4 luxury train journeys for a once-in-a-lifetime experience

The Blue Train crossing a bridge as it traverses South Africa’s beautiful landscapes. Picture: Instagram

The Blue Train crossing a bridge as it traverses South Africa’s beautiful landscapes. Picture: Instagram

Published Jan 24, 2024


The beauty of travelling by train lies in the fact that trains facilitate slow tourism and are more environmentally friendly than other forms of transport.

Travelling on a luxury train, passengers get to relax and not worry about how to get to a destination. There is also a sense of peace and nostalgia when meandering through through rail lines and getting an in-depth view of your chosen destination.

The perks to luxury trains and coaches are almost like cruising, you just have to pack your luggage and enjoy exploring multiple destinations and different travel itineraries in comfort.

As a passenger, you are able to see an ever-changing landscape rolling by, from towns to cities to coastlines, there is always something different to see without having to worry about who’s driving, traffic or what you’re eating.

There is plenty of space as well – all you have to do is be in the mood to travel.

If you’re looking for a more relaxed form of travelling by taking a trip back to simpler times, here are some bespoke train journeys you should experience.

The Blue Train, South Africa

Enjoy a breakfast or dinner with panoramic views of the South African landscape on The Blue Train. Picture: Instagram

The Blue Train is a 5-star luxury hotel on wheels offering travellers the opportunity to embark on the journey of a lifetime exploring South Africa.

It travels from Cape Town to Pretoria linking the north and south of Mzansi.

The Blue Train traverses South Africa and its breathtaking scenery in a manner that befits the mystique that has grown around it. It offers luxury suites, fine-dining experiences and elegant lounges where passengers can relax and enjoy the journey.

The train’s Pretoria-to-Cape Town route is a 54-hour journey of 1 600 kilometres through some of the most diverse and spectacular scenery offered by the African sub-continent.

It also travels to Limpopo, which is home to the Kruger National Park, one of the world’s finest game parks and Africa’s Big Five.

These one-way, 19-hour journeys take place on selected months of the year and offer guests an opportunity to experience some fantastic new “rail safari” combination packages with the many private safari lodges found in the Greater Kruger and Sabi Sands areas.

Prices are available on request.

Kyushu Seven Stars, Japan

A beautifully designed fusion of Japanese and Western elements on the Kyushu Seven Stars. Picture: Instagram

Kyushu Seven Stars, Japan’s very first luxury train, was established in 2013 and has been selling space based on a lottery system to account for the overwhelming demand for this exclusive and utterly unique rail travel experience.

This “Cruise Train” is a beautifully designed fusion of Japanese and Western elements, painstakingly thought out with great attention to detail.

Intricate woodwork and sumptuous textiles abound in the lounge and dining cars as well as in the 14 en-suite cabins.

On the Seven Stars, passengers can enjoy the beautiful Kyushu scenery as it flows by their windows. The stops highlight the best that Kyushu has to offer.

Excursions include a ferry sea cruise, sightseeing in Yufuin, Mimitsu and Miyazaki, and an overnight stay at a hot springs resort in Kirishima.

Fairs for this tour on the Seven Stars in Kyushu start at $5 400 (R102 894,57) for a 4-day itinerary.

Rovos Rail Pride of Africa

A peak inside a Rovos Rail vintage coach. Picture: Instagram

Also known as the Pride of Africa, the Rovos Rail is perfect for those looking to explore parts of the African continent.

The luxury train offers a series of bespoke train journeys lasting from 48 hours to 15 nights and links some of Africa’s greatest destinations, including South Africa, eSwatini, Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls, Namibia, Dar es Salaam and Mozambique, with a variety of off-train excursions.

The train offers discreet and friendly service, top-notch cuisine and a selection of South Africa’s finest wines on the journeys, allowing travellers to hark back to a simpler, more elegant era encompassing the timeless grace and high romance of African exploration.

The Rovos Rail has been elegantly refurbished and carries a maximum of 72 passengers in 36 superbly appointed suites that are also available for charter, while the Events Train caters for up to 250 guests and is suitable for daytime journeys.

A three-night journey from Pretoria to Cape Town starts at R34 500, per person sharing.

Eastern & Oriental Express, Asia

Inside the Eastern & Oriental Express. Picture: Instagram

Belmond acquired New Zealand’s famed Silver Star, brought it to Southeast Asia, refurbished it in elegantly and then re-christened it the Eastern & Oriental Express (E&O).

The train runs 1 262 miles (2 030km) between Singapore, Malaysia, and Bangkok, Thailand; however, it is currently not running through Thailand.

The Eastern & Oriental Express is one of the most beautiful trains in the world, and it takes a maximum of 64 guests, making for a convivial yet intimate atmosphere. Dining is excellent, as is service.

Other highlights include interesting off-train excursions and on-board entertainment. The train offers three types of accommodation: Presidential, State and Pullman Cabins.

All cabins are air-conditioned, have complimentary wi-fi and include a private bathroom with a sink, shower and toilet.

All are panelled with beautiful cherry wood and elm burr and adorned with decorative marquetry and intricate inlays. Each cabin has 24-hour room service, accessed by a bell.

A train journey starts from around $3 150 (R60 021,83) a person for an entry-level Pullman cabin.