Across the world, there are a number of magical train journeys famed for their awe-inspiring views. And the beauty of train travel is that it allows us to explore some of the most wild and otherworldly landscapes – many of which are fairly inaccessible by other modes of transport.
More good news is that whether you’re drawn to warm beaches, dense jungles, or icey mountains, there’s a scenic train route out there to inspire everyone.
From Switzerland and Norway, to Thailand and Australia, here are 12 of the most scenic train routes in the world.
1. Glacier Express, Switzerland
With breathtaking scenery and spectacular engineering of over 290 bridges and 90 mountain tunnels, it’s not difficult to see why Switzerland’s Glacier Express route is so popular.
On this eight-hour route eastward from the charming town of Zermatt to the popular holiday resort of St. Moritz, expect wondrous views of snow-capped mountains, beautiful vineyards, vast meadows, and picturesque towns.
The train also climbs almost 7,000 feet to the Oberalp Pass, near the source of the Rhine River. Then, from here, it winds back down through the Rhine Valley, past the Rhine Gorge – which is often referred to as the Grand Canyon of Switzerland and is one of the most iconic views of the trip.
With panoramic windows perfect for taking in the scenery and headphones fitted with narration, a ride aboard the Glacier Express is a unique way to see Switzerland. For the ultimate luxury, an Excellence Class ticket will provide you with access to a premium multi-course meal with local wines and a special seating area.
2. The Jacobite Steam Train, Scotland
The Scottish Highlands town of Fort William, near Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, is the start point for a journey onboard the Jacobite Steam Train.
This 84-mile circular round trip meanders through deep valleys, crystal clear lochs, green hills, and charming villages.
An obvious highlight – one that’s instantly recognisable for Harry Potter fans – is crossing the 21-arched Glenfinnan Viaduct, with its towering columns that overlook the Jacobite monument and Loch Shiel.
The train briefly stops at Glenfinnan station, before passing through the pretty towns of Lochailort, Arisaig, and Morar. Guests will have about one and a half hours to explore the final stop of Mallaig on Scotland’s west coast, before returning to Fort William.
3. Kalka-Shimla Toy Train, India
The Kalka-Shimla Toy Train, also known as The Himalayan Queen, is said to be one of the most beautiful railway journeys on earth – and it’s definitely one of the best ways to explore northern India.
Intentionally built to be small so that it could run on narrow gauges, steep cliffs, and mountainous cliffs, the Kalka-Shimla Toy Train has a unique charm.
Spanning some 60 miles, this five and a half hour journey from Kalka to Shimla treats passengers to incredible scenes of snowy mountains, thriving pine forests, flowing waterfalls, and picture-perfect valleys.
With a staggering 102 tunnels, 919 bends (the sharpest of which is 48 degrees!), and over 880 bridges, this train route is also one of India’s most incredible feats of engineering.
4. TranzAlpine Train, New Zealand
A ride on New Zealand’s TranzAlpine Train through the Southern Alps is undoubtedly one of the greatest train journeys in the world.
The 139-mile one-way journey between Christchurch and Greymouth is covered in just under five hours – twisting through the vast spine of mountains that partition New Zealand’s South Island.
About an hour into the journey, the TranzAlpine Express begins its ascent into the Southern Alps, through mysterious tunnels and across bridges that cover deep gorges.
A short stop at Arthur’s Pass, which is the centre of some of New Zealand’s most spectacular hikes, is also included on the trip.
Then, after journeying through one of the country’s longest tunnels and across a river with stunning views of thundering waterfalls, the train makes a one-hour stop in the small town of Greymouth before returning to Christchurch.
5. The Riviera Railway, France to Italy
Beginning in the pristine French city of Cannes and ending 90 minutes later in the charming Italian market town of Ventimiglia in Italy, the Riviera Railway takes a beautiful route between these two well-loved countries.
Hugging the curves of the sparkling Ligurian sea, the double-decker train travels through some lesser-known coastal hideaways like Antibes and Juan les Pins. It then ventures onto various sun-kissed towns and quaint villages where pink and yellow apartments contrast beautifully with the blazing blue sky.
Stopping at Nice, Monaco, and Villefranche Sur Mer, you’ll spot magnificent yachts bobbing in the bays, before crossing the border and pulling into a characterful old Italian station.
6. Kandy to Ella Train, Sri Lanka
The Kandy to Ella train route has become one of the most sought after things to do in Sri Lanka – and it’s not difficult to see why.
Originally built by the British in the late 1800s, Sri Lanka’s railway system was used in the international transport of tea and coffee. But today, the railways are one of the most attractive ways to explore the country’s varied scenery, see local villages, and interact with locals.
Abroad the seven-hour Kandy to Ella train ride, you’ll experience beautiful views of deep valleys, hulking mountains, dense jungle, and lush green tea plantations. If you have time, it’s well worth exploring some of the beautiful hilltop towns like Haputale and Nuwara Eliya that the train stops at.
The old-fashioned train is also famous for its open windows and doors, which offer a buzz for people who want to feel the wind rushing through their hair as they travel.
7. Napa Valley Wine Train, United States
If you’re passionate about wine and train travel, why not combine the two with a ride on the Napa Valley Wine Train?
On this 36-mile round trip, you’ll ride through rows of gorgeous grapevines, and across vast farmland and picture-perfect wineries with a backdrop of rolling hills.
The trip starts in one of Napa’s industrial areas, so you can get a taste of the town’s contemporary art scene too – which boasts a variety of sculptures, murals, and landscaping. From there, you’ll snake through the towns of Rutherford, Yountville, and Oakville, where there’ll be gourmet meals and luxurious wines to enjoy.
With various stops and winery tours available along the journey, the Napa Valley Wine Train is an enjoyable and convenient way to explore and taste different wines.
Even the train cars themselves, fitted with polished brass, rich, mahogany paneling, and striking fabrics, add a unique, vintage feel to the experience.
8. The Bergen Line, Norway
The Bergen Line connects Norway’s two largest cities, Bergen and Oslo. As the home of famous composers like Old Bull and Edvard Grieg, Bergen is known for its artistic strength; and Oslo’s rich history and architectural masterpieces continue to attract tourists.
Crossing through Hardangervidda National Park and onto the Hardangervidda plateau (Europe’s largest high mountain plateau), a trip on the Bergen Line offers a front row seat to some of Norway’s most amazing landscapes.
Prepare to pass through beautiful mountains, sprawling fields, deep fjords, and vast forests on this seven-hour journey. Arctic foxes, snow owls, and wild reindeer all live here too, so remember to keep your eyes peeled!
As Northern Europe’s highest railway line, there are also plenty of places to stop for skiing, hiking, or biking along the way. Finse, for example, which is the highest train station along the route, stands at 1,222 metres above sea level and is commonly referred to as a miniature Antarctica!
If you’ve not had your fill of trains by the end of this journey, why not hop on the world-famous Flam Railway at Myrdal station, which is one of the steepest railway lines in the world?
9. The Chepe Express, Mexico
Crossing 37 bridges and passing through 86 tunnels, The Chepe Express will take you on an unforgettable journey across some of Mexico’s most breathtaking terrain – much of which is inaccessible by any other mode of travel.
Alongside mountains, deep gorges, and rocky stacks, you’ll pass by Mexico’s remarkable Copper Canyon, which is right in the heart of the northwest state of Chihuahua.
Estimated to be around four times the size of the Grand Canyon, the Copper Canyon is actually several different canyons – the deepest of which sits at a staggering 6,167 feet.
Your time onboard the Chepe Express will depend on where you hop on – but Los Mochis, near the west coast, to inland Creel takes about nine hours. For the best views, we recommend sitting on the right side of the train when heading eastward!
10. Kuranda Scenic Railway, Australia
A trip on the Kuranda Scenic Railway is a bucket-list essential for any nature lover.
Beginning in Cairns, this characterful train passes by stunning waterfalls, trees, mountains, and ravines in one of the world’s oldest rainforests.
In Kuranda, passengers can make a pit-stop to shop for locally made arts and crafts, relax in a cafe, or pay a visit to the butterfly sanctuary, reptile park, or bird aviary. History lovers might also want to investigate Kuranda Station itself. Over 100 years old, it has plenty of history and heritage to uncover.
Barron Gorge, one of Queensland’s most popular national parks, can also be viewed from the train – or explored by driving a short distance from Kuranda.
Just two hours long, the Kuranda Scenic Railway makes an ideal day trip. And if you want to fully immerse yourself in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, you could buy a one-way ticket and take the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway back.
11. The Death Railway, Thailand
During World War II, with the hope of invading India, the Japanese forced Allied prisoners of war to build a stretch of railway connecting Thailand to Burma.
The men built 257 miles of railway track in 14 months. However, ridden with dysentery, cholera, beriberi, and dengue, the railway became known as the Death Railway, as there was said to be one death for every railway sleeper laid.
But despite its sombre past, this unique railway offers a beautiful – and somewhat moving – journey from Thailand’s central capital of Bangkok to Nam Tok in the northeast. Departing twice daily, the train travels west through jungles, past tiny, brightly-coloured stations, and over the infamous bridge on the River Kwai.
12. The Rupert Rocket, Canada
The Skeena train – also known as The Rupert Rocket – travels from Jasper National Park in Alberta deep into wild, untouched areas of British Columbia, where few Canadians have ever been.
This two-day journey departs three days a week, winding past snow-capped Mount Robson – the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies – the rugged Cariboo Mountains, and neat rows of Douglas firs, which over the hillsides.
Journeying alongside perfectly peaceful lakes, passengers can look out for black bears, bald eagles, white-tailed deer, moose, and elk from the comfort and warmth of the train’s panoramic carriages.
Including an overnight stop in Prince George, the train passes through tiny stations called Vanderhoof, Kwinitsa, and Penny – which are home to fewer than 10 people. It also rolls past sawmill settlements and freshwater lakes teeming with salmon, before eventually arriving in the port city of Prince Rupert.
From snow-capped mountains to dense jungle and dry canyons, our world is home to a range of spectacular scenery. And train travel can be one of the most enjoyable ways to journey right into the heart of it.
For more travel inspiration, head over to the travel section of our website. Here you’ll find everything from long-haul travel experiences to European adventures and UK days out.