TRANS-SIBERIA

Sunday Mail - Travel/Escape - - ALL ABOARD -

Imag­ine lis­ten­ing to a pi­anist play Tchaikovsky as you sip vodka in an op­u­lent lounge and gaze through panoramic win­dows at the vast­ness of Siberia.

Rus­sia’s Trans-Siberian Rail­way has been a sort of ar­du­ous rite of pas­sage for train buffs since 1901 but in 2007 the lav­ish Golden Ea­gle Trans-Siberian Ex­press, a 5-star ho­tel on wheels and Rus­sia’s only fully en­suite train, be­gan op­er­at­ing a lux­ury ser­vice from Moscow to Vladi­vos­tok.

All cab­ins have power show­ers, un­der-floor heat­ing, air­con­di­tion­ing, DVD/CD player with LCD screens and au­dio sys­tems and in the classy restau­rant, caviar and fine wines are stan­dard. The 12-night jour­ney stops at five cities and a bar­be­cue lunch at Lake Baikal. Fares from $15,495pp in­clude meals, drinks and tours (ap­tour­ing .com.au, ph 1300 196 420). (Aeroflot has busi­ness class non­stop one-way fares Moscow to Vladi­vos­tok from $1988. Heather-strewn hill­sides, leg­endary Loch Lomond, Harry Pot­ter’s Glen­finnan Viaduct and sulky Ben Ne­vis are just some of the sights on the tar­tan-trimmed

Western Jour­ney from Ed­in­burgh across the High­lands to the fish­ing town of Mal­laig on the north­west coast.

This mo­bile Scot­tish coun­try B&B sleeps 36 in en­suite state­rooms, feeds them in two dig­ni­fied din­ing car­riages and pro­vides scenic en­ter­tain­ment from an ob­ser­va­tion car, with a view­ing ve­randa in be­tween stops at In­ver­lochy Cas­tle and the Isle of Bute.

The runs from April to Oc­to­ber on sev­eral routes around the High­lands on trips of two to seven nights. The Western Jour­ney of four days/three nights costs from $5080 a per­son (belmond.com, ph (freecall) 1800 000 395). Switzer­land isn’t fall­ing be­hind when it comes to awe-in­spir­ing train rides. One of the best, and slow­est, is the

Me­an­der­ing be­tween the coun­try’s ritzi­est ski re­sorts – St Moritz in the En­gadin and Zer­matt at the base of the Mat­ter­horn – the bright red “ex­press” takes 7½ hours to cover the 290km through 91 tun­nels and across 291 dra­matic bridges.

Sky­lights and panoramic win­dows re­veal the jagged mag­nif­i­cence of the Swiss Alps, the forested moun­tains above Visp and on to Ober­alp Pass at 2030m.

There’s a bar, snacks and drinks are avail­able, and in your cush­ioned seat you’ll be served your pre-or­dered three-course menu or dish of the day. Fares from $200 2nd class, $327 1st class (glacier­ex­press.ch). The an­cient “Land of the Ma­hara­jahs” is pretty im­pres­sive from any an­gle but Ra­jasthan looks even bet­ter sur­rounded by the re­gal grandeur of a by­gone era.

Launched in 2009 with lav­ish In­dian decor, gourmet cui­sine and im­pec­ca­ble ser­vice, the runs from Delhi on a seven-day jour­ney ex­plor­ing the majesty of Ra­jasthan, Mad­hya Pradesh and Ut­tar Pradesh.

The deluxe and su­per deluxe cab­ins are all beau­ti­fully fur­nished with en­suite bath­rooms, lux­u­ri­ous beds, com­fort­able so­fas, built-in wardrobes and huge glass win­dows. There’s a spa, a well­stocked bar, two op­u­lent lounges and two old-world restau­rant cars. Fares from about $660 twin share, $1800 for suites (roy­al­ra­jasthan onwheels.com). Busi­ness/econ­omy fares cov­er­ing the same route to­tal $2340. Head­ing west from Chicago’s Union Sta­tion, the

Su­per­liner spans 3923km be­tween Chicago and Emeryville (San Fran­cisco), Cal­i­for­nia in about 54 hours, and is one of North Amer­ica’s most scenic train trips.

The jour­ney crosses Amer­ica’s heart­land – through the flat­lands of Ne­braska, through Denver and the canyons of the Colorado River, Glen­wood Canyon, the Utah desert and the High Sier­ras.

The din­ing car serves fullser­vice hot meals and you can view the scenery through the panoramic win­dows in the Sight­seer Lounge and Cafe.

Sleep­ing cars have a range of pri­vate rooms, from Su­per­liner roomettes to Su­per­liner bed­rooms with pri­vate en­suites and show­ers. In coach there are wide, com­fort­able re­clin­ing seats with leg rests, fold­ing tray ta­bles and free pil­lows. Fares from about $US745- $1400 ($A830-$1555) (am­trak.com). Amer­i­can Air­lines flies Chicago-San Fran­cisco busi­ness class for $826. Named af­ter the Amer­i­can ex­plorer who dis­cov­ered the re­mains of the 15th-century Inca ci­tadel Machu Pic­chu in 1911, Peru’s train is one of South Amer­ica’s finest rail jour­neys.

car­ries 84 pas­sen­gers in 1920s Pull­manstyled car­riages, with two lav­ish din­ing cars, a kitchen car and a bar/ob­ser­va­tory car and live on-board en­ter­tain­ment.

Six days a week, the jour­ney of just over three hours from Poroy near Cusco to Machu

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