Hollywood didn't invent breathtaking train rides. A lot of blockbuster movies have great train scenes, but those are usually based on real routes. Anyone can book an amazing train trip. Some train routes are more expensive than others, but the higher cost usually translates to exquisite luxury when it comes to train rides. Also, train travel is one of the most sustainable forms of travel. That means that riders can get amazing views while moving from destination to destination, without worrying about their carbon footprint.
This isn't the original Orient Express, which ran from Paris to Istanbul. The modern version of this route starts in London and ends in Venice. Riders are treated to Europe's charming countryside, but the real jaw-dropper is the train itself. It's been designed with all the luxury and glamour of the original Orient Express.
At more than 2,000 miles long, the Ghan covers Australia from top to bottom. The ride takes about three days to complete for riders who are in it for the whole journey, but those three days are packed with literally everything Australia has to offer. Because the route covers the whole country, riders experience almost all climates and ecosystems down under. This historic train route has been in service for more than 90 years.
Also known as the Flåm Railway, this route runs down from Myrdal, in the mountains of Norway, to Aurlandsfjord. In just one or two hours, riders see Norway's well-known fjords, the country's green mountains, and everything in between. The train runs year-round, and the price point is reasonable.
Take a picturesque train ride through the Alps. Not the European Alps. These Alps are in the South Pacific. The TranzAlpine runs from New Zealand's Christchurch to Greymouth. These snow-capped mountains are famous for being the impressive, and sometimes imposing backdrop to the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies.
This route spans over 5,000 miles, making it the longest railway route in the world. It runs from Moscow to Vladivostok, a port on Russia's Pacific coast. That means that this route starts in Europe and ends in Asia, rounding Russia's border with Mongolia and China. The trains on the Trans-Siberian Railway aren't necessarily luxury; the price is very reasonable.
The Shongololo Express began running in 2016. It connects five African countries: South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. The train offers views of everything from views of Africa's southern coast to the Kalahari desert. It's no quick trip, though, the tour lasts 12 days at a minimum.
Experience Peru's ancient Incan culture by train. The Belmond Hiram Bingham line runs from Cusco to Machu Picchu. The train itself is steeped with antique style, so it's a great way to travel between two ancient cities. There are stops in traditional villages along the way, so riders will get to experience Peru's unique and colorful culture first hand.
You don't have to go all the way to Europe for staggering mountain train views. The Rocky Mountaineer runs through Canada and connects a series of quaint mountain towns. It starts in Vancouver, but there are a few different options for where you end up depending on the exact route you choose.
Did you know you can see Dracula's castle by train? This 2,000 plus mile-long route passes through Transylvania and stops at Bran's Castle, also known as the home of Dracula in Bram Stoker's novel. That's not all there is, though. The Danube Express goes from Istanbul to Budapest and passes quite a few castles and other historic monuments on the way.
The Scottish highlands should be on everyone's bucket list. There, the sprawling green hills are interrupted by only by historic castles and the occasional sheep. What better way to see it than by train? The West Highland Railway takes riders from Glasgow to Mallaig along the Glenfinnan Viaduct, a long train bridge which was used in the filming of Harry Potter!
The Glacier Express travels through the gorgeous Swiss Alps, over viaducts, and through mountain tunnels, from St. Moritz to Zermatt. The train offers a Panorama wagon, which is basically a glass train car, so you won't miss a thing. Interestingly, even though this train is called an Express, that just mean it doesn't make as many stops. It's actually quite slow and often referred to as the slowest express in the world. All the better to take in the views!
This Colorado train route has been operating since 1882. It was originally constructed to move gold and silver from West to East, but now it only brings tourists views of the golden Colorado countryside. The 45-mile journey runs in tandem with the Animas River, through Colorado's San Juan National Forest.
Go from the Indian plains of Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling, a mountain town where most of the tea in India is grown. The Himalayas will be your backdrop along this northern Indian train route. The price is reasonable, even for first class. Keep in mind that there are no concessions on board, so plan accordingly.
Go from Tokyo to Kyoto, Japan with Mount Fuji out your window. The Tokaido Shinkansen was the first high-speed railway in a country now known for its bullet trains. This line takes riders from end to end on Japan's biggest island, Honshu. The bullet train passes through all of Japan's most picturesque landscapes at a speed of up to 250 miles per hour.
Morocco is a great country for train travel. It's safe, affordable, and the rails connect most of the major tourist destinations in the country, if not all of them. The route running from Tangier to Casablanca is new as of 2018 and is home to the fastest train in Africa. The current route takes about two hours, and on the way, riders can catch views of sandy Moroccan palm trees and ancient Medinas.