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PASSPORT

HIT THE RAILS

Whether you’re travelling to Cairo, Copenhagen, or Cusco, the romance and escapism of hoping on and off trains remains undiminished. Board here (no destination required) for chance encounters and a bit of self-reflection while observing life through a window and light at the end of the tunnel.

LAURA COWAN

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Train travel is often underrated. And you can understand why if your experience of railways involves being squashed by them into a package carriage on a daily commute. But traveling by train while on holiday, perhaps in continental Europe, the U.S. or even Siberia, can be exhilarating, giving you a real sense of freedom, a thirst for adventure, and a chance to unwind.

There’s something incredibly romantic about stepping aboard a train, especially one with a historic past, such as the Venice Simplon Orient Express. Transporting passengers back in time, it’s difficult to deny the charm and elegance of this opulent Art Deco masterpiece, representing all that was wonderful about the golden age of rail travel.

Rail travel allows you to explore new places and learn about different cultures, customs, and cuisine. On a break where the train is the star performer, what you see from your seat will be as much a part of your holiday, as arriving at your destination. And whether you travel independently or book an escorted expedition with a tour company, such a trip will open your eyes to gentler pace of life. Your body can gradually recharge and your mind slow down, so sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

Let the train take the strain….

Belmond Royal Scotsman

The knowledge that someone else is in the driving seat and you don’t need to negotiate unfamiliar roads or read complex maps makes it easy to be lulled into a restful, soothing state on a train journey. The route’s planned, there’s no fear of taking a wrong turn or getting stuck in traffic, and there’s every likelihood you’ll reach your destination at the designated arrival time.

There’s time for reflection and peaceful mindfulness, too. Even if you board a high-speed train in Paris en route to Barcelona, you still have more than six blissful hours to yourself. Time to let your body unwind and your mind empty of worries. With space to relax, few announcements to disturb the quiet and no fear of turbulence, you can close your eyes and focus on the rhythmic hum of the train on the tracks.

But don’t keep your peepers shut for too long. On any train journey, the view outside your window is constantly changing. One minute you may be hurtling along a track through lush fields with snow-tipped mountains in the distance. The next you could be passing through a pretty rural village, watching local children play in the street (and waving at the train) or market traders hard at work. Then suddenly you’re in a bustling city center, passing landmarks and momentous buildings.

Unlike motorways that bypass built-up areas, rail tracks are laid through villages, towns and cities, in the countryside, and by the coast, and are often the only transport across otherwise inaccessible mountains. With your nose close to the glass, you’re somehow given permission to observe other lives, and escape your own. It gives you time to daydream and to create scenarios for the people and places whose lives you glimpse and to wonder what life would be like if you lived in that farm, dined in that beach café, or cycled that river path.

 

Ready to hit the rails, here are a few fabulous journeys where you’ll find a great view from the comfort of your luxurious cabin…

Bernina Express

Europe

Alpine landscapes, complete with glaciers and spectacular mountain ranges, are everywhere to be seen as you travel four hours across the Alps on the Bernina Express. The train goes through 55 tunnels, across 196 bridges and when you reach the highest point at the Bernina Pass, you’ll be some 2,250m above sea level. The remarkable scenery is unforgettable. One minute, you are surrounded by ice and the next minute you are in a tropical paradise.

Belmond Royal Scotsman (above)

Scotland’s dramatic hills and glens never fail to impress, while aboard the infamous Belmond Royal Scotsman. The intimate setting is perfect for those seeking fine dining, superior service and excellent off train excursions where you can explore historic castles and distilleries. Don’t forget to book an exhilarating spa service at the onboard Bamford Spa.

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Europe

If you’re up for a decadent adventure across Europe, travel on the most storied trains in the world - Venice SimplonOrient-Express. Its 1920s-vintage Art Deco cars are completely breathtaking and its annual journeys between Paris and Istanbul are legendary. Be sure to book the Grand Suite to enjoy a myriad of extra perks including the caviar upon arrival and endless champagne.

 

The Rocky Mountaineer (above)

Canada

A luxurious way to travel across the heart of the Canadian Rockies, the Rocky Mountaineer weaves its way between mountains and canyons, passing through Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper. Gold leaf passengers sit on the upper deck which offers breath-taking panoramic views from its glass dome windows.

Belmond Andean Explorer (below)

Peru

Few experiences can top this journey along one of the highest train routes in the world, South America’s first luxury sleeper train glides from the ancient capital of the Incas, taking in Machu Picchu, the plains of the Andes, snowtipped mountains, the magical Lake Titicaca, and the UNESCO recognized city of Arequipa.

 

The Desert Express

Namibia

Against the backdrop of the Namib Desert, this stunning trip covers 354km from the capital of Windhoek through the country’s central highlands to the old German colonial seaside resort of Swakopmund. The opportunities to hop off and explore sand dunes and view wildlife make the seven-day trip priceless.

Eastern & Oriental Express (below)

Asia

 

Journey past Asia’s lush jungles, ancient temples, old-world villages, and more while on this luxurious train. Impeccable service, five-star amenities, and well-appointed accommodations combine with the perfect mixture of adventure, discovery, relaxation, and exhilaration makes this journey our absolute favorite.