The Blue Train is an institution in South Africa: Its roots go back to the 1920s, when it shuttled passengers between Johannesburg and Cape Town. Refurbished in 1997, the elegant train — it bills itself as “a magnificent moving five-star hotel” — now runs between Pretoria and Cape Town, providing a 1,000-mile tour through the heart of South Africa. The beautiful landscape it passes includes such features as the dry Karoo region, the Highveld plateau, and grasslands and thickets.
18. Thrilling Train Trips: Trans-Siberian railway
You’ll find no train line longer than the Trans-Siberian railway, running from Moscow all the way to Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean, and linking Europe with the Far East. This line has been shuttling passengers and freight across the vastness of Siberia since the 19th century, past Lake Baikal, the Ural Mountains, several rivers and the endless Russian steppe. You’ll be traveling across 6,000 miles and seven time zones, so make sure you’ve budgeted a week or more for your journey.
19. Thrilling Train Trips: Winnipeg-Churchill
The Winnipeg-Churchill railway, operated by Canada’s state-run VIA Rail Canada, is a study in geographic and climatic diversity. Over the course of two days, the train covers 1,000 miles of Manitoba terrain, from Winnipeg, 60 miles north of the U.S. border and home to prairies and vast lakes, north through taiga, tundra and boreal forest to Churchill, on the subarctic shores of Hudson Bay. Churchill is known for its polar bear population, but the best reason to visit may be the bay itself, offering abundant fishing and boating opportunities in summer.
20. Thrilling Train Trips: The Devil’s Nose
The Ecuador railway known as the Devil’s Nose gets its name from a sharp cliff face of the same name, which the railway zig-zags its way up and down. But that’s only a small part of this truly thrilling route, which starts in the town of Riobamba in the high Andes and rambles through Ecuador’s Central Valley before descending toward jungle and the coast. Sit on the right-hand side for the best views; on a clear day you may see the nation’s highest volcano, Chimborazo. The railway has been closed for repairs since March, but it’s scheduled to reopen July 4.
21. Thrilling Train Trips: Norrland
Whether you’re there in summer for the midnight sun or in winter for the northern lights, Swedish Railways’ Norrland train is a treat at the roof of the world. The train’s signature route operates between Luleå, on the Gulf of Bothnia in Sweden, and Narvik, on Norway’s spectacular coast. The bulk of the 325-mile journey crosses the heart of Swedish Lapland, taking visitors some 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle; the rugged landscape features glacial lakes, rivers and mountains where the native Sami people have herded their reindeer for centuries.