Travel by:Various through 2008
In our fast-paced world, train travel echoes romance and nostalgia for a bygone time. On the world’s greatest train routes, the journey is just as spectacular as the destination. So why not book a cabin on some of the globe’s most legendary rail routes? Hit the tracks from China to Russia; travel like the Maharajas on India’s Palace on Wheels; or see South Africa’s beauty flashing past your window on the five-star Blue Train; these trips can be booked from just $1,150. Closer to home, we also found unique train hotel B&Bs in Alaska and Minnesota, where nightly rates start at only $79.
Epic Trans-Mongolian Journey for $3,000
If you want to take in three great nations and traverse a quarter of the globe in 21 days, Gap Adventures has the perfect trip — a trans-Mongolian journey through China, Mongolia and Russia for $3,000. Available for seven departures from Beijing to St. Petersburg through December, this trip covers seven nights on trains; eleven nights in hotels; one homestay in a Siberian village; and one night in a Mongolian tent camp. This escorted adventure takes you through grassy steppes of Mongolia; Siberia’s taiga forests; the imposing Ural Mountains; and Russia’s majestic cities. Note that this trip doesn’t provide luxury lodgings so make sure you pack an open mind and a sense of adventure.
India’s Palace on Wheels from $2,450
Another unforgettable journey is a trip on India’s legendary Palace on Wheels. On this seven-night escapade through the state of Rajasthan, you’ll be treated to royal service and truly travel like the Maharajas. Lodging is in one of the 14 plush saloons with en-suite bathrooms. Onboard are two restaurants and a bar, as are personal attendants to make you feel fittingly pampered. This four-star sojourn costs $2,450 for departures through September. The rate covers full catering aboard the train as well as sightseeing tours, with entrance fees, of Delhi, Jaipur and Jaisalmer. The itinerary takes in dazzling cityscapes; historic forts; and the world-famous Taj Mahal in Agra.
South Africa’s Blue Train from $1,150
To see stunning landscapes of South Africa flashing past you as you savor exquisite meals on a five-star train hotel, book a journey on the famed Blue Train. On its 27-hour passage of 994 miles, the trip offers some of the most diverse and awe-inspiring panoramas on the African subcontinent. You can choose between a southbound trip from Pretoria to Cape Town or the northbound alternative of the same route. Rates start at $1150 per person during the low season (Jan. 1–Aug. 31 & Nov. 16–Dec. 31) and go up to $1,429 during the high season (Sept. 1–Nov. 15). This cost includes lodging in a lavish suite; all meals, high tea, and drinks; and off-the-train excursions.
Train B&Bs in Alaska and Minnesota
To stay in an authentic Alaska Railroad train carriage, book a sojourn at the Aurora-Express B&B in Fairbanks. At this unique property, a set of railroad cars have been converted to comfortable lodgings, each unit featuring Alaskan historical themes. Rates here start at $135 per night. At Northern Rail Traincar B&B on 160 forested acres in Minnesota, you’ll check into one of the 18 welcoming suites — housed in original traincars and connected by an enclosed platform — at a depot-style main building. Low-season rates through May 22 start at $79 per night; they go up to $139 for peak-season summer stays. Rates include continental breakfast and wireless internet access.
The rates for the three train journeys listed above are per person, based on double occupancy. None of them cover airfare but do come with a variety of inclusions; see details above.
Note that the Mongolian journey excludes a local charge of $300 payable in cash upon arrival. None of the quoted prices are discounted but the experience of these train trips — especially the adventure aspect of the Mongolia trip and the luxury aspect of the India and South Africa forays — is worth every penny you’ll pay. As for the train hotels in Alaska and Minnesota, the very affordable rates for these one-off experiences are quoted per room per night, based on double occupancy.
For the exotic train journeys, make sure you check the visa requirements.
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