13 Most Scenic Day Trips by Train Around the World
Enjoy breathtaking landscapes without having to worry about taking your eyes off the road.
Photo By: Alaska Railroad / Glenn Aronwits
Photo By: Inca Rail
Photo By: Shutterstock/michelangeloop
Photo By: Xanterra Parks & Resorts
Photo By: Nicki Warren
Photo By: The Presidential
Photo By: Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Photo By: Shutterstock/James Matti
Photo By: Jeff Shane, Courtesy Royal Gorge Route
Photo By: Shutterstock/Samot
Alaska Railroad’s Coastal Classic
While the Alaska Railroad has multiple week-long train adventures, the railway also offers several scenic day trips. One popular option is the Coastal Classic route, which covers 114 miles from Anchorage to Seward, snaking through the Chugach Mountains, along Turnagain Arm and into the rugged backcountry of the Kenai Peninsula. A seven-hour stopover near Kenai Fjords National Park enables travelers to explore at their leisure, even take a park ranger narrated cruise and dine on a delicious prime rib buffet, before settling in for an evening return to Anchorage.
Inca Rail’s 360° Machu Picchu Train
The crown jewel of train travel in Latin America may be Inca Rail’s luxurious 360 degrees Machu Picchu Train. Boasting six railcars, an outdoor viewing platform and panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows across the train, Inca Rail gives travelers the opportunity to more fully experience the Andean landscape, including winding rivers and snow-capped mountains. A GPS-activated audio guide narrates the journey from Poroy Station in Cusco to Machu Picchu, giving passengers insights into their surroundings and the ancient Inca civilization.
Sit back and enjoy the leisurely pace of this seven-hour train ride from Zermatt to St. Moritz as you absorb the delightful alpine views from your seat on board the Glacier Express in Switzerland. Book a day trip or include the Glacier Express as part of a multi-day adventure with a travel company, like Cox & Kings, which offers a nine-day Switzerland: Panoramic Train Journeys vacation package that takes travelers across snowy mountains and green pastures of Lucerne, Montreux, Zermatt, Andermatt and Zurich.
Grand Canyon Railway
Skip the lines at the entrance gate to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. Instead, get your tickets punched for the Grand Canyon Railway in Williams, Arizona and board a restored streamliner-era train bound for Grand Canyon Village. The journey takes just over two hours one-way and the train disembarks in front of the historic El Tovar Hotel. On the return, plan on cowboys, shoot-outs, sing-alongs and, of course, all the majestic scenery, from wide-open prairies to ponderosa pine forests, you care to take in.
New Zealand’s TranzAlpine
Experience the striking New Zealand landscape on a rail journey between Christchurch and Greymouth, which takes just under five hours one-way to travel nearly 140 miles aboard the TranzAlpine. Ready your camera for picturesque views of Mount Binser before the train crosses the Waimakariri River to reach Arthur’s Pass National Park. Keep your eyes open for the majestic Lake Brunner, one of the largest lakes in New Zealand’s South Island, as it’s tucked away in the Southern Alps.
The Presidential Train
Once used to transport royalty and heads of state, the Presidential Train is considered by many to be the star of the rail system in Portugal. Retired from service in 1970, then thoughtfully restored in 2010, the luxurious Presidential Train today takes travelers on a nine-hour round-trip rail journey between Porto and Vesuvio in Northern Portugal. Each ticket includes a four-course gourmet meal prepared by a Michelin-starred chef, a port wine tasting, live music and afternoon tea service on the return to Porto.
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Travel the same tracks once used by miners in the 1880s on board the historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Colorado. As the train snakes along the Animas River, it climbs nearly 3,000 feet over 45 miles of unspoiled wilderness from Durango to Silverton. Book a first-class seat in the Presidential Class car, which delights thanks to a restored Victorian seating area and a large outdoor viewing platform. This historic railroad has been wowing guests continuously since its opening more than 135 years ago.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
This eight-hour train trip on India’s Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, also known as the "Toy Train," takes travelers across lush valleys and tea plantations, through dense jungle and into fragrant forests on board a narrow-gauge steam train. The route runs 50 miles through the Himalayan foothills from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling, making scenic stops along the way, including the famous Batasia Loop. Today, the railway is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even more exciting, the train has a brand-new air-conditioned compartment, a first in its 137-year history.
Norway's Flam Railway
Book your spot on a popular Norway in a Nutshell tour from Fjord Tours, which includes scenic train rides on the breathtakingly popular Flam and Bergen Railways. The Flam Railway, in particular, has been called the most beautiful train journey in the world, and it’s easy to see why. Across 12 miles of Western Norway, expect to see cascading waterfalls, snow-capped peaks, hilltop farms, and magnificent fjords. It’s also one of the steepest train rides, taking guests nearly 3,000 feet above sea level in just one hour.
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad
Dating back to the late-19th century when outlaws and gunslingers ruled the Old West, a rail journey along the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is a bucket list-worthy adventure. Board a narrow-gauge steam train in Antonito, Colorado or Chama, New Mexico for a 64-mile day trip through mountain canyons, across high desert and along a 137-foot high trestle bridge before climbing to the top of Cumbres Pass at 10,105 feet.
Vatican City to Castel Gandolfo Train
Spend the day at the hilltop town of Castel Gandolfo, the summer residence of popes since the early 1900s, on this train trip from The Roman Guy. Pope Francis no longer uses the residence or grounds that sit atop the ancient Roman ruins, so he’s opened them to the public. The day trip includes a scenic ride through the Castelli Romani hills from Vatican City on the pope’s train, a tour of the Barberini Gardens and a locally-sourced Italian lunch. Delicious.
Royal Gorge Route Railroad
Be awed by the scenic wonders that make up Colorado’s Rocky Mountains as you chug along the Royal Gorge Route Railroad in Canon City, which sits an hour southwest of Colorado Springs. Book a seat in the Vista Dome car for breathtaking views and stay for delicious onboard meals, like grass-fed buffalo burgers and basil chicken panini. Make it a day by pairing a two-hour train ride with a rafting adventure along the Arkansas River with Echo Canyon River Expeditions.
Jacobite Steam Train
Harry Potter fans make note, book a ticket on board the Jacobite Steam Train with West Coast Railways. This 84-mile round-trip rail journey takes travelers from Fort William, the largest town in the Scottish Highlands, which sits at the base of Britain’s tallest mountain, Ben Nevis, to Mallaig, a bustling fishing village. As you cross the famed Glenfinnan Viaduct, the train will pause for photos of the tremendously scenic views. Once you arrive in Mallaig, you’ll have 90 minutes to explore and do lunch before chugging back to Fort William.