Landscapes unfolding before you like a live-action guide book. Sunrises over mountains and sunsets over the sea, all in a day. The thrill of waking up somewhere completely new. And the romance of travelling as people did centuries ago. We offer lots of these amazing tours by rail, some as the focus on your holiday, others as a memorable couple of days within a longer tour itinerary. All you have to do is choose one…
Shinkansen bullet trains
In complete contrast to the leisurely pace and nostalgic luxury of some other great train journeys, Japan’s bullet trains offer slickness, speed and modern efficiency. Running at speeds of up to 320km per hour, the Shinkansen connects most of the country’s main cities. Trains generally depart within seconds of their allotted departure time too: a rare treat for commuters from certain UK towns and cities!
The trains themselves look incredibly futuristic, with a sleek, striking profile that hints at the high speeds they reach. One of the destinations they serve is Kyoto. A city of historic temples, shrines and beautiful gardens, it’s a wonderful example of that Japanese juxtaposition of high-tech efficiency and ancient traditions.
Highlights of our 14-day Essence of Japan tour include Tokyo, Mt Fuji, Hiroshima and Kyoto, via tea ceremonies, temples and walking tours. Plus, three exciting trips on bullet trains, from Kanazawa to Hiroshima, Hiroshima to Osaka, and Kyoto to Mishima.
Another train ride?
To experience the Chinese equivalent of the bullet trains too, try our 18-day China and Japan – Timeless Traditions tour and immerse yourself in even more fascinating ancient/modern contrasts.
Glacier Express and Bernina Express
Think of an express train ride. An image that probably doesn’t spring immediately to mind is a gentle journey through snow-covered peaks, seen through panoramic windows. So, the Bernina Express and Glacier Express are a revelation. Winding their way through the magnificent Swiss Alps, they offer panorama after panorama and are both an absolute joy to travel on.
The Bernina Express crosses borders and cultures, taking you from Chur/ St Moritz in Switzerland, all the way down to Tirano in Italy. The Glacier Express takes you on a seven-hour journey between the Swiss resorts of St Moritz and Zermatt.
Both railway lines are seriously impressive feats of engineering. The Bernina Express passes over 196 bridges and climbs the incredible Brusio Spiral Viaduct, which was built to limit the railway’s incline to 7%. The Glacier Express crosses a remarkable 291 bridges and its fittingly ‘glacial’ pace only adds to your enjoyment of those spectacular views.
We offer a couple of ways to travel on these two unique railways. You can travel both if you take the Switzerland’s Spectacular Rail Journeys tour. Or experience the magic of the Bernina Express only on the Cities, Lakes and Mountains of Switzerland tour.
The Trans-Siberian Railway
In terms of journeys, the word ‘epic’ is overused. But there really is no other way to describe the 9,258km-long Trans-Siberian Railway. The line between Moscow and Vladivostok, finished in 1916, spans numerous time zones and takes seven days to complete. Along the way, you’ll cross vast wildernesses, steppes, birch forests, grasslands, lakes and mountains. The sky seems to go on forever and you get a real sense of just how vast the world’s largest country really is.
The train itself is comfortable rather than luxurious, but the luxury on this is in getting such a unique perspective on a fascinating land. A true once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Our 16-day Trans-Siberian Railway tour takes you on the route that most Western travellers choose: Beijing to Moscow. This means you get to explore the Chinese capital before visiting the Great Wall of China, a monument high on lots of travellers’ ‘must-do’ lists. Then it’s all aboard for your unforgettable journey through Mongolia and Russia, all the way to Moscow, where you’ll get to explore intriguing landmarks like the Kremlin and Red Square.
Another train ride?
If you’re keen to make St Petersburg a part of your Russian adventure, try our Magnificent Moscow and St Petersburg itinerary. You’ll get to travel on the high-speed Sapsan rail link – taking just four hours to travel between Moscow and St Petersburg, it allows you to discover these two great cities in a matter of days.