Adventures by rail
If you’re like us you and love to travel but battle with concerns over the high carbon cost of flying, travelling by train might be the perfect solution.
Not only do you significantly reduce your carbon footprint by choosing rail over air travel there are also a host of other advantages. These include avoiding airport stress, more comfort with potentially great scenery you might not otherwise experience, and you will usually end up in the centre of your destination.
Companies like Interrail/Eurail are often worth investigating if you plan to travel across different countries, and can save you money while helping you plan the perfect trip. They also offer great advice before you embark on your journey.
Still, need some convincing? To assure and inspire, we have put together some of our favourite and most scenic railway adventures.
Bernina Express, Switzerland – Italy
This four-hour train journey covers 122km of some of the most beautiful scenery Europe has to offer. Starting from Chur in Switzerland this epic rail journey takes you through the Swiss Alps UNESCO world heritage sites, and directly on to Tirano in Italy in panoramic rail cars allowing you to get the most out of the experience.
Both Chur and Tirano are directly connected and easily accessible from the larger hubs of Zurich and Milan. The same route can also be taken by the regional train, allowing you to stop off in the small towns along the route, however, we recommend splashing that bit of extra cash for the once in a lifetime experience of the Bernina Express.
The route is open all year round and takes you through frozen lakes and snow-covered mountains in winter, to colourful bright and green scenery in spring. Reservations are needed so be sure to book your ticket in advance.
Bergen Railway, Norway
Often considered one of the best rail journeys in Europe, the Bergen railway aka Bergensbanen connects Norway’s two largest cities, Oslo and Bergen. This 500 km journey crosses epic alpine scenery, through some of the world’s highest railway tracks at 1237m above sea level. Travelling through Hardangervidda National Park, you also have the opportunity to experience Europe’s largest Alpine Plateau, the Hardangervidda plateau.
This 6-7 hour train journey allows passengers to break the journey by hopping on and off at some of its spectacular spots along the way. You can fully experience all that Norway has to offer from magnificent waterfalls, forests and fjords to exciting activities such as skiing, hiking and biking. Be sure to keep your eye out for some Arctic wildlife along the journey too, with the chance to see Arctic Foxes and Snowy Owls.
The train even has a specially designated family coach, to help parents travelling with small children.
HI Hostels Norway offers some great accommodation options along the route.
Tokaido Shinkansen, Japan
With some of the fastest and most efficient trains in the world, Japan is a railway enthusiast’s dream. The Shinkansen trains in Japan are impressive, to say the least. These bullet trains are astonishingly fast and can travel at speeds over 300km/hr making the travel time of the 514km journey from Toyko to Osaka on the Nozomi bullet train approximately 2.5 hours.
The Tokaido Shinkansen line was the world’s first high-speed railway line connecting Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka and Kyoto. Keep your eye out for Mt Fuji if travelling between Tokyo and Osaka, Japan’s largest mountain and active volcano can be seen on the right-hand side approximately 45 minutes into the trip around Shin-Fuji Station.
With many services running throughout the day and night, it is only advised to book your ticket in advance if travelling at peak times. Check out Japan Railpass for more information.
Find out more about our hostels available in Japan
Amtrak Coast Starlight, USA
From Seattle to Los Angles, covering a distance of over 1300 km in 35 hours, with 28 stops along the way. There is no doubt this is the ultimate train adventure for anyone looking to explore the West coast of the USA.
The Amtrak Coast Starlight will take you through some of America’s spectacular, dramatic landscapes, and some of its most exciting cities, and will leave you wanting more. We definitely advise making this a multi-day trip and hopping off at some of the fantastic spots along the way. Kayak in the Klamath Falls, hike through iconic national parks like Yosemite, visit the wineries and vineyards in the Paso Robles or stop for a city break in America’s most famous cities.
HI-USA have some fantastic accommodation options along the route.
West Highland Line, Scotland
Constantly topping lists of the most scenic rail journeys in the World we cannot leave out Scotlands, West Highland Line. Made famous in part because of the Harry Potter films passing the Glenfinnan Viaduct but the undeniably magnificent scenery encountered along the route is definitely worth the trip alone.
Starting at Glasgow there are a few options available. Taking the line through the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park and ending in Oban, a picturesque fishing town, is well worth a visit and is the shortest route along this track taking approximately 3.5 hours. To fully experience the beauty of this line, however, we recommend taking the route high up through the Rannoch Moor and on through the spectacular hinterland to Fort William and Mallaig.
Check out Hostellling Scotland for some great accommodation options along the way.