Sometimes a rail trip is just what is needed to thoroughly enjoy the scenic surrounds. No driving, no constant stopping to get that photo, travel through areas where roads don't go. Sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery.
Here are 5 train adventures you can add to existing itineraries. Whether you are starting or ending an Alaskan or Rhine River cruise, exploring Australia and New Zealand or taking in Machu Piccu, consider adding these journeys into your plans. They may just make an already great trip exceptional.
ROCKY MOUNTAINEER - Banff to Vancouver
Check departure dates, but adding a pre or post rail trip to an Alaska cruise that starts or ends in Vancouver is easily done. The Rocky Mountaineer, a 2 day, 3 night trip takes you through the beautiful Canadian Rockies, up over the Continental Divide and mountain passes, into gorgeous canyons and along the rushing rivers. The trip starts/ends in the wonderful resort town of Banff, a short distance from Lake Louise and less than 2 hours from Calgary. If time allows, add a day in the Banff area to explore the stunning parks and of course Lake Louise.
GLACIER EXPRESS - Zermatt to St. Moritz
I have never heard a complaint about the scenery in Switzerland, and the Glacier Express offers plenty of it. The train runs from Zermatt, at the base of the Matterhorn, to the alpine town of St. Moritz, through 91 tunnels and 291 bridges. The highest point of the journey at just over 6500 feet is on the section that includes the Oberalp Pass. The entire trip takes 7.5 hours, however you can choose to take only certain sections or combine sections with Gotthard Panoramic Express which is accessible from Zurich/Lucerne.
Rhine River cruises start/end in Basel, approximately 4 hours from Zermatt or St. Moritz, and an hour from Zurich. Both Zermatt and St. Moritz are accessible by train from Zurich where most people start or end their trip, making the Glacier Express an easy add on to a cruise itinerary.
THE ANDEAN EXPLORER - Cusco to Puno
Cusco is most famous as the starting point toa visit to Macchu Piccu, but it also offers another once in a lifetime adventure, the Andean Explorer, a luxury train ride between Cusco and Puno, which sits right on South America's largest lake, Lake Titicaca. The 10.5 hour journey takes you past beautiful scenery and quaint villages while enjoying live music on board by local performers. Consider adding a few days to your Machu Piccu itinerary.
TRANZALPINE - Christchurch to Greymouth
The Tranzalpine train adventure runs between Christchurch and Greymouth, on the south island of New Zealand. The trip offers amazing scenery, including the Canterbury Plains, snow-capped mountains of the Southern Alps, stunning views of the Waimakiriri River gorge and old mining towns before reaching Greymouth.
The trip takes 4.5 hours each way, with a short stop at Arthur's Pass and an hour in Greymouth before it heads back to Christchurch. The train runs every day except Christmas.
The Tranzalpine is perfect for those who want to enjoy the beauty of the Southern Alps and are on a limited time schedule or for those who simply don't want to drive. Travelers can extend their stay with an overnight in Greymouth to experience the glaciers, wild rivers and Punakaiki pancake rocks on New Zealand's west coast. For those who want some activity they can get off at Arthur's Pass, get in a few hours of hiking and catch the train as it returns back to Christchurch.
This trip can be added as an easy day trip on itineraries that include a stay in Christchurch.
THE GHAN EXPEDITION - Adelaide to Darwin
The Ghan rail journey travels between Darwin in Australia's Northern Territories to Adelaide in South Australia. This is truly a unique, one of a kind experience that takes you to Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park in the Northern Territories, Alice Spring in Australia's Outback and Coober Pedy, the opal mining capital of the world in South Australia. What makes this train trip exceptional are the included excursions (i.e. a gourmet lunch in the caves of Coober Pedy) and optional upgrades (i.e. an intimate fixed wing flight over Uluru). As the Ghan Expedition advertises, it promises to be an adventure of a lifetime. This 4 day, 3 night trip is a wonderful add on to an itinerary that includes Adelaide and Darwin. If time allows, instead of flying, experience Australia's interior with a relaxing yet action packed train trip.
Fun fact: The Ghan is a shortened name of the original name, "The Afghan Express", which honors the Afghan cameleers who came to Australia in the late 1800's to help find a way to explore Australia's interior. There are some other stories on the name's origin, but this seems to be the prevailing one.