While self-drive holidays offers a lot more autonomy, sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and let someone else take you to your destination. And train journeys offer the most scenic way to do that. Here are five routes that you may consider.
Though the recent pandemic has affected the travel industry, there are signs that life is slowly getting back to normal.
Some travellers view a vacation as packing in as much activity in as little time as possible. Then there are those who see the journey, and not just the destination, as part of the escapade. For those who don’t already know, going on a train journey is one of the best ways to sit back, relax and soak up amazing vistas.
Train travel has been underrated for many years, but more travellers are rediscovering the charms and experiences it offers. Why not consider one of these amazing scenic train routes on your next vacation?
THE REUNIFICATION EXPRESS LINE, VIETNAM
There’s something magical about a train journey. Take, for instance, The Reunification Express Line in Vietnam. Traversing Vietnam’s 1,000-mile long North-South Railway, you’d take in the country’s amazing beauty, its people and epic history. So called to commemorate the end of a 30-year conflict with French and US forces, the line meanders slowly south from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, at parts hugging the scenic coastlines of the Pacific Ocean.
On board, you can opt for air-conditioned cabins. There is also a charming restaurant at the end of the train serving Vietnamese fare. You can stop along the journey to explore various spots, such as Van Long Nature Reserve and the imperial city of Hue, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For those travelling overnight, the train has sleeping berths. Sleeping on a train is an experience everyone should try — the gentle swerve and vibration may be strange to some but never unpleasant.
THE FEVE NETWORK, SPAIN
For that slow and easy travel, the Feve Line along Spain’s north coast is just perfect. While it’s not the most famous of routes, it offers spectacular coast and mountain views, and passes through charming medieval towns and fishing villages, which you can hop off to explore. Travelling from Bilbao in Basque country to Ferrol, Galicia, there are some 100 stations dotted along the line.
Mostly used by locals, it allows you to be immersed in the sights and sounds that few tourists are privy to. Explore Cabezon de la Sal, a tranquil town that harks back to Roman times. Seaside towns offer unpretentious cafes and restaurants that serve up the freshest bounty from the sea, such as mussels and rodaballo, a local flatfish. As the line wanders inland, hop off to explore a way of life that continues to resist modernity, where life slows down, and where locals enjoy a chat over a meal of tapas.
THE BLUE TRAIN, SOUTH AFRICA
If luxury is your style, then The Blue Train welcomes you with velvet gloves. Synonymous with luxury hospitality since 1946, The Blue Train provides travellers a window seat into the soul of South Africa. The train’s legendary luxury experience includes superb cuisine, attentive butler service, and immaculate interior fittings that boast exquisite mahogany and marble linings.
Travelling between Johannesburg and Cape Town, the train ride will offer you views of deserts, rivers and the Cape’s wine region. The distinctive sapphire (hence its name) carriages indulge the well-heeled with deluxe suites, some equipped with screens that provide a driver’s eye view of the track ahead. In 1997, additional routes were extended northwards to Victoria Falls, Kruger National Park, and Port Elizabeth.
FERROCARRIL CENTRAL ANDINO, PERU
For an unforgettable train journey, hop on board the second-highest railway in the world. At nearly 16,000 feet above sea level at its highest point, this ride is as close to heaven as you can get! The line traverses more than 58 bridges and 69 tunnels, weaving through the Western Range of the Andes, and continues through the Mantra Valley of Peru’s first capital.
At the San Bartolomé station, passengers get off to watch the train operators flip the motor on a large turntable in order to continue the journey up into the mountains. Have your breath taken away as you take in the stunning views of the Andes at Ticlio Station, a quick rest stop at 15,600 feet. Along the way there are small-town stops such as Matucana, where you can stretch your legs and enjoy local snacks and drinks. At its destination, Huancayo, you get to experience — from food to people to culture — the authentic Peru, not the facsimile passed off to tourists.
TOREIYU TSUBASA, JAPAN
A train journey list would not be complete without a mention from the Land of the Rising Sun. For a one-of-a-kind train ride, JR East has a created the Toreiyu Tsubasa. Travelling between Fukushima and Yamagata, passengers are given the experience of strolling through a hot spring town while on board the train! This shinkansen’s interior is equipped with reserved tatami mat seating and Yamagata fruit reliefs adorning the cabin’s ceiling and chairs.
Meant to give travellers a comfortable atmosphere, the train also offers a bar counter, where you can sip on homemade Yamagata sake, wine and juice. The highlight has to be the two eye-catching safflower-coloured footbaths (tickets must be bought in advance) that you can dip your tired feet in while enjoying the passing greenery and clear blue skies.