Beautiful Train Rides Around the World

On a rail vacation, getting there is really half the fun.

A train crosses a bridge by a waterfall in the Swiss Alps, image
See the Swiss Alps by rail.
emperorcosar / shutterstock

Swiss Alps

The Journey: From the Swiss Alps at St. Moritz, Switzerland to Tirano, Italy.

Vistas & Views: Cross 196 bridges while passing rugged peaks, cascading waterfalls, and blue-gray glaciers; end amid sun and palm trees.

What’s Onboard: The route of the bright-red Bernina Express has earned Unesco World Heritage status for its gorgeous landscapes, seen via panoramic windows.

Don’t Miss: Traversing the impressive Brusio spiral viaduct before circling back to travel under stone archways.

Off Track: In summer, reach mountain trails via chairlifts and cable cars at St. Moritz ski resort.

Trans-Siberian Route: China to Russia

The Journey: From Beijing to Lake Baikal on the epic Trans-Siberian route.

Vistas & Views: A spectacle of rolling hills, yurts, and Mongolian horsemen gives way to the crystal clear waters of Lake Baikal.

What’s Onboard: Enjoy caviar and vodka tastings in the panoramic lounge and relax in your private compartment aboard the Zarengold train.

Don’t Miss: A picnic on the banks of Lake Baikal, the oldest and deepest freshwater lake on the planet.

Off Track: Fly to St. Petersburg to tour the Hermitage Museum and Peter the Great’s opulent Summer Palace.

The Rocky Mountaineer rolls past Castle Mountain in Alberta, Canada, photo

The Rocky Mountaineer near Castle Mountain in Alberta, Canada.

Courtesy Rocky Mountaineer

Canadian Rockies

The Journey: From Vancouver, B.C., to Jasper, Alberta.

Vistas & Views: Black bears rest in treetops, elk venture close to the tracks, and eagles soar above the mountainous landscape.

What’s Onboard: With the Rocky Mountaineer’s GoldLeaf Service, feast on fresh meals in the elegant, lower-level dining room, then ride up top under the dome.

Don’t Miss: Snapping photos of snowcapped Mount Robson, the Canadian Rockies’ highest peak, from open-air platforms.

Off Track: Ride the Jasper SkyTram up Whistler Mountain for birds-eye views of six mountain ranges.

New Zealand's South Island

The Journey: From Christchurch on the island’s east coast to Greymouth in the west.

Vistas & Views: Cross farmlands on the Canterbury plains, roll through tunnels under the rugged Southern Alps, and emerge in a lush rain forest.

What’s Onboard: The TranzAlpine narrow-gauge train features an open-sided carriage for picture taking and fresh mountain air.

Don’t Miss: Arthur’s Pass, at 2,418 feet, is the South Island’s highest train station.

Off Track: Cruise Milford Sound to see the natural wonders of Fiordland National Park.

Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, image

Complete the journey from Cusco to Machu Picchu by train.

vitmark / Shutterstock

Machu Picchu, Peru

The Journey: From Cusco to the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.

Vistas & Views: Descend into the Sacred Valley to follow the sparkling Urubamba River past colorful villages dotting the Andes foothills.

What’s Onboard: Brunch is served with mimosas aboard the Hiram Bingham’s 1920s style dining cars. Savor a dinner of Peruvian specialties on your return.

Don’t Miss: Machu Picchu at dawn, well before the crowds arrive.

Off Track: Climb Sacsayhuamán, an ancient Incan fortress built of massive rocks that overlooks Cusco.

This article was first published in May 2012 in Traveler and updated in March 2019.