One of the highlights of our year in Spain was traveling through the country by rail. Spain has the second longest high-speed network in the world and thousands more miles of slower-speed rails. We didn’t have a car, so if we wanted to travel to another city, it was either by train or plane. We don’t have anything against flying, but for short trips, the train made more sense. And we were reminded of how nice it is to avoid the TSA, the early arrivals, and the hassle of dealing with luggage. In addition, the three of us enjoyed the towns and landscape as they passed by, imagining what life might be like there.
Traveling by train may feel restrictive to most North Americans. You’re limited in your destinations, you do not control the stops, and it’s not as private as a personal vehicle. But trains are also more liberating. While a car driver must multitask, everyone gets to relax and enjoy the beautiful views on the train. You also remove the main reasons for stops: restroom breaks, food stops, and getting out to stretch. On a train, you get to do all those things while staying in motion. In addition, train travel is about the journey rather than a race to the destination. If you’re looking for a unique way to travel on your next vacation, here are some handpicked train trips to consider.
Each of the following train experiences can be enjoyed in either direction or purchased twice as a round trip loop.
Rocky Mountaineer - the Rockies to the Red Rocks
Start your trip at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, just outside Moab, Utah. The 2,000 natural arches of Arches National Park make up the highest density of arches in the world. Explore the many fascinating, gravity-defying formations scattered on a plateau, including Delicate Arch. Less than an hour away is Canyonlands National Park, where the Green River has shaped breathtaking canyons and created a popular destination for outdoor adventure seekers.
In two legs, you’ll make your way east, enjoying views that can only be seen from the train. The stopover is in Glenwood Springs, a frontier town filled with great restaurants and the world’s largest hot spring mineral pool, which is a memorable way to unwind after dinner. The second day lasts about eight hours and you’ll be served a gourmet breakfast and lunch. Upgrade to the Silverleaf Plus category for access to the lounge car and its oversized seats.
Rocky Mountaineer - First Passage to the West
The benefit of this route is that you’re starting from one of Canada’s biggest cities, Vancouver, BC.
Enjoy breakfast on the train, while enjoying views of the Fraser River and Valley. That evening you’ll stay in Kamloops, where you can enjoy its lovely riverfront parks. The following day treats you to lakefront views as you continue east in the Shuswap region. Feast your eyes on the stunning mountain views, including Castle Mountain. Your destination is the city of BANFF, located in Canada’s first national park. Here you can explore its glaciers, calm lakes, and raging rivers. Active and passive travelers will find what they are looking for in this versatile, beautiful landscape.
Belmond - Hiram Bingham
If Machu Picchu is on your bucket list, and you’d like to do it in style, then this train is for you.
Sit back as your iron horse carries you through the Andes mountains up to the Incan citadel. You’ll be served a gourmet lunch and treated to live Peruvian music. The only other way to reach Machu Picchu is on foot, so this train trip is for travelers whose idea of camping is a hotel without a pool. Multi-Day trips are available, so ask me about staying at the Sanctuary Lodge at the gate of Machu Picchu.
Belmond - Royal Scotsman
Choose your own adventure on this legendary train line.
The two or four-day trips are a luxurious way of seeing the Scottish countryside while being treated to world-class service. Relax in the observation car with a cocktail on a sofa, while listening to live music, as the castles and glens glide past you. If you’re ready to be pampered, book an appointment in the Bamford Haybarn spa carriage. Options for excursions are varied, from golf and fishing to castle and distillery tours.
Ready to ride the rails?
These are just a few of the many unique train trips you can take around the world. If this is the type of experience you’re ready to try, then ask me about finding the journey that’s perfect for you.