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Three of the most epic rail odysseys, from Vienna to India

Want to chase the midnight sun, explore Vienna or spot a tiger in the wild? We pick three train trips where the journey matters as much as the destination.

The opulent interior of the Indian train known as the Palace on Wheels.

Photograph by Getty Images
By Great Rail Journeys
Published 24 Dec 2021, 12:21 GMT

Snow-capped peaks, a glittering fjord and a golden spire rising above a medieval city — just some of the views that scroll past the carriage window, giving passengers a tantalising glimpse of the spectacular landscapes waiting to be discovered.

Trains have long been the preferred choice for travellers who know that the journey can be part of the adventure. While some choose to travel independently under their own steam, others join organised tours that include trips on iconic trains to see world-renowned landmarks and natural attractions.

Great Rail Journeys, the world’s largest operator of escorted rail holidays, has been crafting tours for nearly 50 years. With over 300 itineraries, finding the tour to suit you can be overwhelming; here are three to try.

Best for nature lovers

Arctic Norway and the midnight sun in Lofoten

Itinerary: Fjords, mountains, waterfalls and fishing villages.
Trains: Bergen Railway, Flåm Railway, Nordland and Raumabanen Railway

Take a journey from Oslo on the Bergen Railway, snaking around mountains, glaciers and fjords towards Norway’s second-largest city. After exploring Bergen, board the famous Flåm Railway for an unforgettable ride along one of the steepest lines in the world. Cruise on Geirangerfjord, Europe’s highest fjord, then continue by train to the former Viking capital of Trondheim. Cross the Arctic Circle on board the Nordland Railway to experience the midnight sun before ending the trip in Svolvær, the heart of the Lofoten Islands.

Details: Visit late May to mid June, when the sun never sets in Lofoten. The 12-night inclusive tour, departing from Heathrow, costs from £3,095 per person. 

Splendid summer sunset of Sunnylvsfjorden fjord canyon, Geiranger village location, western Norway. Aerial evening view of famous Seven Sisters waterfalls. Beauty of nature concept background.

Photograph by Shutterstock

Best for city explorers

Europe’s Grand Imperial Cities

Itinerary: Vienna, Budapest, Prague and Berlin.
Trains: Eurostar, Railjet, InterCity Express and Children’s Railway

After the journey from London’s St Pancras International to Brussels, it’s onward to Frankfurt, then Vienna, to spend three days exploring the stunning Austrian capital. Next stop is the Hungarian capital, Budapest, to enjoy the historic skyline by night, sprinkled with gargoyles and gothic bastions. Highlights of the short stay include a hillside tour of Buda on the Children’s Railway. Next stop: Prague, to explore this magical city of bridges and medieval architecture, before riding the rails to Berlin for a two-night stay, then taking the Eurostar from Brussels to London.

Details: The 12-night inclusive trip from St Pancras has departure dates from March to October and costs from £2,095 per person.

Beautiful of Aerial panoramic view in a Autumn season at a historic city of Salzburg with Salzach river in beautiful golden evening light sky and colorful of autumn at sunset, Salzburger Land, Austria.

Photograph by Shutterstock

Best for experience seekers

Ultimate Rajasthan and the Palace on Wheels

Itinerary: The Himalayan foothills, Rathambore National Park and the Taj Mahal.
Trains: Palace on Wheels, Shatabdi Express and the Shimla toy train.

Begin the tour exploring Delhi then coast through the Shivalik foothills on the toy train arriving in the mountain town of Shimla for an overnight stay in the Himalayan foothills. The journey continues on to the ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur, where passengers board the Palace on Wheels for an experience reminiscent of travel during the days of the Raj with coaches representing different Rajput states. It’s a gateway to excursions such as Bengal tiger-spotting in Ranthambore National Park and cruises across Udaipur’s Lake Pichola. After five nights, the voyage ends in Agra with its sandstone citadel, Agra Fort, and the iconic Taj Mahal.

Details: The 13-night trip, including flights from Heathrow, starts from £5,095 per person with departure dates from October to April. 

Amazing view on the Taj Mahal in sunset light with reflection in water. The Taj Mahal is an white marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna river. Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.

Photograph by Shutterstock

Plan your trip

Group or tailor-made: Great Rail Journeys’ escorted trips include an experienced tour manager travelling with a group, but independent travellers can choose bespoke itineraries.

Luggage transfers: Many of Great Rail Journeys’ holidays include a complimentary luggage service to make travelling by train as easy as possible. Bags arrive ahead of guests at the next hotel.

Upgrades: Four- and five-star hotels are the standard for trips, with options to upgrade hotel rooms, rail services and flights.

Reservations: Great Rail Journeys’ specialist travel advisers can help plan your trip. T: 01904 730991

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

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