Great train journeys

Travel Destinations — By on July 6, 2010 at 7:25 am
Bernina Express train

The Bernina Express in Switzerland.

Train journeys are truly one of the great ways to travel. If you’re not in a hurry to get somewhere, it’s hard to beat the opportunity to just sit back and watch the landscape change and the miles drift by from the comfort of your seat, perhaps as you sip a coffee or read a book. And train travel is about more than just making your way to a new destination – the trip itself can easily serve as a memorable travel experience. National Geographic Traveler recently published lists of their favorite train journeys in Europe and North America, and there are some wonderful selections to consider for your next adventure.

Here are a couple of their North American train journeys:

Northwest Passage. Amtrak Cascades. Eugene, Oregon to Vancouver, British Columbia – This scenery-filled route offers “seascapes, mountain peaks [including Mt. Rainier in the south and Mt. Baker in the north], distant islands, rain forests, farm scenes, clouds, mist, and wildlife,” says Francesca Lyman, an editor and experienced rail rider in Kirkland, Washington. “If you don’t see orcas breaching in Puget Sound, you might see harbor seals or otter. Bring binoculars. Also watch for bald eagles, flying fish, and waterfowl.” Prefer cities? Explore Portland or Seattle.

On the rim of Copper Canyon: Chihuahua Pacific Railway. Los Mochis to Chihuahua, Mexico – “El Chepe,” as the train is known, features two departures—first class, meant for tourists, and economy class, about half the fare but making some 50 local stops. Stick with the former for the most comfort. The trip starts near the Pacific coast in the state of Sinaloa and travels more than 400 miles over 37 major bridges and through 86 tunnels in a climb to 7,874 feet above sea level, where a short stop at Divisadero allows for snapshots of the mammoth Copper Canyon.

And two from their European list:

Tunnels Galore: The Bernina Express. Chur, Switzerland, to Tirano, Italy – This narrow-gauge, vertigo-inducing train takes on seven-percent inclines, a 360-degree spiral, 55 tunnels, and 196 bridges—reaching an apex of 7,391 feet and then descending 5,905 feet before coming to a stop. The word “express” refers to the availability of short-notice seat reservations, rather than the train’s velocity as it courses through the Alps south from Switzerland’s oldest town to a charming Italian town of just under 10,000 people. Part of the route is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Epic Journey: Trans-Siberian Railway. Moscow to Vladivostok, Russia – This fabled route, an icon of Russian culture, crosses eight time zones to connect the Russian capital with a port on the Pacific Ocean. On board, poor mingle with rich, young with old, foreigners with locals. Social barriers disappear as passengers share a unique rail experience—and shots of $3-a-liter vodka. You can book a private car via a tour operator for added comfort; schedule any number of side excursions from trekking and scuba diving to city tours.

There are 20 train journeys in all, 10 each from North Amnerica and Europe. Check out the full stories for the other selections. What would you add to the lists?

Photo credit: Iter1 via Wikimedia Commons.

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