There’s something about the rhythm of the rails that’s strangely hypnotic. Add to that the opportunity to see so much during your journey – enjoying both the view and meeting your fellow passengers – and it’s not surprising that rail is a favourite travel experience. We asked 21 travel writers to tell us about their best undiscovered great rail journeys. Here you’ll find the best train journeys in Asia and Europe, opportunities to rattle your way through the Americas and chances to see the best of Australasia from the most scenic train rides in the world. Have you tried any of these great rail journeys?
- 1 Great Train Journeys In The Americas
- 2 Great Train Journeys In Australasia
- 3 The Best Train Journeys In Europe
- 4 The Best Train Journeys In Asia
- 4.1 Train Travel In Myanmar Via The Goteik Viaduct
- 4.2 Sri Lanka: Kandy To Ella Train
- 4.3 Vietnam Reunification Express
- 4.4 Kunming to Chengdu Train
- 4.5 Kalka Shimla Railways – UNESCO World Heritage Site
- 4.6 Bangkok to Chiang Mai
- 4.7 Istanbul to Kars: The Dogu Express
- 4.8 Iran: the Journey from Dorud to Andimeshk
- 5 Resources For Great Rail Journeys
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Great Train Journeys In The Americas
Scenic Railway Journey from Cuzco to Puno (Lake Titicaca), Peru
by Kelly Ann Duhigg from Girl With The Passport. You can read more about planning your itinerary for Peru here.
Not gonna lie, one of the most scenic train journeys that I have ever taken was by total accident. See, when I visited Peru, I assumed that trains were the most efficient way to travel throughout Peru since that had been my experience while I was in China. That’s why I booked my train ticket from Cuzco to Puno, not realizing that I had actually booked a trip aboard a vintage, luxury train ride that provided full, upscale meal service, with exquisite, panoramic views out the back of the train.
Sure, the train ticket was about twice as expensive as a bus ticket to Puno, but the trip was totally worth it. Not only was the train decorated with vintage, crushed red velvet seats and elegant, white lace curtains, but it was adorned with exquisite wood paneling throughout the interior , which really made you feel like you were pure royalty.
But the elegance of the interior was out matched by the enchanting beauty of the awe-inspiring landscape that unfolded before you. Enormous hills seamlessly transformed into never ending plains that were peacefully grazed upon by docile horses and cows that roamed freely in the distance. One of my absolute favorite train journeys that is completely and totally underrated.
Taking El Chepe in Copper Canyon, Mexico
By Tanya Korteling of Can Travel Will Travel
Taking the train through the Copper Canyon in Northwestern Mexico has to be one of the world’s greatest train journeys although still relatively unknown. The Copper Canyon really is off the beaten track and runs through the Sierra Occidental Mountains from Chihuahua to Los Mochis. It’s linked by the famous Ferrocarril Chihuahua Pacifico or Copper Canyon Railway, otherwise known as El Chepe. This great railway snakes through breathtaking landscapes that range from 8,000 feet down to sea-level.
The train journey can be taken in either direction and features 87 tunnels and 36 bridges. It really was fantastic and our most favourite experience from our four months in Mexico.
My top tips for taking this train:
1) For the best views get a seat on the right if you’re travelling the Los Mochis to Chihuahua direction and vice versa in the other direction.
2) Don’t rush your train journey through the Copper Canyon, take your time and stop for a night or two in some of the villages and towns on the way. There are plenty of outdoors activities en-route and places to explore to keep you busy.
You can read more about the Copper Canyon on Can Travel Will Travel in my 5 Day Copper Canyon Itinerary.
Adventures On Amtrak’s Empire Builder
By Lisa from TheHotFlashPacker. You can read more of her travels on Amtrak’s Empire Builder across America here.
My trip on the Amtrak Empire Builder started at one of the two west coast hubs – Seattle – the other being Portland. These two trains connect in Spokane, WA and then make their way to Chicago. We boarded the train and I grabbed a seat on the left side, knowing this has the best views of the trip – specifically views of Puget Sound, Olympic Mountains, the highest peaks of Glacier National Park, and the Mississippi river.
The trip from Seattle to Everett is almost completely along the Puget Sound. The Olympic Mountains were trying to peek through the clouds. We then started driving towards the Cascade Mountains, and thru the longest train tunnel in America. I got off and on sleep throughout the night, trying a new position each time I woke up. Luckily, I had 2 whole seats to myself for the entire ride. I awoke the next day as light was coming up west of Glacier National Park. It even snowed lightly as the train made its way across the continental divide.
The sun was out and you can really see why they call Montana “Big Sky” country. I chatted with a fisherman and two sweet young brothers from a reservation near Glacier national park. They had lots of fish tails but had pictures to back up their stories – a photo of the largest rainbow trout I’ve ever seen. Eventually we crossed the border into North Dakota and we saw some mini-badlands and started to see evidence of the booming oil industry near Williston. If you take the Empire Builder, do be friendly – you may meet some interesting people. It would have been very easy to sit in my window seat and watch the scenery go by, but it was meeting folks in the dining and club car that made the trip. A pillow and a blanket (or even better, a sleep sheet) go a long way towards comfort in the night.
Agawa Canyon Train, Canada
By Lindsay Davies from I’ve Been Bit. You can read more about this trip on the Agawa Canyon Tour Train here.
To truly experience Canada you need to get away from civilization and into nature. While many flock to the west coast or Canadian Rockies, I suggest heading to a little town called Sault Ste Marie in Ontario. The gateway to northern Ontario, its beautiful landscape has inspired visitors for generations – even Canada’s iconic Group of Seven painters. In this town affectionately known as ‘the Soo’, you can enjoy a day-long train adventure you’ll never forget – the Agawa Canyon Tour Train. It’s an early start, but as soon as you hit the cusp of this northern wilderness you won’t be able to peel yourself away from the window.
Take in the breathtaking landscapes of the boreal forest as you twist and turn past beautiful lakes and reservoirs until you hit the finale, the Agawa Canyon. This wilderness park is only accessible by the tour train and has a number of beautiful treasures to enjoy. Climb the steps to the lookout trail for the best view of the park, then following the trails around the edge of the park to catch a glimpse of the area’s beautiful waterfalls. Don’t delay though, you only have so much time before it’s time to head home. It’s a whirlwind adventure but one you’ll never forget!
Great Train Journeys In Australasia
Puffing Billy, Belgrave, Victoria
By Toni Frazer from Enchanted Serendipity
Puffing Billy is one of Australia’s most iconic train journeys.
Located in the Dandenong Ranges within the town of Belgrave, approx. 40kms from Melbourne’s CBD; this steam train is a true highlight for locals and visitors alike.
Puffing Billy first opened in 1900, as a means to open up and further develop some of Victoria’s most rural areas. It hasn’t always been a smooth journey though, with a landslide in 1953 closing the track and almost seeing the retirement of the train service for good. Thanks to locals and the establishment of the Puffing Billy Preservation Society, part of the track was re-opened in 1962, with the route from Belgrave to Lakeside fully re-opening in 1975 and continuing on to Gembrook in 1998.
Today, Puffing Billy is a 70-minute train journey which departs from the lush rainforests of Belgrave, over the iconic Trestle bridge (sit on the right hand side to get the best view) and into Lakeside 4-5 times each day (except Christmas Day). A journey on this train takes visitors back to a time when train journeys were the epitome of travel. If you are really wanting to be kid for a day, Puffing Billy allows its passengers to sit on the window ledge and hang their legs off the side*. Why is this fun to do? Because when the steam is at full force, it turns the forest and the journey into an enchanted wonderland unlike anything else.
Puffing Billy is a true icon of Melbourne and Victoria. It never gets old – no matter what your age.
Kuranda Scenic Railway, Queensland
By Allison Smith from Flights To Fancy
Thein Tropical North Queensland offers riders a unique glimpse into the region’s stunning World Heritage listed Wet Tropics. Over the 34klm journey on board this historic railway you will rise 328m above sea level, cross 37 bridges and pass through 15 hand cut tunnels. Sit back and relax as the train travels at a leisurely pace which is all the better to admire the spectacular scenery passing by the sash windows.
The three stunning waterfalls are a highlight so make sure you have your camera ready. For those that enjoy the finer things in life, I highly recommend upgrading to gold class. For just a little more, riders enjoy mocktails on arrival at Freshwater station and have access to an exclusive waiting area. Once on board the comfy lounges, morning or afternoon tea and complimentary beer and wine will make you glad you upgraded. The journey ends in Kuranda, a quaint village which is well worth spending a couple of hours exploring. When it’s time to leave, I recommend making the return journey on thefor a birds-eye view of the rainforest. Cairns and the tropical north are famed for offering easy access to Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef but savvy travellers will save one day in their itinerary to explore the lush hinterland.
Northern Explorer, New Zealand
By Sarah Kennerley from Sarah Sees The World. You can read more of her train journey on the Northern Explorer here.
The Northern Explorer runs between Wellington and Auckland in New Zealand’s North Island. It takes around 11 hours to complete the journey and the price of a ticket starts at $119.
As well as the snowcapped mountains of the central plateau, rugged farmland, coast there are glimpses of old-school rural New Zealand where industry was once thriving and the railway busier.
An open viewing cabin at the rear of the Northern Explorer train is available most of the way for fresh air, views unspoiled by windows and better photo opportunities and this is the best place to grab a spot and enjoy the ride.
There is no wifi on board which removes the distractions of the real world as you stare out the window at the scenery and listen to the audio commentary through the headset which is provided. The commentary covers the history and culture of the areas and the local railways as the train passes through.
Take plenty of snacks and water as this will save you a heap of money buying food. The train doesn’t stop anywhere for a significant amount of time so unless you bring lunch with you, you’ll have no other option than to buy food on board from the cafe which is stocked largely with products for Wishbone, a prepared food chain.
The Best Train Journeys In Europe
Bar to Belgrade: Taking Tito’s Trainline
By Ron and Michele Legge from Legging It. You can read more of their rail journey from Bar to Belgrade here.
After taking trains from Malaysia to England at the start of our big adventure we really did not think we could still be impressed by a train journey but the Bar to Belgrade train changed our minds. The 269 mile, day long trip taken in Winter really was spectacular not only for the natural scenery but also the feat of engineering it entails. Built to order for the former President of Yugoslavia to show off the beauty of his country to visiting dignitaries, it features 254 tunnels and 435 bridges to transverse. You travel from the glittering Adriatic coastline through mountain ranges, along rivers, through diverse countryside and past quaint villages so there is never a chance to be bored.
While the local train is not what you would class as luxury it is really good value at less than 20 Euros each way, you also get the chance to interact with locals as they move around their country. We found them very welcoming and friendly even sharing their food and rakyia (local homemade Brandy) all for about 20 Euros. If you want a bit more luxury in Summer you can choose to take Tito’s actual train but you do pay a premium for it and you need to book well in advance. Booking is advised in Summer but we purchased our tickets the day before when we travelled and had no problems. For the best views travel on the left side Bar to Belgrade and the opposite if you are returning to Bar. We also recommend you take you own food as the train ‘restaurant’ is petty average , full of smokers and quite expensive.
Taking The Baikal Amur Mainline
By Carly from Fearless Female Travels
Every traveler has heard of the Trans-Siberian Express, but few know that there is another rail line that crosses Russia from east to west, more than five hundred kilometers north of the Trans-Siberian tracks. That little-known rail route is called the Baikal-Amur Mainline, and it offers riders a fascinating look at life across rural Russia.
The Baikal-Amur Mainline (usually just called The BAM) runs from Sovetskaya Gavan in the east to Tayshet in the west, although most travelers ride it between Komsomolsk-na-Amur (which is famous for its stunning, and often hidden, Soviet murals) and Severobaikalsk (at the north end of Lake Baikal, riders typically change trains here and head south to Irkutsk). Because most of the route is a single track there is typically only one train in each direction each day. This means that if you get off the train at a small town along the way, you’re committing to an overnight stay in a region that sees very, very few tourists.
What can you expect if you do get off the train? For starters, wild and untamed wilderness all around you. Many of the towns along the BAM are hundreds of kilometers away from their closest neighbors, so you only need to walk a few blocks from the station to find verdant forests and rushing rivers. Second, you’ll find some of the most eye-catching railway stations on the planet, as each building was uniquely designed to represent a distinct element of Russian culture or geography. Finally, you’ll find friendly local people who are fascinated by visitors and can’t imagine why anyone would stop in their towns, which are seemingly frozen in the 1980s. All in all, the BAM is a look into the real Russia, and a must-ride for every adventure traveler.
Beautiful Balkans: Mostar to Sarajevo
By Michael Gerber from mscgerber
A modern train with incredible sceneries along the journey – something you would expect from my home country Switzerland – but in Bosnia? When I was traveling through Europe by train I didn’t expect that one of the most beautiful train rides of my life would end up being in Bosnia & Hercegovina.
While doing my research on how to get from Mostar to Sarajevo I stumbled upon the train that operates on this route on a daily basis (usually twice a day) – and its incredible views while its journey through the Balkans. Shortly after that I booked my ticket – which was quite challenging to be honest. If you start your journey from Mostar, like I did it, you have to buy your ticket, including reservation, in advance at the ticket office – where no one speaks English. In the end, it should work out though and you can start the superb train ride from Mostar to Sarajevo.
On my opinion, there is no “better” side to sit, as both sides offer amazing views along the way. You will see mountains, rivers and simply beautiful landscapes. When I took the train, it was not really crowded, so you can even switch sides when you see something on the other side. Overall, the train ride from Mostar to Sarajevo is a must-do when traveling in the Balkans, and certainly one of the most beautiful rides I’ve ever taken with a train.
Northern Spain: On the FEVE Narrow Gauge Railway
By Inma Gregorio from A World To Travel
If you are looking for the most unknown face of Spain, a country in itself very touristy, maybe you should include in your route the country Northern regions and in particular the autonomous communities of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, and the Basque Country.
One of the best ways to explore it is by walking the Camino de Santiago from the border with France to Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia. And the second best option is the FEVE or ‘Spanish Narrow Gauge Railway’.
Built in the first half of the 20th century with different dimensions to the train tracks of the rest of Europe, in order to ‘isolate’ the country and ‘avoid being invaded’ by neighboring countries using the train tracks; the FEVE is a transport to which I have a special affection as I used to jump on it when I was a teen to move around my Galician hometown.
Inexpensive, tiny (I remember that some trains only have two wagons) and extremely slow – in these times where it seems that the high speed and the effectiveness in the transport prevail, it is a pleasure to travel the route between Ferrol and Irún, admiring the unique landscapes of Galicia and the rest of the Cantabric Sea coast. Of course, if you go in this direction, sit on the left side (and vice versa).
Palma to Soller In Mallorca
By Clare Dewey from Epic Road Rides. You can read more of Clare’s time on two wheels in Spain in her Cycling Guide To Mallorca.
If you’re staying on Mallorca, you should definitely check out the old wooden train that runs from Palma to the beautiful town of Sóller. It was built in the early 1900s to transport citrus fruit from Sóller to Palma; the first working train reached Sóller on 30 September 1911. Of course today its cargo is tourists rather than citrus fruit.The train has its own station in Palma (near the main train and bus station) and takes around an hour to reach Sóller. It’s a spectacular journey that takes in viaducts, bridges and 13 tunnels.
Sóller is a lovely town and a great place to relax in – pull up a seat at one of the bars on the Plaça de sa Constitució opposite the grand old cathedral, grab a freshly squeezed orange juice and watch life go by. Then, if you’re still keen for more locomotive fun, why not continue the journey on an old tram down to the beach at Port de Sóller.
Taking The Presidential Gourmet Food Train in The Douro
By Laura of The Travelling Stomach
All aboard the gourmet food train headed through the gorgeous Douro valley! The Presidential offers a blend of delicious food and divine wines all enjoyed during an unforgettable journey through Portugal’s most famous wine region. Operating for only two seasons a year, during Spring as the grapes begin to ripen and a Harvest edition during Autumn this is an experience not to be missed.
The historic train weaves its way from Porto to the very heart of the Douro valley, showcasing all the beautiful seasonal colours of the vineyards along the way. En route you will be treated to a gastronomic feast as a different guest chef on each journey joins the train with a specially designed menu paired with Portuguese wines. What better way to spend a day than tucking into the likes of foie gras stuffed pigeon breast or shrimp with chestnuts, all with views of the Douro river snaking alongside the train tracks.
The train’s destination is one of the region’s most celebrated and secluded producers – Quinta do Vesuvio. Here, prepare to be greeted amongst the beautiful vineyards for a tour of the area and, of course, plenty of port! As the sun starts to soften above the vines, you will prepare to say farewell to the Douro and climb back aboard The Presidential for a languid journey back to Porto.
The Best Train Journeys In Asia
Train Travel In Myanmar Via The Goteik Viaduct
By Emily Lush from Wander-Lush
The train journey from Pyin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw in Myanmar (Burma) is one I won’t soon forget.
Part of the longer Mandalay to Lashio line that connects Myanmar’s former royal capital with the largest town in northern Shan State, the railway was built when Myanmar was part of the British Empire. It’s a cheap way to travel (tickets cost around $3) so locals favour the train. And since Shan State has opened up to foreign tourists, it’s also become a popular option for brave backpackers. The ride is notorious for being violently bumpy—so much so that it’s essential to secure your backpack onto a rack lest it go flying out the window. Jostling along, you’re treated to beautiful views as the unadulterated countryside of Shan State comes into focus.
The real highlight comes a few hours into the journey, when the train crosses the Goteik Viaduct. This incredible bridge just outside Nawnghkio was the largest railway trestle in the world when it was completed in 1899 by the Pennsylvania and Maryland Bridge Construction Company. It’s still the highest bridge in Myanmar. It’s a heart-racing few minutes as you sail high over a deep, mist-filled valley. For the best views of the viaduct, it’s recommended to sit on the left of the train if travelling north, and on the right side travelling south to Mandalay.
Make no mistake—this is slow travel at its most extreme. The journey from Mandalay to Hsipaw takes the better part of a day, longer if your train experiences technical difficulties like ours did. Shortly before we reached the viaduct, one carriage on our train derailed, leaving us sitting in the middle of a rice field for a good two hours while repairs were made. The train ride is a little inconvenient, but sublimely rewarding—a good representation of travel in Myanmar as a whole.
Sri Lanka: Kandy To Ella Train
By Rohan from Travels of A Bookpacker
Once a hidden gem, the Kandy to Ella train journey in Sri Lanka is growing in popularity and is slowly becoming a bucket list item for travellers to the area. And it’s easy to see why! This picturesque train trip spends seven hours winding its way through tea plantations, forests and small towns up the hill to the scenic town of Ella.
Part of the fun of the journey is the relaxed Sri Lankan train feel with doors and windows wide open and the feeling of sitting with your legs hanging out the door watching the scenery glide past is very special. Don’t worry, there’s plenty to hold on to and the train travels quite slowly. At each station vendors will board the train offering all kinds of delicious local snacks and cold drinks. You can choose to book in advance and enjoy the air-conditioned first class cabins or take a gamble and turn up in the morning to mingle with the locals in 2nd and 3rd class which often gets very full!
You’d think a journey of such beauty and growing fame would be expensive but a ticket in 2nd class will set you back just $3! For a better chance of getting seats, head to the station before Kandy and grab a place when everyone exits the train before the new passengers board.
Vietnam Reunification Express
By Tan and Tun from Travel To Work
The Vietnam Reunification Express stretches from the fascinating capital of Hanoi to the vibrant southern hub of Ho Chi Minh city. The rail was built in 1936 under the French colonial era and it remains as one of the most important transportation methods for Vietnamese. It offers exclusive experience to the most rewarding travel destinations of Vietnam including Hue,Da Nang, Nha Trang or Ninh Binh. What passengers can capture from their cabin’s window varies beautifully from picturesque rice paddies to dense jungle, from amazing coastal scenery to exotic rail side markets. The whole journey takes about 30 hours but you can select many short trips which provide the highlights of each area. While many visitors plan 5 days trips to complete 1,726km from south to north, absorbing in the diversity of regional culture, an overnight train from Hanoi to Da Nang is mostly recommended.
During 12 hours ride, you will have opportunity to get face to face with incredible sunset by Red River Delta, passing the serene countryside of Ha Tinh province before tackling the mesmerizing postcard of Hai Van, the highest pass with direct sea view. The train has different ticket categories ranging from soft seat to comfortable sleeping berths. It is a perfect way to appreciate Vietnam varied spectaculars in slow pace.
Kunming to Chengdu Train
By Claire from Claire’s Footsteps
Booming modernization might be the first thing you think of when China is brought up in conversation… and if you are planning a China itinerary, you might think it best to stick to the well known cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
But down in the country’s southwest, close to Tibet, is a beautiful region with some spectacular nature. The Yunnan and Sichuan provinces are very mountainous and are loved by hikers and nature seekers all over the globe.
But if you prefer your holiday activities to be a little more leisurely, some absolutely spectacular scenery can be had from the seat of a train. The train from Kunming to Chengdu is the least out of the way journey (from Chengdu you can travel northwards to Xi’an and Beijing or west to Shanghai, and from Kunming it’s just five hours to Hekou, the border city with Vietnam) in the region, but still offers some spectacular scenery.
Think rolling foothills with gorgeous mountains in the background, rice terraces and the occasional country home. Stops are fairly sparse on these long distance trains in China, meaning that you can spend your time just gazing out of the window at the marvelous scenery!
Bullet trains plough this route, taking just 6 hours 35 minutes. You’ll get the added advantage of seeing speeds of up to 300 kilometres per hour – there’s even a visible speedometer! They are double the price of the slower trains though, which take nearly 20 hours. Bullet trains cost around $70 for a 2nd class seat (the cheapest option) and the slow trains cost around $35 for a hard sleeper (the cheapest option that includes a bed).
The sleepers aren’t high class luxury or anything, but I’ve always found it very possible to get a decent night’s sleep on them. And when you awaken, you’ll be greeted with the most spectacular views of southwestern China!
Kalka Shimla Railways – UNESCO World Heritage Site
By Somnath Roy from Travel Crusade
The Kalka Shimla Railways is an important UNESCO World Heritage site which has been added to the list few years back. The Mountain Railways operates from Kalka to Shimla and operates daily with five trains running to and fro at intervals from these destinations. It takes about 5-6 hrs to traverse between the destinations which is a magical adventure hunt in the country. Millions of travellers visit from different countries to catch the enigmatic beauty of Himachal and spend a week or two to catch sight of different charms that the city has to offer. The tickets are available at afforable prices and in a span of less than one week before the travel date.
The Railway Station at Shimla is located at a distance of 2 kms from the main bus stand and operates mostly in the early evening hours carrying daily passengers and travellers. The entire route is very scenic and there are several tunnels that are visible on the way. There is no fear or danger of getting trapped for long hours as this is a single line and there is no altercation during the train journey. Trains operate from the other destination at Kalka in the early morning hours and have some links with other trains coming from important stations. Travellers need not panic and there are alternate trains available till late morning if they miss the earlier ones due to late admissions or other issues. The trains remain full packed and there are also deluxe trains operating in this route apart from the normal ones. It is an important discovery by the Railways and considered a very established means of communication between the hilly areas of Himachal Pradesh.
Everyone, it seemed, was taking the sleeper train North. The popular route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in Thailand is no stranger to tourists in the prime of the season. However, not wanting to miss a moment of a packed itinerary, most of them choose the sleeper train option. As a roughly 12-hour train journey, it makes sense. But I was here to see Thailand, and to me, sleeping my way through the opportunity to watch half the countries landmass slip by for what I assumed would be a pretty rough nights sleep was not an option. Plus, I was on a budget, and the second class day trip ticket was about half the price of the first class only sleeper.
Bangkok to Chiang Mai
By Alicia From Miles Less Traveled. You can read more of her train journey from Bangkok To Chiang Mai here.
The train left from the central Bangkok station, Hua Lamphong, first thing in the morning. My husband and I were the only notable tourists in our car. The city sprawl soon gave way to rolling fields, farms, and small villages. Along the route, the train stopped from time to time, slowing enough to take in the changing landscapes. As the train crept closer to the destination, the sun set over the first, of what would be several, National Parks that we passed through. The glowing sky highlighted the mountains that Northern Thailand is famous for, casting them with orange and pink light over their already stunning green forests. From every angle and viewpoint, the scenery was simply stunning. It was so memorable to us that a mere few days later when we were returning we elected to hop right back on that 12-hour train and do it all again.
Istanbul to Kars: The Dogu Express
By Ellis Veen from Backpack Adventures. You can read more about her journey on the Dogu Express across Turkey here.
Trains are often the best way to explore a country. This is also the case for Turkey where the train allows you to visit lesser known parts of the country.
The Dogu Express is one of my most memorable train journeys travelling right accross the Anatolian highlands from Istanbul all the way to Kars. It takes 24 hours to reach the northeastern tip of Turkey where few tourists come.
The trains in Turkey are modern. You are given sheets, blankets and even slippers for the first part of the journey that is during the night. Once you wake up you are halfway somewhere in the middle of Turkey.
From the moment you open your eyes the scenery is spectacular. Surrounded by mountains the Dogu Express crosses through valleys and runs along rivers. The landscapes passing by change constantly and after every mountain is a new world. The beauty can’t conceal that life is hard in the villages on your way. Even in spring snow is a common sight.
Kars is one of the coldest places in Turkey. Before you know it you will arrive there just before nightfall. At first appearance it looks like a gloomy town, but the hospitality is amazing and you will feel welcome soon enough. It is the perfect base to explore northeastern Turkey.
Iran: the Journey from Dorud to Andimeshk
By Alex from Lost With Purpose
When you think of Iran, epic train rides might not be the first thing that comes to mind. Gorgeous architecture and tasty Persian food, sure, but train rides?
However, the train ride between Dorud and Andimeshk is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever taken, and should surely be considered by anyone fond of scenic, rustic train journeys.
As the name suggests, the train takes passengers between Dorud and Andimeshk, both towns in western Iran. The train goes in both ways, but since most people travel from north to south—and Dorud is more northern than Andimeshk—most people go from the former to the latter.
Although the towns themselves are nothing special, there are several interesting places surrounding both places (and the train ride itself is worth the while anyway). The ride takes you through beautiful rugged landscapes, around small villages hidden behind river bends, past pastures full of grazing goats. It’s truly idyllic.
The journey takes about seven hours, so make sure to bring enough water and snacks. You’ll be able to get tea on the train… but that’s about it. Also make sure to sit next to a window that opens. Not all of the train windows open, but hanging out of the window to let the breeze through your hair is half the fun. If you’re coming from Dorud, sunset is on your right-hand side; so keep this in mind when snagging your seat, and enjoy the ride!
Resources For Great Rail Journeys
Is your head crammed full of amazing great train journeys now? We’ve certainly got a love for taking the rails, whether it’s on the overnight sleeper to the Scottish Highlands, taking the Eurostar to Europe via the Channel Tunnel, or even enjoying the beauty of the Settle to Carlisle line through the Yorkshire Dales. If we’ve fired you up for more train exploration, you might want to consider these resources:
- The Man In Seat 61, for reliable guides to rail travel across Europe and beyond to Asia, Africa the Americas and Australasia. You can also see his experiences on YouTube.
- the Heritage Railway Association for railways, trams, cliff lifts and museums in the UK
- RailEurope for bookings and guides to towns and cities accessible by train
- Loco2 for tickets across Europe
- Amtrak bookings
- We’ve been recommended Travel China Guide as a great resource for booking trains across China.
Are there other rail routes you’d recommend? Don’t hesitate to tell us! We’d love to know more places to explore by epic train journeys.
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