historic sites, and vibrant culture of this picturesque country.
The Royal Scotsman is steeped in history and tradition. Originally built in the 1980s it draws inspiration from Scotland’s classic steam trains and historic railway journeys. The train features beautifully appointed cabins and suites, each offering elegant decor, modern amenities, and panoramic windows to allow passengers to enjoy the stunning Scottish landscapes.
The Royal Scotsman offers various itineraries that traverse Scotland’s diverse landscapes, including journeys through the Highlands, coastal areas, and historic cities like Edinburgh and Inverness. The train also provides off-train excursions at various stops, allowing passengers to explore castles, distilleries, gardens, and other cultural and natural attractions in Scotland.
Maharaja Express, India
Travelling on the Maharajas’ Express known for offering a royal and opulent travel experience is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those looking to explore India in the lap of luxury and style. The Maharaja Express is one of the most luxurious trains in the world owned and operated by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC). The train offers a choice of cabins and suites ranging from the Presidential Suite to Deluxe Cabins, each with its own level of luxury and comfort. The Maharajas’ Express has “Mayur Mahal” and “Rang Mahal” two fine-dining restaurants on board, which serve a variety of Indian, and international cuisine and a well-stocked bar that offers a wide selection of wines and spirits. The Maharajas’ Express offers a range of off-train excursions to historic sites, palaces, and forts in Jaipur, Udaipur, Varanasi, Agra, and Mumbai. The journey also includes exclusive cultural performances, and elephant rides to give the elite passengers a glimpse of India’s royal heritage and modern amenities.
British Pullman, England
Travelling on the British Pullman is a unique way to explore the English countryside. The British Pullman vintage train offers a luxurious and nostalgic travel experience. The history of the British Pullman train known for its luxurious carriages and exquisite service dates back to the 1920s when it was originally operated by the London & North Eastern Railway. The train is made up of beautifully restored carriages with plush upholstery, polished wood, and vintage décor that evokes the elegance reminiscent of the golden age of train travel. The train is famous for its afternoon tea service in which passengers can enjoy a selection of teas, sandwiches, pastries, and cakes while admiring the scenic English countryside. The journey takes passengers through some of England’s most picturesque landscapes in Kent, Surrey Hills, and historic cities like Bath and Oxford. The train onboard entertainment includes live music performances by talented musicians and entertainers. The train is sometimes chartered for special events, weddings, and corporate gatherings, adding to its versatility. To maintain the elegant atmosphere, there is a dress code for passengers on the British Pullman and travellers are encouraged to wear smart, formal attire.
Cruise Train Seven Stars, Japan
Travelling on the Cruise Train Seven Stars is one of the best ways to explore the enchanting Kyushu region of Japan while enjoying the highest levels of luxury and comfort. The journey offers passengers a premium travel experience to explore the scenic beauty, culture, and traditions of the Kyushu region. The train features 14 spacious and well-equipped suites, each symbolic of comfort, traditional Japanese aesthetics and modern luxury. The dining car on the Cruise Train Seven Stars serves a variety of Japanese and international dishes prepared by in-house chefs using locally sourced ingredients. The train’s interior and decor are inspired by Japanese culture and craftsmanship, featuring intricate woodwork, traditional motifs, and artistic touches. The train includes an observation car with large windows, allowing passengers to admire the stunning landscapes.
The train covers different routes, each showcasing different parts of the Kyushu region. These routes may include visits to cities like Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Aso, and Kagoshima, as well as scenic landscapes like the Kumamoto countryside and the lush forests of Yakushima Island. The journey also includes excursions to historic sites, gardens, and artisan workshops. The train also offers themed journeys, such as seasonal tours that highlight the beauty of cherry blossoms in spring or the colourful foliage of autumn.
Deccan Odyssey, India
The Deccan Odyssey is a luxury train that offers a unique and opulent way to explore the Deccan region of India covering destinations such as Mumbai, Goa, Aurangabad, Jaipur, and Udaipur known for their rich cultural heritage, historical sites, and natural beauty. It is a great way to get a feel of the southern states of India from the beaches of Goa to the hill stations of Kerala. Often called a luxury hotel on wheels, the train has cabins and suites, designed to provide modern comforts and traditional Indian aesthetics.
The Deccan Odyssey operates several itineraries, each focused on a specific region or theme within the Deccan Plateau. The train stops at historic sites, forts, palaces, and cultural landmarks, allowing passengers to explore and learn about the rich history and culture of the region. The train also offers a range of off-train excursions to heritage sites, temples, caves, wildlife reserves, and local markets. The train’s staff is dedicated to providing exceptional service and ensuring passengers have a comfortable and memorable experience. The train also boasts of a spa car where passengers can avail of massages and spa treatments during the journey.
Golden Chariot, India
The Golden Chariot is a great way to experience the rich cultural heritage, historical sites, and natural beauty of South India. The journey covers some of the most popular tourist destinations in the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Goa and destinations such as Bangalore, Chennai, Mysore, Hampi, and Goa, among others.
Some of the popular itineraries include:
- The Pride of Karnataka– some of the most popular tourist destinations in Karnataka, including Mysore, Hampi, and the Bandipur National Park.
- The Jewels of South India– the most beautiful and historic places in South India, including Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, and Kerala’s backwaters.
- The Spice Route – spice plantations of Kerala and Karnataka, where you can learn about the history and cultivation of spices.
The train stops at historical sites, temples, palaces, and cultural landmarks, offering passengers the opportunity to get acquainted with the rich history and culture of the region. The train has 24 cabins, each of which is named after a dynasty that ruled South India. The train also provides a range of off-train excursions to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, wildlife sanctuaries, and local markets.
The train offers a fine dining experience with two onboard restaurants serving a variety of Indian and international cuisines as well as a lounge and bar where passengers can relax, and enjoy beverages, including cocktails and spirits. Passengers are often treated to cultural performances showcasing the traditional music and dance forms of South India onboard the train.
Belmond Andean Explorer, Peru
The Belmond Andean Explorer is a luxury train that offers a unique and elegant way to explore the breathtaking landscapes of the Andes Mountains and some of the most stunning and diverse landscapes, including high-altitude plains, snow-capped mountains, and picturesque valleys in Peru. It travels between Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire, and Arequipa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The train operates on several routes through the Peruvian Andes, including journeys between Cusco, Arequipa, and Puno. The train has 16 cabins, each of which is named after a different Andean bird.
The Belmond Andean Explorer has beautifully designed cabins and suites with large windows which allow passengers to fully appreciate the stunning scenery. The décor reflects the Peruvian aesthetic and modern comforts. The train includes an observation car with comfortable seating and unobstructed views, allowing passengers to take in the spectacular scenery while socializing or relaxing. The train also has a bar and lounge where passengers can unwind and taste a selection of beverages, including cocktails inspired by Peru’s famous Pisco Sour. The Belmond Andean Explorer often includes cultural activities and excursions at various stops allowing passengers to visit local communities, markets, and archaeological sites to get a hang of the rich history and cultural traditions of the region.
Some of the popular itineraries include:
- The Classic Journey: This itinerary takes you from Cusco to Arequipa, with stops at the Sacred Valley and Lake Titicaca.
- The Adventure Journey: This itinerary takes you to some of the most remote and wild parts of the Andes, including the Colca Canyon and the Amazon rainforest.
- The Cultural Journey: This itinerary takes you to some of the most important cultural and historical sites in Peru, including Machu Picchu and the Nazca Lines.
Rovos Rail, South Africa
Rovos Rail also known as the Pride of Africa is a luxury train in South Africa renowned for its unique and nostalgic travel experience. Rovos Rail offers a variety of routes, including journeys through South Africa and neighbouring countries like Namibia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Angola. Travelling on Rovos Rail is a journey back in time to the golden age of train travel, offering a blend of luxury, elegance, and adventure. It provides a unique opportunity to explore the beauty and culture of Southern Africa while enjoying the comfort and style of a bygone era. These routes offer passengers the opportunity to explore diverse landscapes, wildlife, and cultural attractions.
Founded in 1989 by Rohan Vos, who was passionate about preserving and restoring vintage railcars, Rovos Rail today seeks to recreate the grandeur and charm of early 20th-century train travel. The train has elegantly decorated cabins and suites all featuring vintage décor and modern amenities. The train provides guided off-train excursions at various stops, allowing passengers to visit historic sites, national parks, and cultural landmarks. These excursions enhance the overall travel experience.
The Ghan, Australia
Travelling on The Ghan is a unique way to explore the vast and diverse landscapes of Australia, from the arid desert of the Red Centre to the lush tropical north. The Ghan passenger train service offers travellers a remarkable journey through the heart of Australia, connecting the southern city of Adelaide to the northern city of Darwin. The Ghan has a rich history, dating back to the late 1920s. The service was originally known as the Afghan Express and later renamed in honour of the Afghan cameleers who helped establish transportation routes in the region. The Ghan’s most famous route is from Adelaide in the south to Darwin in the north. The route takes passengers through vast deserts, dramatic gorges, and lush tropical terrain.
The Ghan offers a range of comfortable cabins with twin or double beds as well as spacious and luxurious suites. The train also has an observation car allowing passengers to take in the ever-changing scenery and capture stunning views of the Australian Outback. The journey includes off-train excursions at various stops along the way. Passengers can explore destinations like Alice Springs, Katherine, and Nitmiluk National Park, gaining insights into the culture, history, and natural beauty of the region.
Golden Eagle Trans – Siberian Express
Travelling on the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that allows passengers to explore the vast and diverse landscapes of Eurasia in luxury and style. It offers a unique blend of modern amenities, cultural enrichment, and breathtaking scenery along one of the world’s most famous train routes. The Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express is a luxury train service that offers travellers an extraordinary and opulent way to travel one of the longest and most iconic railway routes in the world. The journey spans multiple countries and offers a chance to experience the vast and diverse landscapes of Eurasia. The Trans-Siberian Railway connects Moscow in western Russia to Vladivostok in the Russian Far East.
The Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express offers a range of lavish and well-designed cabins and suites, designed for comfort and elegance. Passengers can choose from various cabin categories, including Gold Class, Silver Class, and Imperial Suites. The train also includes an observation car with large windows to enjoy panoramic views of the landscapes along the journey.
The Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express offers several itineraries that cover different segments of the Trans-Siberian Railway. These routes may include journeys between Moscow and Vladivostok, Moscow and Beijing, and more. The train stops at historic sites, cultural landmarks, and natural wonders along the way. The train provides off-train excursions at various stops, allowing passengers to explore cities, towns, and attractions along the route. These excursions provide insights into the local culture, history, and traditions.
Rocky Mountaineer – Canada
The Rocky Mountaineer is a world-renowned luxury train service to experience the stunning landscapes of the Canadian Rockies and other regions of Western Canada. Known for its panoramic windows, gourmet dining, and exceptional service, the Rocky Mountaineer provides a memorable journey through some of Canada’s most breathtaking natural scenery. Travelling on the Rocky Mountaineer is a remarkable way to explore the natural beauty and rugged landscapes of Western Canada. The train journey offers passengers a unique blend of luxury, adventure, and cultural enrichment while showcasing the stunning scenery of the Canadian Rockies and beyond.
The Rocky Mountaineer offers several routes that traverse the picturesque landscapes of Western Canada, including the Canadian Rockies and British Columbia’s coastal regions. Passengers can choose from routes like the “First Passage to the West,” “Journey through the Clouds,” and “Rainforest to Gold Rush.” The train features well-appointed, spacious, and comfortable seats with large windows that provide unobstructed views of the scenery. There are also GoldLeaf and SilverLeaf Service options, with GoldLeaf offering two-level, glass-domed cars and an exclusive dining area.
The Rocky Mountaineer offers a range of off-train excursions at various stops, allowing passengers to explore national parks, historic towns, and other attractions. These excursions provide insights into the local culture, history, and outdoor activities. Passengers can enjoy onboard entertainment, including informative presentations by naturalists and experts, who provide insights into the regions traversed. The Rocky Mountaineer offers themed journeys, including holiday specials and trips aligned with specific interests or events.
Eastern and Orient Express
Operated by Belmond, the Eastern & Oriental Express offers one of the most elegant and enchanting ways to explore Southeast Asia’s landscapes, cultures, and historical sites. The Eastern & Oriental Express operates across Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. It runs between Singapore’s Woodlands Train Checkpoint and Bangkok, stopping at Kuala Lumpur, Butterworth, and Kanchanaburi, taking 4 days.
First launched in 1993 the train was originally called the Orient Express. However, in 2010 it was renamed to avoid confusion with the Venice Simplon Orient Express that runs between Paris and Istanbul. The train has 31 carriages, including 18 passenger carriages, named after cities in Southeast Asia, such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Bangkok. The cost per ticket starts at around US$5,000 per person.
The Eastern & Oriental Express is inspired by the colonial-era heritage of luxury train travel in Asia. It aims to evoke the charm and glamour of classic railway journeys. The train offers guided off-train excursions at various stops, allowing passengers to explore cultural and historical attractions. These excursions provide insights into the local heritage and traditions.
Travelling on the Indian Pacific is a once-in-a-lifetime journey to explore the scenic beauty and vastness of Australia. It is a truly remarkable way to discover the diversity of the Australian continent. It is one of the longest train journeys in the world, covering a distance of over 4,352 kilometres across Australia from east to west, connecting the Indian Ocean (Perth) to the Pacific Ocean (Sydney).
It has a rich history dating back to the 1970s and plays a significant role in connecting the eastern and western coasts of Australia. Operated by Journey Beyond Rail Expeditions, it offers one of the best ways to experience the vast landscapes and unique culture of Australia. The cost of a ticket on the Indian Pacific starts at around AUD$2,500 per person. Prices vary depending on the class of accommodation and the time of year.
The train travels across some of Australia’s most stunning landscapes, including the vast Nullarbor Plain, the arid Outback, and the picturesque Blue Mountains. The journey offers unparalleled views of diverse terrain. The train includes spacious observation cars with large windows which are ideally suited for viewing the wildlife. The Indian Pacific also offers off-train excursions at various stops along the way. Passengers can explore historic towns, natural wonders, and cultural attractions, providing a deeper understanding of Australia’s heritage.
The Blue Train
Travelling on The Blue Train is a luxurious and culturally enriching way to explore the natural beauty and diverse culture of South Africa. It combines the elegance of classic train travel with the opportunity to discover the stunning landscapes and vibrant heritage of this picturesque country. Renowned for its elegance and exceptional service, the Blue Train provides a memorable journey through some of South Africa’s most beautiful regions.
The history of Blue Train dates back to the 1920s when it was established. It has since been an iconic symbol of luxury train travel in South Africa. The train operates on two main routes: Pretoria to Cape Town and Pretoria to Hoedspruit. The Cape Town route showcases the Cape Winelands and the scenic Western Cape, while the Hoedspruit route offers access to the Limpopo Province and the Greater Kruger National Park area. Both routes offer ample opportunity to enjoy breathtaking views of South Africa’s diverse landscapes, including mountains, savannas, and vineyards. The train also provides off-train excursions at select stops, allowing passengers to explore cultural and natural attractions. The Blue Train is a popular tourist destination and is often booked up months in advance. The cost of a ticket starts at around R30,000 per person.
These are just a few of the many luxurious trains in the world. No matter what your budget or interests, there is a train out there that is perfect for you.