Train Journeys For The Bucket List

Six of the best rail trips from around the world.



Train Journeys For The Bucket List

Six of the best rail trips from around the world.


Switzerland's Glacier Express is mesmerizing.

No other mode of transport quite captures the essence of slow, sustainable travel more than the train. For very little effort they can deliver maximum enjoyment – uninterrupted views of snow capped peaks, premium service inside lavish dining carts and even boutique accommodation inside refurbished cabins.

Over time trains have helped populations expand, move produce across borders and give rise to the industrial revolution. But they are so much more than than a mere mode of transport or cog in an economic wheel; their own cogs and wheels have been turning simple trips over the last few centuries into adventures, and memories to last a lifetime.

While its well known that catching the train is far less taxing on the natural environment, people are also choosing this style of travel for comfort and convenience, and for it's simplistic pleasure as well.

We've picked out six journeys that stand out on their own, for their own unique reasons, as the world's most amazing train journeys.

It is expected that guests, like staff on the Venice-Simplon Orient Express are impeccably dressed,

Venice-Simplon Orient Express

There’s luxury … and then there is the Venice-Simplon Orient Express. Leave the kids at home for this one – this is pure opulence at its finest.

Originally connecting travelers from Europe to Asia, the route has changed many times over 100 years of travel, currently linking Venice to London in a lush two-day, one night affair. What has stayed the same, however, is the 18 carriages of exquisitely ornate design that have been in action since the 1920s.

“There’s luxury … and then there is the Venice-Simplon Orient Express.”

Bring your best and finest frocks: nights on this train are a mix of black ties, evening gowns, champagne and caviar. When the time comes to retire to your bed chamber, the extravagance of it all might make you feel as if you're in some kind of novel or film. This is not your imagination at play; you're at the very scene of Agatha Christie's 1934 detective classic Murder on the Orient Express (of which three film remakes have been made) while contemporary film director Wes Anderson (French Dispatch, Grand Budapest Hotel) recently designed a carriage on the train, adding his own inimitably idiosyncratic style to the train's signature grand interior.

If you feel like you're in the scene of a film or novel on the Venice-Simplon Express, it's because you are.


Don't miss an issue. Subscribe to Arrived magazine.

When it comes to rail journeys the Glacier Express, seen here snaking its way along the Landwasser Viaduct in Graubünden, is difficult to beat for scenery.

Glacier Express

Switzerland is blessed with unbelievably majestic mountainous landscapes, and the best way to see these is undoubtedly by rail.

The Glacier Express runs to the impossibly attractive mountain town of Zermatt, snaking around The Matterhorn (made famous from its appearance on the Toblerone wrappers) having come from St. Moritz in the Engadin skiing area.

If you’re in a hurry, this isn’t the train for you – it takes over seven hours to travel just 180 miles, and is often referred to as Europe’s slowest train. But this simply affords you more time to take in the beauty outside, where sheets of snow fall softly on the roofs of quaint villages passing slowly by, with dramatic peaks looming in the distance.

There's no need to pack a book on the Glacier Express - you won't be able to tear your eyes away from the window, which include sealed panoramic windows all the way to the roof, regardless of whether you're sitting in first or second class. In 2019 the Express also introduced the exclusive Excellence Class for those seeking maximum comfort: a bar area, personal travel guidance, a premium seven-course lunch (seven!) and a maximum of 20 passengers at any given time, meaning every seat is a window seat, and that scenery is yours to enjoy the entire trip.

Wining, dining and gazing! Excellence Class on the Glacier Express, where there are only window seats.


One of the bullet trains traversing the Japanese countryside, with Mt. Fuji looming in the distance.

Japanese Bullet Train

If taking it slow is the idea behind the rail journeys in Switzerland, the opposite is true in Japan, where high-speed bullet trains have long been a source of fascination for locals and travelers alike.

You can probably guess why they call it the bullet train. The Shinkansen N700 clocks an absurd 185 miles per hour, linking two of Japan’s metropolitan giants in Tokyo and Osaka. This turns what would usually be a seven-hour journey into just under three hours. Other bullet trains, like the Shinkansen E5 and H5, reach as fast as 225 miles per hour.

While it might seem as if the outside world would simply whizz past you in a blur at such speeds, the Japanese countryside is actually quite visible out of your window for most of this trip – it's not hard to spot the iconic Mt. Fuji, for instance. In this respect, Japan's bullet trains combine the best aspects of slow travel with the experience of traveling so fast, like some sort of very comfortable rollercoaster. And in a country where there is so much to see, it becomes a particularly efficient way of traveling if your time is limited.


Heading to the restaurant cart is a great idea on a rail journey. You never know who you might meet!

The Canadian

When a train journey is depicted on the back of that country’s ten-dollar note, you know it’s a big deal.

That’s the case for VIA Rail’s The Canadian, which is a 2,485 mile journey of luxury headlined by the Rocky Mountains, lakes, forests and prairies, all of which can be viewed through the dome-glass windows in specially designed viewing areas. It would be easy to rely on the spectacular scenery outside to do its job in impressing, but there are also modern cabins of bespoke timber design to retire to on The Canadian, with stylish furnishings and comfy beds to boot – a godsend given the four nights that you'll be spending on this epic adventure.

“Canada possesses some of the most enchanting landscapes of anywhere in the world, and some of the friendliest people anywhere as well. A train journey then...seems the most appropriate way of seeing this amazing country.”

Canada possesses some of the most enchanting landscapes of anywhere in the world, and some of the friendliest people anywhere as well. A train journey then, which generally sees you encounter plenty of both outside scenery and the people around you, is surely the most appropriate way of seeing this amazing country.

One of the luxury cabins on The Canadian.

The viewing cart on The Canadian, offering exceptional views of exceptional landscapes.


Sitting high in the Andes, the sight of the extraordinary Machu Picchu is worth the trip on any train journey.

Cusco – Machu Picchu Railway

Rarely would a train journey have such a reward as when you reach the end of the line on the Cusco to Machu Picchu.

The Cusco – Machu Picchu is only a four and a half hour journey – far from the longest journey to feature here. The route runs along the Urubamba River and affords visitors gorgeous vistas of the epic Andes, and it is well worth getting out of bed early to catch the first of the morning sun poking through the many jagged peaks. This is especially the case on Peru Rail's Vistadome trains, where panoramic views make you feel as if you are part of your surroundings, as do the authentic Andean live music and dancing shows, and alpaca wool collection displays.

But the highlight (unusually for a train journey) is undoubtedly the destination. The first glimpse of that famous abandoned Incan citadel set impossibly high in the mountains is one that never fails to take the breath away, a moment you'll likely still be talking about when you arrive back at San Pedro station.


The Trans-Siberian Express passing Lake Baikal, not far from the Mongolian border. The Trans-Siberian passes through seven different time zones.

Trans-Siberian Railway

Starting in Vladivostok and ending in Moscow, covering 6,107 miles and crossing seven different time zones, arguably the ultimate in rail-adventures is the famous Trans-Siberian Railway.

It is the best (and only) way to attempt to grasp the sheer vastness of Russia, with starkly different cultures apparent at one end of the country to the other. Scenery is consistent, if not spectacular – you can fall asleep and wake up eight hours later to precisely the same birch-tree laden landscape – but this is made up for by carriages brimming with energy.

What starts as sharing food and photos of family can quickly turn into a game of cards over vodka, and before long you're singing Russian folk songs with complete strangers. It’s the feeling of finding a not-so-intimidating country behind the layers of mystery and grim news reports that is most attractive on this epic journey.

Note, this article was produced prior to the conflict in Ukraine. Arrived does not endorse armed conflict of any kind, and acknowledges that travel to Russia is not safe at this time.


Share this article


Get all the latest news. Subscribe to Arrived magazine.