The mystique of train travel has fascinated people since the dawn of the industrial age. From the smoke-belching steam locomotives of the 1800s to the utilitarian diesel and electric locomotives of the 20th century to the state-of-the-art high speed trains that connect so many major cities in Europe and Asia today, travelling by train still holds a certain romanticism and excitement. For short to medium distances, taking the train is often more efficient than flying by airplane because you can avoid the long security line-ups and waiting times for airport check-ins. And you can stretch out, walk around and even sit down in the restaurant car, a much more comfortable experience than flying in an airplane.
But apart from the practical advantages of railway travel, there are some amazing train trips that offer up a combination of stunning scenery, the cachet of history, an indulgent luxurious experience or an exciting adventure in remote awe-inspiring landscapes.
The Copper Canyon Train Trip (Mexico):
Offered by the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad, the Copper Canyon train departs at Los Michis on Mexico’s Pacific Coast and ends in Chihuahua, a large prosperous city with a beautiful colonial center and the capital of Chihuahua State. The trip takes between 15 and 16 hours, covers 673 km and crosses 37 bridges. It offers phenomenal views of coastal shrub lands, lush green valleys, dramatic canyons and high altitude desert. The train climbs to an altitude of over 2400m. There are two trips a day and one of these is geared more towards tourists with fewer stops for the locals. For best views you should look for a window on the south side of the train. The best times to go are in the spring and fall as the temperatures are more moderate at these times.
The Rocky Mountaineer (Canada):
This truly Canadian railway experience actually offers several different routes: from Vancouver via Banff to Calgary, from Vancouver via Kamloops to Jasper, from North Vancouver via Whistler and Prince George to Jasper and from North Vancouver to Whistler. Each one of these routes will reward you with stunning vistas of rivers, mountains and valleys. The imposing Canadian Rockies and the glaciers near Jasper are perennial favourites. As the trains only operate during the day, overnight stays are made in places such as Kamloops or Quesnel. Owned by a private company, the Rocky Mountaineer offers a wide variety of tourist packages, some of which also include stays in luxurious historic railway hotels such as the Banff Springs Hotel or the Chateau Lake Louise. The Silver Leaf service includes panoramic vistas from inside a single level dome coach with oversize windows.