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