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Seven new luxury train routes for 2021

From a steam journey to the Arctic Circle to travelling in traditional Japanese style along the coast of Kyushu island, there’s a host of gilded new train routes slicing across some of the world’s most stunning landscapes.

Published 25 Mar 2021, 08:00 GMT
The Golden Eagle Danube Express traces its way through the Bosnian countryside.

The Golden Eagle Danube Express traces its way through the Bosnian countryside.

Photograph by Andrea Peto

1. UK: Midland Pullman

After a decades-long hiatus, the iconic blue Pullman has been resurrected for the 60th anniversary of its launch. A range of new tours from March include Settle to Carlisle, crossing limestone peaks and cavernous valleys; the rolling Brecon Beacons; and a scenic stretch of the Devon coast. While most offerings are day trips, longer excursions require separate accommodation. On board, tuck into seasonal ingredients sourced from the route’s region, slink into spacious seats and sip house Champagne as you glide along rugged Cornish coastlines or over dramatic Yorkshire dales.

2. Canada: Rocky Mountaineer

The Canadian company is going off the rails with a new route in the Southwest US. Setting off on a 10-week preview season from 15 August, the two-day Rockies to the Red Rocks will travel between Denver in Colorado and Moab in Utah, with an overnight stay in Colorado’s Glenwood Springs, a city steaming with natural hot springs. Beneath a glass-domed carriage, guests have reclining seats, beverage service, meals featuring local Southwestern ingredients and heady views across the rugged Colorado landscape.

Read more: Ride the rails through the Rocky Mountains, from Vancouver to Banff

3. Japan: 36+3

This first-class, jet-black electric train cuts a fine figure as it sweeps across Japan’s Kyushu island. It keeps up appearances inside, too, with classic Japanese style: shoji screen doors, tatami mat floors, Okawa Kumiko latticework. Five new day routes zip along the perimeter of Japan’s southernmost island, with options that include sweeping snapshots of the East China Sea, stopping in Saiki City for mountain-grown black tea and local chestnut jam, and the northern coast’s stunning squeeze of Beppu Bay.

4. Europe: Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Grand Tour is a title full of fanfare and justifiably so. It’s the name for a series of European routes launching from May this year, paying homage to slow travel with purpose. Select from trips such as Venice to Amsterdam or Florence to Paris, with new boarding points including Rome, Florence, Geneva, Brussels and Amsterdam. Keen to splurge? The train’s oldest carriage, built in 1926, will have three sparkling new suites.

Read more: The golden age of the train

5. Southern Africa: Rovos Rail

This new 12-day slow safari by Ker & Downey pairs a four-day Rovos Rail journey with the Zambezi Queen riverboat. Travel across South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana, stopping at Victoria Falls and in Hwange National Park for a game drive.

6. Peru: Belmond Andean Explorer 

Planet Rail’s new two-week Peru tour includes three iconic trains: the panoramic Vistadome through Inca heartland; classic Hiram Bingham to Cusco; and the Belmond Andean Explorer, which climbs high into the plains of the Andes towards Lake Titicaca.

Read more: The slow train across the Peruvian Altiplano

7. Russia: Golden Eagle Luxury Trains

Toast the company’s 250th Trans-Siberian departure this summer at a dreamy banquet on Lake Baikal’s shores. The special journey will also include wine-tasting and bubbly on the Europe-Asia border. Meanwhile, 2022 will usher in four new tours, two operated by steam. These include a 22-day steam tour from Vladivostok to Moscow across boundless stretches of steppe; a foray into the Arctic Circle to witness its glowing night skies; and a rare glimpse at the inhospitable terrain and remote reaches of Siberia on a 13-night excursion.

Published in the April 2021 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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