Best Train Trips Around the World
Published: July 11, 2023
All aboard! The journey is part of the fun when travelling by rail. It should come as no surprise that we love trains at UP Express – after all, it’s what we do best! Traversing mountains, crossing expansive plains, and navigating through urban centres, these train trips offer a first-class ticket to unbelievable views and one-of-a-kind experiences you can’t get any other way. Virtually hop on board these amazing train trips and start daydreaming about riding the rails around the world.
Canada & The U.S.
Who says you have to go far from home for an epic train travel experience? Head from coast to coast across Canada, starting seaside in Halifax and ending in sunny Vancouver. Take in the ultimate trans-Canada train experience from scenic wonders of Peggy’s Cove, Niagara Falls, and Lake Louise all from the comfort of a train, with stopovers along the way. The journey beings onboard a VIA Rail sleeper train on the east coast before transferring to the legendary Rocky Mountaineer where you’ll travel through the clouds from Banff to Vancouver. If you can’t spend 19 days travelling across the country, the Rocky Mountaineer portion of travel can be booked separately between Banff and Vancouver.
Did you know you can get up close and personal with bears on a train trip? Well, maybe not too close for comfort, but you can witness grizzly and polar bears in their natural habitat on the Lords of the Wilderness Bear Viewing train adventure. Only available for a short time period each year, travel across country onboard VIA Rail’s “Canadian Train” sleeper car with overland stops in the Great Bear Rainforest and in polar bear central, Churchill, Manitoba. A mix of flights, overnights on the train, and stays in wilderness lodges make this an unforgettable retreat.
If you want to explore south of the border, the Rocky Mountaineer has a journey through the west from the Rockies to The Red Rocks. Vast canyons, inspiring desert vistas, natural rock archways and hoodoos await you as you cross the Continental Divide on the railroad between Moab, Utah and Denver, Colorado with options to add-on Las Vegas or Salt Lake City.
Go from the grandeur of Chicago, Illinois to the eclectic energy of San Francisco, California on board Amtrak’s California Zephyr. One of the most picturesque train rides in North America, you’ll climb through the heart of the Rockies and the snow-capped Sierra Nevadas before ending along the Pacific coast.
Of course, kids of all ages (and adults, too) can have fun on the Walt Disney World Railroad in Florida. Vintage steam trains built between 1916 and 1928 have been meticulously restored to deliver a crowd-pleasing 20-minute rail ride around the Magic Kingdom. Remember, kids under 12 always ride for free on UP Express!
While it may not have views of the Rocky Mountains or polar bears, the train trip between Toronto’s Pearson Airport and UP Express Union Station provides exciting views of the urban landscape. You’ll catch glimpses of street art, green spaces, and some of the city’s most iconic sights including the CN Tower, Rogers Centre and Lake Ontario as you pull into downtown on the comfortable 25-minute ride from the airport. Make UP Express the first or last leg of your next vacation as you travel between downtown Toronto and Pearson Airport. With several fare options and easy ways to pay, you can relax knowing we’ll keep your trip on track, no matter where you’re headed.
For the ultimate scenic view, visit Niagara Falls on a day trip from Toronto! Connecting via UP Express Union Station, GO Transit makes the trip to Niagara easy so you can sit back and relax before taking in the majestic beauty of the falls. For more ideas on how to spend a day in Niagara Falls, check out our guide to the ultimate day trip from Toronto.
One of the most-famous passenger trains in the world, the Orient Express has been the part of millions of journeys and stories since its inception in 1883. Synonymous with luxury travel – and a fictional murder thanks to writer Agatha Christie’s 1934 classic novel Murder on the Orient Express – the route has changed over the years but is most associated for linking Paris, France to Istanbul, Turkey. The locomotive has been undergoing extensive refurbishments and will welcome passengers onboard 17 of its original 1920s cars beginning in 2025, giving you plenty of time to plan your next great railroad adventure.
Head to Switzerland to experience two of Europe’s most picturesque rail routes: The Golden Pass and the Glacier Express. Relax in 1930s-style train cars full of old-world glamour along the scenic route between Montreux and Lucerne as you pass by shimmering mountain lakes and snow-capped mountain peaks. The most famous of the Swiss Alps train experiences is onboard the Glacier Express which connects the swanky ski resorts of Saint Moritz and Zermatt. Rest assured, there is nothing fast about this “express” train as it takes a leisurely eight-hours to reach its destination. Enjoy hot three-course meals served at your seat as you gaze out large panoramic windows at snowy mountains, winding rivers, and picture-perfect Swiss villages.
If the Glacier Express is one of the world’s slowest trains, Japan’s Shinkansen is definitely one of the fastest. Nicknamed the “bullet train”, this ultra-modern speedy rail system is comprised of 59 trains that criss-cross the country at speeds of up to 320 km/hr. While the ride may be fast, it’s not so quick that you’ll miss out on some of Japan’s most iconic views, including the postcard view of Mt. Fuji from the Tokaido Shinkanen Line between Tokyo and Kyoto. If the Shinkanesen isn’t your speed, this locomotive-loving country has many options that will delight train enthusiasts. Take in the Japan Alps on the Kurobe Gorge Railway sightseeing train as it crosses more than 20 bridges and 40 tunnels through the gorge, see the sea view from the Hisatsu Line in Kumamoto Prefecture on the southern island of Kyushu, and in late March the Hanwa Line departs from Osaka with beautiful views of pink and white cherry blossoms on both sides of the railway.
Peru’s Machu Picchu is a sight to behold and arriving in the sacred valley by rail is one of the most spectacular rail journeys in South America. With trains operated by both Inca Rail and Peru Rail, there is a train to Machu Picchu for all budgets. Even the most basic trains include wide panoramic windows, many with skylights giving glimpses of Peru’s peaks and valleys from comfortable seats. If you’re in the mood to splurge, the Hiram Bingham train is the way to go. Dubbed South America’s best luxury train by Condé Nast Travel magazine, enjoy an open bar, brunch, and dinner on board amid stunning views from the observation carriage with a tour guide to narrate your journey.
A bucket list destination for many, the 14-night Copper Trail rail journey through Zimbabwe, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Angola is one of the world’s most-breathtaking train trips. Covering 3100 km, travellers are treated to stops along the route at Victoria Falls, an elephant orphanage, a sunset river cruise, and an overnight game drive and safari experience. One of the world’s top luxury train experiences, this historic train features wood-panelled sleeper coaches refurbished to mint condition and royal luxury suites that take up half the train carriage. The one-of-a-kind journey will set you back over $13,000 U.S.