The Blue Train
Ranked among the very best hotels in the world, not only for the luxury and exclusivity of the accommodation and the quality of the service, but also for the chance to travel back in time to a bygone era of elegance and romanticism. All four of the Blue Train routes available – Pretoria-Victoria Falls, Pretoria-Cape Town, Port Elizabeth-Cape Town and Pretoria-Nelspruit – offer journeys of adventure with the marvellous backdrop of the varied landscapes of South Africa. As you travel across wide open grasslands, through the tangles of thick forests, in the shadow of the magnificent snow-capped mountains, by the splendour of the Victoria Falls... the glass observation deck will let you see the local wildlife in their natural habitat.
As its name suggests, the Royal Scotsman is one of the luxury trains whose routes run through Great Britain. Part of the Orient Express group, it offers six possible Scottish itineraries, with the two-night Highland Journey starting from around £2,500. Once aboard, the organised trips to distilleries, castles and mansions, the evenings spent in the company of raconteurs and local clansmen, and of course the fine wines that accompany the gastronomic lunches and dinners in the elegant restaurant car and the liqueurs in the splendid Edwardian observatory car are all included. A maximum of 36 travellers are accommodated in spacious wood-panelled sleeper cars. Between April and October, the train leaves Edinburgh – to the sound of the pipes – on trips of from two to seven nights. The destination is perhaps the least important aspect of the journey, as the focus is on elegant relaxation in pleasant company, while the moving picture in the windows shows some of the most beautiful countryside the Highlands have to offer.
Not perhaps the most luxurious of the trains we have selected, and one where you needn't pack your evening gown for the journey itself, the Glacier Express makes up in scenery and dramatic panoramic views what it lacks in other respects. The cheerful scarlet carriages stand out against the white background of the snowy landscape as the train travels through the Swiss Alps between St. Moritz and Zermatt. During the seven-hour journey, the train passes through 91 tunnels, crosses 291 bridges and crosses the Oberalp Pass at an altitude of 2033 metres. The trip costs 205 €.
Royal Canadian Pacific
In view of the vast distances to be covered in the New World, the 'iron horse' was instrumental in forging the history of North America, and it's a heritage that Canada has not forgotten. Offering all the classical elegance and refinement of the Old World, the Royal Canadian Pacific offers a sophisticated and exclusive way to discover and experience the magnificent scenery of the Rocky Mountains from Calgary or Buffalo Jump (a World Heritage Site) in Alberta to the Yoho and Banff National Parks. The carefully refurbished 1920s carriages have welcomed statesmen and royalty and now afford five-star accommodation for up to 32 travellers for around £8,000 per person for a one-week tour.
Transcantabrico Gran Lujo
In 1983, a century after the original Orient Express first travelled across Europe, Spain launched her own luxury rail line on the tracks that served the old coal trains across the north of Spain. You can be sure, though, that there's not a hint of coal dust on the shiny surfaces of the Transcantabrico Gran Lujo, relaunched in 2011 and described as a 'seven-star' hotel. On a trip designed for the most discerning of travellers, the train's 14 luxury suites – fully refurbished to combine classical elegance and modern facilities – provide accommodation for a maximum of 28 passengers. The seven-night journey through the lush greenery of northern Spain from San Sebastian to the pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela includes the finest in culture, cuisine, art and nature. The natural and man-made marvels include La Concha beach, the internationally renowned Guggenheim Museum at Bilbao, the great Hermida gorge, Comillas, Altamira, the site of ancient cave paintings, Santillana del Mar, the pretty coastal town of Llanes, the Covadonga lakes, Oviedo and the marvellous natural rock sculptures at Playa de las Catedrales.