If you’re looking for the ultimate luxury trip abroad but don’t fancy jetting on numerous planes to see the world’s greatest sights and landmarks, a sleeper train might just be the one for you.
We’ve all watched Poirot wobbling his way down the corridor of the Orient Express and thought, ‘gosh I’d love to do that’. Not the murdering, but the travel in extreme luxury. The Orient Express still trundles between Paris and Istanbul, albeit at an eye-watering cost, but the age of proper train travel doesn’t end there, here are some of our absolute favourites from around the world.
The Orient Express, Paris to Istanbul
It’s the gold standard, the legendary and most widely known sleeper train in the world. Even with the jeopardy that a dozen fellow travellers may stab you to death in your sleep doesn’t put people off (oh, spoiler alert if you’ve never read Murder on the Orient Express). And all the hype? It’s deserved.
A whirl of sophistication...
This palace on wheels softly glides in a whirl of sophistication between Paris and Istanbul (they also do part legs, like London to Venice) and a trip on the train is truly a once-in-a-lifetime event, and it comes at once-in-a-lifetime prices, too. But if your pockets are deep enough, consider it; after all, a five-day trip comes in at around the same as a private jet charter for the same trip, and I know which I’d rather…
Istanbul to Paris: £15,500 per person or £30,000 each if you fancy a suite…
Eastern Oriental Express
Taking guests through some of the most diverse and fascinating countries in the world. Join trains from Bangkok to Singapore or Kuala Loumpa for two days of stunning scenery and equally impressive service.
Belmond are perennial purveyors of just-so perfection...
Belmond are perennial purveyors of just-so perfection, so it comes as little surprise that the group responsible for luxury sleepers like the Andean Explorer, The Scotsman or the Orient Express would have an equally impressive rolling five-star in the Far East.
From around £2,500 per person to around £5,000 for a Presidential Suite
The Blue Train
Originally envisioned at the turn of the last century as a means of traversing the continent of Africa from the Cape all the way to Cairo, the tracks may not have made it out of South Africa but the same epic vision is alive on The Blue Train.
Widely described as a “Palace on Wheels”...
The South African sleeper invokes the Empire-builders of old Africa, and the train’s heyday was the 1920s when it was widely described as a “Palace on Wheels”.
Revived 25 years ago, the modern incarnation of the Blue Train is equally splendid, bringing modern-day luxury to some of South Africa’s most beautiful railway routes.
The Maharaja’s Express, India
Two of the world’s greatest romances, railway travel and the subcontinent collide (metaphorically) in The Maharajas’ Express.
As you’d expect, no expense is spared...
Although seemingly harking back to a time gone by, The Maharajahs’ Express actually launched in 2010 to provide luxury rail travel throughout North West India.
As you’d expect, no expense is spared in providing guests with every possible amenity, from roll-top baths to a choice of two onboard restaurant cars. The lavish half-mile train, set over 14 carriages, takes in the sights of Rajahstan and generally runs from Bombay to Delhi or loops out of Delhi.
Prices range between £3,350 per person for a Deluxe Cabin to £11,220 per person for a Presidential Suite (based on two people sharing)
Trans-Siberian Express, Russia
The Trans-Siberian Railway vies with the Hogwarts Express for the title of the world’s most famous railway. Slicing through the truly vast continent that is Russia, the route starts at Moscow in the West and ends on the Eastern coast at Vladivostok.
Steppe up, we’re going to Russia...
The Trans-Siberian Express, operated by Golden Eagle is the epitome of luxury, all cabins are en suite with the latest mod cons, which contrasts with the locomotive hauling the 20-car train the breadth of the world’s widest country, which is a beautiful steam train heightening the out-and-out romance of a route that travels over the Urals, the magnificent steppe and along the shore the world largest freshwater lake.
Prices from East to West come in at £13,000 per person for ‘Silver Class’, while an Imperial Suite is around £27,000 per person (based on two sharing)
Seven Stars in Kyushu, Japan
Named after the seven prefectures of Kyushu, the southern island of Japan which is often known as the ‘Gateway to Asia’, the Seven Stars is the perfect gateway to Japanese luxury culture.
Billing itself as a ‘cruise train’...
With just twelve suites, each with its own bathroom and sitting room, travel aboard is a predictably intimate and special experience. Billing itself as a ‘cruise train’ Japan’s first luxury train emulates the grace of cruise liners, with fabulous food, a lounge and dining car offering panoramic views of the island’s active volcanoes, beaches and natural hot springs.
The Ghan, Australia
Launched in 1929 to connect the far-flung cities of Darwin and Adelaide, Australia’s weekly sleeper train, The Ghan, is one of the truly great railway journeys and takes travellers deep into the heart of this great continent.
Australia’s vastness is punctuated with sightseeing and excursions and, no doubt, kangaroos...
Traversing deserts and breath-taking sceneries, The Ghan is a unique way to enjoy Australia. With regular stops en-route, Australia’s vastness is punctuated with sightseeing and excursions and, no doubt, kangaroos.
The three day trip from Darwin to Adelaide starts at £1,114.04 per person and rises to £2,100 based on two people sharing
The Royal Scotsman, Scotland
If your experience of British rail travel is a cold bacon butty and a polystyrene cup of milky PG Tips then think again. The Royal Scotsman is the epitome of all the best British luxury traditions, trains, dinners and old stuff. Each of the vintage Pullman carriages have been fully refitted to high modern standards; so high, indeed, that there are even two spa rooms on this luxury hotel on wheels.
The epitome of all the best British luxury traditions...
The restaurant car menu is the best of Scottish cuisine and perfectly cooked for a fine dining experience, surrounded by the Edwardian splendour of the Belmond Royal Scotsman. All, of course, distractions from the main event: the stunningly beautiful Scottish scenery.
A week spent enjoying the Grand Western Scenic Wonders costs £10,450 per person based on two sharing a twin cabin
Rovos Rail, South Africa
Travelling at a steady (if not heady) 37 mph through some of the world’s most stunning scenery, Rovos Rail bills itself as the most luxurious train in the world and it might well be right. Surrounded by wood panelling and waited upon hand-and-foot guests can soak up Southern Africa in style, from South Africa to Namibia and Tanzania.
Surrounded by wood panelling and waited upon hand-and-foot...
Operating various routes and taking in some of the world’s most notable sites (including Victoria Falls) guests can relax, enjoying the luxury of their ensuite cabins (some feature Victorian-style bathtubs), or sink into sofas in the observation carriage waiting for the next meal, taken in the pre-1940s dining carriage.
A tour of Namibia ranges from around £4,000 to £8,600 per person based on two sharing cabins or suites
Rocky Mountaineer, Canada
Although not strictly a sleeper, the Rocky Mountaineer does deserve mention. With no cabins, the entire train is given over to fine dining and scenery-watching, while guests instead stay in stunning 5* hotels en route. The train carves through the Canadian Rockies allowing travellers the chance to view some of the most inaccessible sites on the planet, from the comfort of a luxury train.
The train carves through the Canadian Rockies...
As the mountains and canyons go by sip on cocktails or indulge in the dining car on food specially made from locally sourced ingredients from the Pacific Northwest and cooked by a team of onboard chefs. Each night guests stay in some of Canada’s most beautiful hotels which are definitely, to borrow a ghastly but appropriate phrase imported from North America, ‘upscale’.
A 12 night round trip from Vancouver, taking in costs between £4,500 per person and £6,700 per person depending on class of travel and hotel options
In a country that embraces technology and design so drastically, it should come as no surprise that the Skiki-Shima isn’t your ordinary sleeper. While other luxury trains focus on rekindling faded glories, the Shiki-Shima is ultra-modern, a magnificent ten-car double-decker modern palace, designed by Ferrari and Maserati industrial designer Ken Kiyoyuki Okuyama.
Relax with a cocktail listening to the pianist in the piano bar and watch Japan sail by....
Throughout the train, no expense is spared, the suites include maisonette sitting rooms while the restaurant menu was devised by Katsuhiro Nakamura, Japan’s first Michelin-starred chef. The modern geometric patterns of the windows contrast with the calming traditional artisan-created interiors. Relax with a cocktail listening to the pianist in the piano bar and watch Japan sail by.
We’re not going to beat around the bush: we don’t speak great Japanese so can’t be sure on pricing, but we think it’s around £2,000 and £6,500 per person for a three night trip. Either way, if you’ve got it, do it, it looks incredible!
Belmond Andean Explorer, Peru
To South America, where the Belmond Andean Explorer glides from Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire, across the lofty Andean plains to the white city of Arequipa, all while you relax, dine and enjoy the view.
Take in the region’s spectacular highlights en route, including Lake Titicaca and Colca Canyon from the Andean Explorer’s beautiful carriages, which used to operate in Australia as the Great South Pacific Express.
The opulent surroundings inside are nearly as impressive as out...
Now fully refitted, the opulent surroundings inside are nearly as impressive as out, while the muted palate oozes luxury inside and contrasts with the vibrant colours outside. The two restaurant cars serve local dishes created by chef Diego Muñoz.
A three day, two night, trip ranges between £2,600 and £3,700 (the difference between bunk beds and a presidential suite)