There’s something timeless and romantic about rail travel. Not only are trains far better for the planet than all other forms of transport, but they allow you to be more present for your journey – to enjoy the gentle rhythm of the carriage on the tracks, and the changing views as they rush past your window. It’s the opposite of air travel, which is often rushed and frenetic.

Thanks in part to a post-pandemic desire to slow down, and the emergence of slow travel as a top travel trend, sleeper trains, in particular, have become increasingly popular.

Getting to your destination on a sleeper train means you can avoid long check-ins and stressful connections, stretch your legs whenever you want, and return to your cosy cabin whenever you want privacy. Travelling long journeys by train can also be enjoyable and immersive.

So, if you’re intrigued by the idea of sleeper train journeys, we’re here to inspire you. Here are 10 of the best sleeper trains in the world.

1. The Orient Express, Paris to Venice

Of all the sleeper trains in the world, none are so famous – or glamorous – as the Orient Express. Ever since it was featured in Agatha Christie’s best-known novel, Murder on the Orient Express, this train has become the gold standard for overnight rail travel…and the hype is deserved. The full train route runs from London to Istanbul, but the most popular route is from Paris to Venice.

The design of the Orient Express harks back to the golden age of travel, with plenty of antique lamps, art deco mirrors, and luxurious drapes. The food is just as delicious as you’d expect, and if you’d like entertainment, you can head to the Bar Car for live music. Stylish, sophisticated, and glitzy, travelling on the Orient Express is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But be warned: the prices reflect that!

2. The Blue Train, Pretoria to Cape Town

If you’ve always dreamed of exploring South Africa, you might want to think about a trip on the Blue Train. While the route was originally meant to span the whole length of the African continent, stretching from Cairo to Cape Town, the tracks never made it out of South Africa. Nonetheless, the route spans nearly 1,000 miles and takes you past some of South Africa’s most beautiful scenery.

The Blue Train had its heyday in the 1940s when it was described as a “Palace on Wheels”, regularly carrying kings, presidents, and important guests to their destinations. While the train is known for its first-class service and gourmet dining, there’s lots of time for sightseeing too. The northbound route stops at the colonial town of Matjiesfontein, while the southbound route stops at historic Kimberley.

3. ÖBB Nightjet, Hamburg to Vienna

If you’re on more of a budget, there’s good news – because ÖBB NightJet isn’t just an economical choice, it’s also one of the best sleeper trains in the world. Austria’s state operator, ÖBB, has been instrumental in encouraging the expansion of sleeper train routes all over the continent, and the first route to get one of their sleek, comfortable, new-generation trains was Hamburg to Vienna.

The train leaves Hamburg in the evening and arrives in the Austrian capital around 9am, giving you a full day for sightseeing. While there isn’t a dining car, most guests mingle over wine in the corridors, and the atmosphere is relaxed and social, never stuffy. The price includes breakfast, tea, and coffee, an ensuite bathroom and shower, and a welcome pack, which includes towels, earplugs, and snacks.

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4. Caledonian Sleeper, London to Scotland

For something a little closer to home, there’s the Caledonian Sleeper. If you need to travel from London to Scotland, the train just makes sense. Not only is it quicker and more comfortable than driving that long distance, but it’s more relaxing too. The Caledonian Sleeper travels from the capital to various destinations around Scotland, from Edinburgh and Aberdeen to Glasgow and Inverness.

On a clear night, you can enjoy stunning views of grand castles and the rugged Highland wilderness as you shuttle along the tracks – although if you want to get some sleep, there are a range of comfy cabins available. The restaurant menu has a focus on seasonal Scottish fare, and in the mornings you can look forward to a delicious cooked full Highland breakfast, as well as some traditional porridge.

5. VIA Rail, Montreal to Halifax

Across the pond, there’s VIA Rail’s popular Ocean sleeper train, which takes you from Montréal to Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia. If you’re looking to admire some of Canada’s most spectacular coastal scenery, you’re in for a treat, because the views on this route are truly dazzling. Plus, getting the train from Montréal to Halifax is a great way to experience two distinct regions of Canada.

The Sleeper Plus option allows you to book a cosy cabin for one, or a cabin for two with an ensuite shower, and tickets include meals, as well as access to the Park Car, where you can relax in the lounge and admire the landscape from the scenic dome seating area. If you like, you can break up the journey and hop off in Moncton to explore the beautiful Bay of Fundy before heading on to Halifax.

6. The Maharajas’ Express, Delhi to Mumbai

Another iconic sleeper train is the Maharajas’ Express which, like the Orient Express, seemingly harks back to a time gone by. In India, rail travel was historically viewed as an enigmatic and alluring mode of transport, and it was common for both the British aristocracy and Indian royalty to travel by train. While the Maharajas’ Express was launched in 2010, it evokes the golden age of rail travel.

This lavish train is an impressive half-mile long, and the 14 carriages are incredibly luxurious. Each cabin has a butler, individual temperature controls, and a large panoramic window where you can admire the views – which will take your breath away. The route takes you past many of Rajasthan’s most dazzling sites, and destinations along the way include Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Udaipur.

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7. Shiki-Shima, Eastern Japan

While some of the world’s best sleeper trains are all about celebrating the past, there are exceptions. Japan is known for its futuristic technology and innovative design, and the ultra-modern Shiki-Shima train is a fine example of cutting-edge Japanese style. Designed by Ferrari and Maserati designer Ken Kiyoyuki Okuyama, this 10-car, double-decker, champagne-gold train is magnificent.

There are numerous routes throughout Japan, but wherever you’re going, you’re guaranteed glorious views. The observation lounge has wraparound windows where you can admire your surroundings as they rush past, and the two-story suites even have specially designed cypress tubs to soak in. Things are just as impressive in the restaurant; the menu was devised by Japan’s first Michelin-starred chef.

8. The Royal Scotsman, Scotland

If you’d like to treat yourself to a once-in-a-lifetime luxury train adventure, but you’re keen to explore our beautiful shores, then you can’t beat the Belmond Royal Scotsman. Not only is this one of the best train rides in the world, but it’s also the most quintessentially British – so if you think the height of British rail travel is a limp sandwich and a polystyrene cup of weak tea, you’re in for a real treat!

There are multiple different routes to select around the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands (and even England), and each of the vintage Pullman carriages has been refitted to the highest standards – there’s even a spa. The food celebrates the best of Scottish cuisine, and dining in these grand Edwardian carriages, gazing out at the beautiful Scottish landscape, is something you’ll cherish forever.

9. Belmond Andean Explorer, Cusco to Arequipa

With the Andes mountains as its backbone, Peru is famous for its jaw-dropping scenery. So, if you’d like to explore this stunning South American country, why not forgo flights and get the train? The stylish Belmond Andean Explorer offers sleeper cabins between Cusco and Arequipa, two of Peru’s most captivating cities, and this is a unique chance to explore the Andes from the comfort of a luxury train.

The route begins in Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire, and travels along the vast Andean plains to the atmospheric white city of Arequipa. You’ll pass many of the region’s most breathtaking sights along the way, including Lake Titicaca and the Colca Canyon. The train has a restaurant, observation car, and even an onboard spa, and the vibrant interior pays homage to traditional Peruvian design.

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10. The Eastern & Oriental Express, Singapore – Malaysia – Singapore

And finally, if it’s Southeast Asia that’s calling you, why not think about an epic rail adventure on the Eastern and Oriental Express? After a long hiatus, Belmond – the group responsible for the Andean Explorer, The Scotsman, and the Orient Express – has launched an equally impressive experience in the Far East; one which showcases the beauty and diversity of an ever-changing Malaysia.

Boarding in Singapore, prepare yourself for an unforgettable three-night round-trip. You’ll shuttle through sultry jungles, hopping on and off to explore the lush Taman Negara National Park, and wander through the bustling back streets of Penang Island. And, on board, everything is incredibly chic – from the sumptuous decor of the vintage cabins to the partnership with Veuve Clicquot champagne.

Final thoughts…

Unlike overnight flights or uncomfortable night journeys by coach, sleeper trains offer far more than just a practical means of getting to your destination. Not only will you be able to admire sensational views as you travel, but when you pull into the heart of a city (rather than a stressful airport an hour away), you’ll hopefully arrive relaxed and refreshed – not tired and irritable, with a sore neck.

Plus, rail travel is just more exciting and romantic than other forms of travel, and you can travel in your way too: kick back in your cabin, dine in the restaurant, sip drinks in the bar, chat with other passengers, or just stretch your legs by strolling up and down the carriages while you admire the views.

And, finally, being able to hop on and off many of the routes allows you to easily see some of the world’s greatest sights and landmarks in a single journey – rather like a cruise, but without the hefty environmental footprint! Because, with all these powerful perks, the fact that trains are the most sustainable mode of transport is just a bonus.

Have you been on a sleeper train before? Are you tempted to treat yourself to any of the train journeys above? We’d love to hear about your rail experiences, so please leave us a comment below.