If you’re thinking about your next holiday, you might want to think about an escorted group rail tour. The best rail journeys aren’t only adventurous and exciting; they take you through beautiful and varied landscapes, and allow you to see far more than you would otherwise. With Europe on our doorstep, hopping on a train means you can avoid the stress of flying – and because rail is one of the greenest forms of transport, you’ll be doing the world some good too.
To show you how idyllic rail tours can be, we’ve partnered with Rail Discoveries, a leading provider of escorted rail tours. One of the great things about a Rail Discoveries tour is you’re given assistance every step of the way, from planning your break to having your own UK tour manager.
Your holiday is designed to perfection, complete with guided excursions and time for solo exploration. You’re also part of a group, so it’s a nice way to make new friends and share experiences.
Plus, at a time when many of us are concerned about the increased cost of living, it’s important to know that escorted rail tours are incredibly cost-effective, without ever scrimping on quality. Some tours are also all-inclusive, where everything – from travel to food and accommodation to excursions – is included.
So, if you’re thinking about a rail tour next year, now’s the time to book! When booking your holiday before 31st August, you’re guaranteed 2023 European holidays at 2022 prices.
1. Puglia, Italy
Puglia might not be as celebrated as Tuscany, Rome, or the Amalfi Coast, but that’s what makes it so perfect for a rail tour. Located in the sunkissed heel of Italy’s boot, Puglia’s remoteness means that it’s far less touristy than other regions. While it hasn’t seen the same tourism explosion as other parts of Italy, there’s so much to see and do.
On an escorted rail tour, you’ll be able to do far more than you otherwise would, and will discover the true variety and beauty of this special part of the country. During this eight-day adventure, you’ll visit whitewashed villages, Baroque cities, and secluded beaches, and enjoy tours with local guides to learn about Puglia’s history and culture.
On the itinerary are cities like Bari and Lecce, the latter of which is called the ‘Florence of the South’, due to its spectacular architecture. You’ll visit the curious cone-shaped houses of Alberobello, and the Sassi di Matera, which are ancient cave dwellings carved into a ravine. At each destination, you’ll have plenty of time to explore, whether that’s to take a stroll, buy souvenirs, or enjoy a glass of wine.
All travel is included, and shuttling through this glorious landscape on a train is a great way to take in the views. You’ll be staying in a 4-star hotel in the beautiful seaside town of Polignano a Mare, where you’ll be able to take advantage of the private beach – and the all-inclusive drinks! All meals are provided, giving you plenty of opportunities to savour Puglia’s delicious cuisine.
Discover the beauty of Puglia
2. Catalonia and Little Trains of the Pyrenees, Spain
The Catalan Coast is home to captivating cities, pristine beaches, and lively seaside towns; and the Pyrenees are full of stunning natural scenery that covers both France and Spain. If you’ve never been before – or if you have and are longing to go back – why not explore these unique regions with Rail Discoveries? This escorted tour will allow you to see the best of Catalonia and the Pyrenees without feeling rushed.
You’ll be staying in the authentic fishing town of Roses, which has a lovely relaxed ambience and a sweeping sandy beach. It backs on to the Cap de Creus National Park, where you can enjoy hiking in this wild landscape. Or, if you’d prefer to take it easy, you can simply relax in Roses town itself, where you can feast on Catalonian cuisine and soak up the local culture.
Next, it’s time to hop on the Little Red Train and journey alongside the Pyrenees in its cheery crimson carriages. Whether you decide to enjoy a scenic trip from Rivesaltes to the little town of Axat or head to the open-air carriages to get closer to the passing scenery, there’s plenty to soak in.
Also included is a visit to the well-preserved medieval Spanish town of Girona, which is a wondrous maze of secret alleys, bright buildings, galleries, and museums. If you’re hoping to try some classic Spanish dishes and authentic tapas, this is the place to do it.
After a day of exploring on foot, it’s time to jump on the Nuria Valley Rack Railway, which will take you to the Nuria Valley itself. The railway is the only way to access the valley – and car-free, it’s an oasis of peace and calm. You might like to take this time to explore or simply breathe in the impressive natural beauty of the Pyrenees.
Figueres is also on the itinerary, and if you’re into art its Dali Museum is a must-visit. Figueres has lots to offer, from gothic architecture to unique shops and restaurants. You’ll also visit the medieval town of Besalú, which is packed with historic buildings and ancient ruins.
From relaxing ports to charming fishing towns and vibrant cities, this tour allows you to really immerse yourself in Catalan culture and soak in the outstanding natural beauty of the Pyrenees.
Experience the magic of Catalonia and the Pyrenees
3. Lake Garda, Italy
The Italian Lakes are famous for their beauty, and if you’ve ever wanted to visit this stunning region, you might want to think about a rail tour. This is a place that’s all about romance, and because trains are seen as the most romantic mode of travel, it’s a fitting way to explore! Rolling past these shimmering blue waters and vibrant green valleys is something you’ll remember forever.
During this escorted 10-day tour, you’ll be staying by Lake Garda, which is the largest of the lakes. Hugged by hulking mountains and with gleaming cerulean waters, it’s an incredibly scenic base. You’ll have several free days here, which leaves plenty of time to swim and sail in the lake, hike in the hills, or simply relax in one of Garda’s many excellent restaurants.
You’ll visit other towns on the shores of Lake Garda, like Malcesine, which is a picturesque town with a medieval centre and a pretty harbour. You’ll also enjoy a cruise to Sirmione, which is perhaps the most striking town on the lake. Bursting with history and charm, it’s known for its majestic Scaligero Castle and Roman grottoes, as well as charming cafés, shops, and bars.
But you won’t just be exploring the lakes; you’ll also visit two of Italy’s most famous cities. Head to Venice for the day, where you’ll see the sights on a guided walking tour, and have plenty of free time to enjoy a gondola ride or sip Aperol in a canalside bar. You’ll also visit Verona, where you’ll learn all about the culture and history of this UNESCO-listed city during a tour with a local guide.
If that wasn’t enough to tempt you, you’ll also get to enjoy a night in the elegant city of Turin, where you can stroll down its grand boulevards, admire its historic architecture, and sample its exceptional cuisine.
With so much packed in, from city tours to culture-rich excursions – not to mention hotels, travel, and meals – this trip is perfect for anyone who’s never been to Northern Italy.
Visit the beautiful Lake Garda
4. Glacier Express, Switzerland
If you’re more drawn to mountains and lakes than beaches and coastal scenery, why not think about a rail tour in Switzerland? The Swiss Alps are one of the most famous mountain ranges in the world, and it’s hard to adequately convey their beauty. From the chocolate-box towns to the sky-high peaks, this is a landscape that will truly take your breath away.
For this rail tour, you won’t be boarding any old train; you’ll be travelling along Switzerland’s most spectacular railways, and experiencing the world-famous Glacier Express – also called ‘the slowest express train in the world’. But as you journey through the Alps and the views unfold around you, you definitely won’t want to go any faster.
During your holiday, you’ll be staying in the picturesque town of Tiefencastel, which is located inside Parc Ela, Switzerland’s largest natural park. You’ll have plenty of time to explore the town and learn about its history, as well as enjoy your own independent hikes through the majestic Alpine scenery.
You’ll also get to ride on the narrow-gauge Bernina Express, which glides through the dramatic Grisons and Graubünden regions and provides you with magnificent views of thundering waterfalls and gleaming glaciers. The glitzy ski resort of St Moritz is also on the itinerary, and here you can visit the stylish bars, glamorous shops, and excellent restaurants at your leisure.
This all-inclusive escorted tour includes eight nights of accommodation, all travel and three meals a day, so you don’t need to worry about a thing.
Aside from getting the chance to discover the spectacular beauty of this part of Switzerland, you’ll also spend a night in the lovely French city of Strasbourg, which is known for its unique mix of French and German culture.
Experience the magic of Switzerland
5. Jungfrau Express, Switzerland
If you’re asked to picture Switzerland in your mind, there’s a good chance that it’ll be images of the Bernese Oberland that first spring to mind. This part of the country is home to Switzerland’s most remarkable sights and natural attractions, and on this one-week all-inclusive holiday, you’ll get to experience the best of them.
One of the highlights of this trip is travelling on the Jungfrau Express, Europe’s highest railway. The whole Jungfrau region is utterly enthralling, boasting glittering glaciers, turquoise lakes, soaring mountain peaks, and roaring waterfalls – and travelling by railway allows you to enjoy unrivalled views of this sensational Alpine landscape.
You’ll also ride the Schynige Platte Railway to the Alpine ridge, where you can admire the picturesque meadows and the chalet houses of the Bernese Highlands. You’ll take a day trip to Interlaken, a resort town tucked between two lakes, where you can visit its medieval castle, and explore the historic centre. Or, if you’re feeling energetic, you might want to try activities like paragliding, canyoning, or rafting.
While you’ll certainly have plenty of adventures on this trip, there’ll also be lots of relaxation. You’ll get to cruise along Lake Brienz, a spectacular glacier lake which is famous for its intense turquoise waters. Encircled by forest-shrouded mountains and fairytale villages, the views are incredible, and its beauty might quite literally leave you speechless.
You’ll be staying in the charming town of Wilderswil, where you’ll have two free days at your leisure. You can choose to stay local, sampling the local Swiss cuisine, exploring the town, or perhaps hiking along the foothills of the snow-capped mountains. Alternatively, you can hop on the train to visit one of the many surrounding towns and villages.
A magical break that shows you the best of Switzerland.
Find adventure in the Bernese Oberland
As this article hopefully shows, there are many reasons to take an escorted rail tour for your next holiday.
An escorted tour means there are experts around at all times, whether it’s your tour manager or a local guide. Travelling with experts doesn’t only mean you’re guaranteed to see the best sights and discover the most fascinating parts of local culture, it also removes any worry, allowing you to relax and enjoy your holiday.
Plus, an escorted tour with Rail Discoveries means your holiday is planned to perfection, and you’ll be able to enjoy exciting excursions and tours as well as time to yourself – either to explore at your own pace or to simply kick back and relax.
There’s also plenty included in the price, from meals and accommodation to days out and tours, so if you’re looking for a quality holiday at an affordable price, it’s a smart idea. You’ll save money once you’re out there and won’t have to worry about prices.
So, if you’re thinking about a rail tour next year, now’s the time to book! On selected European holidays, you can save £50 per person when booking before 17th October.