Travel Advice: going off the beaten track, but staying on the rails

Rail holidays are increasing in popularity and can take you to far-off climes in comfort

The Rocky Mountaineer with custom-built train coaches traverses the continental divide through the beautiful scenery of the Canadian Rockies. Photograph: Getty

The Rocky Mountaineer with custom-built train coaches traverses the continental divide through the beautiful scenery of the Canadian Rockies. Photograph: Getty

 

Rail holidays are growing in popularity and there are new ones operating every year. Essentially there are two types of holidays by rail – one where you sleep on the train and the other where you overnight in a hotel. Which you prefer probably depends on your preference for where you sleep.

This year in Japan there are two new sleeper rail tours, the Suite Shiki-Shima and the Twilight Express Mizukaze.

Rovos Rail in South Africa acquired the Shongololo Express which has been upgraded with new dining and observation cars. It does 12-day safari itineraries between Cape Town, Pretoria, Swakopmund, and Victoria Falls (rovos.com).

The Blue Train is still plying the 31-hour route from Cape Town to Pretoria and with the fall in the rand, is better value than it used to be (bluetrain.co.za).

The most famous sleeper trains are those of the Belmond Company. This year they will add a new train in Peru, the Andean Explorer, on the highest altitude rail lines in the world. It launches in May connecting Cusco to Lake Titicaca and Arequipa (Belmond.com).

The Rocky Mountaineer in Canada takes you by day through stunning scenery and stops at night to stay in hotels along the route. You can have the same experience on Canada’s Viarail service for a bit less (viarail.ca).

Rail Discoveries, the UK-based travel company, has a big selection of rail holidays from the UK. Choose from short city breaks in the UK to longer exploratory European tours. Short breaks cost from £375pps and longer trips, such as eight days exploring the Italian Lakes, are from £975pps. Rail Discoveries also do tours to India, Far East and North America.

If you would like to explore the United States but not drive, the national rail company Amtrak has a series of package holidays to places of interest. Discover Yosemite or Glacier National Park, explore Washington, New York, New Orleans, and Chicago or visit Niagara Falls (Amtrak.com).

For all rail ideas and advice the website seat61.com is invaluable.

jscales@irishtimes.com

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