We have travelled all over the world, taking planes, buses, cars, boats, camels… you name it. But there is just something about a rail adventure that excites us every time.
On my last two journeys overseas with Travelmarvel, I have been lucky enough to experience some of the greatest rail experiences on the planet. Now, that’s not just my acclamation! The Rocky Mountaineer in Canada, and the Flam and Rauma Railways in Norway, have all been voted up there with the very best. And I’ve truly had to pinch myself on board.
Train travel is not the ‘latest thing’ or something new. Indeed, it has been a favoured way to travel for centuries, especially when cars and planes weren’t what they are today.
But there is a reason why these journeys have stood the test of time and still stand out as some of the best ways to see and experience a destination.
Take the Flam Railway for example. From the pristine blue waters of Aurlandsfjord at sea level, the train climbs to the high mountain station of Myrdal at 866m over 20 kilometres of breathtaking Norwegian landscape. This incredible feat of engineering will stupefy you on the journey. Crossing the astonishing Flam Valley, across the river three times, through no less than 20 tunnels and constantly climbing in altitude (80% of the journey travels at a gradient of more than 5.5% making it the steepest gauge rail journey in the world), the Flam Railway offers unequalled views of the countryside, mountains, valleys, waterfalls and rivers.
You are totally immersed in the environment. Unlike a road or highway, no other cars are sharing the route and view with you. Nowhere else in the world can you experience such as view as the Kjosfossen waterfall directly from your train window, just when you thought the journey couldn’t get any better.
And with a short stop on the way to Myrdal, you get to take in the waterfall from up close. With the sun peeping over the top of the falls and the power of the water’s mist hitting you in the face as you peer over the edge, everyone spills out of the train to snap a photo. But I won’t reveal the lovely surprise that happens during the experience – you will just have to go see it for yourself.
There is a certain romance to train travel. Going back to the golden age of travel when people first started going on ‘holiday’, trains have been key in opening up new destinations to adventure-seekers. And some of the most famous and amazing experiences don’t just involve what is outside the window. Inside the trains of today, you will find comfort, style, service and the optimum facilities for taking in the view. Absorb in the scenery from panoramic windows, or even glass-domed carriages. Experience five-star dining on many journeys. Wander around to stretch your legs and sit with different people to share the experience. And some rail journeys even offer the opportunity to sleep onboard overnight with premium accommodation options.
Norway is a destination that is perfect for discovery by train. On our tour alone, we travelled on the Rauma, Flam and Bergen Railways. Each were a huge highlight of the journey – allowing us to experience Norway’s inimitable landscapes in the very best way possible, and at the same time, travel to our next destination. Our travel group bonded over the experience – we all shared the same speechless responses and knew they would be hard to articulate to our friends and family back home.
My journey last year on Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer was just as special. Two days spent on board traversing the countryside of Canada through Alberta and British Columbia and the famous Rocky Mountains with some of the most amazing scenery outside the window at every turn.
But it will also be the crew on board the Rocky Mountaineer who will stand out in my memory. Informative, fun and always delivering incredibly prepared five-star meals and drinks for the entirety of our journey. Quintessential Canadian hospitality that encouraged an amazing atmosphere on board. At one point, everyone in our coach was even on their feet dancing to Neil Diamond as we wove our way through the Rockies…
These rail journeys are ‘bucket list’ stuff. My experiences have led me to adding new journeys such as Switzerland’s Glacier Express, Japan’s Bullet Train, and New Zealand’s TranzAlpine train to my list of ‘must-do’s’.
Each journey (and many more around the world) can be experienced on a Travelmarvel journey, coupled with accommodation, key sightseeing and expert local guides. And I couldn’t have rated our guide on the Arctic Circle Express tour in Norway any higher. Her passion, knowledge and enthusiasm were infectious and our experience was seamless.
So what is next for us? India? Africa? The USA? Who knows, but I hope there is an epic train journey involved somewhere along the way…
Have you travelled on an amazing rail journey? Tell us about it in the comments!