In the 1970s, American travel writer Paul Theroux set himself an impressive goal: to travel from England to Asia entirely by rail. He cataloged his experience in the book “The Great Railway Bazaar,” which is still regarded as one of the most romantic pieces of writing about train travel.

“If a train is large and comfortable you don’t even need a destination,” Theroux wrote. “A corner seat is enough, and you can be one of those travelers who stay in motion, straddling the tracks, and never arrive or feel they ought to.”

Whether you’re exploring the Andes or dashing around a Japanese island, luxury train travel proves that fly-by country is much more interesting when seen on the ground.

Take it slow on these rail journeys through some of the world’s most glamorous destinations. Here are the most luxurious train rides in the world.

Courtesy of Belmond

British Pullman, England

Fans of director Wes Anderson can embark on a vintage train adventure inspired by his distinct style and eye for detail. One of his most famous films, “The Darjeeling Limited,” speaks to the director’s love for luxurious train travel. On the British Pullman, A Belmond Train, guests can ride in the “Cygnus” carriage built in the 1950s and redesigned by Wes Anderson in 2021. With themed rides across England, including a murder mystery luncheon, or star guest-chef dinners, this ticket is sure to transport passengers back into the glamorous past.

Seven Stars in Kyushu, Japan

Often referred to as the world’s most luxurious train, Japan’s Seven Stars train brings old-school luxury to a technologically advanced railway. It lays claim to being the country’s first luxury sleeper train, with its first run in 2013 and a refurbishment in 2022.

With multiday tours around the island of Kyushu, riders onboard the Seven Stars can get up close to both mountains and the seaside. But fair warning — the train can only carry up to 20 passengers at a time. Demand is so high that prospective riders must apply to ride. Winners are then invited to purchase their seats on an upcoming itinerary.

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, Europe

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is mythical for a reason. The train’s classic route runs from London to Venice, stopping in Paris and Verona on the way. Cars are adorned in Art Deco finery, creating an atmosphere of old-school glamour. Food is sourced along the route, meaning that when you sit down to dinner, there’s likely to be lobsters from Brittany, or juicy tomatoes from Provence on your plate. After dinner, stop by the Champagne bar for a celebration that will transport you back to the golden age of luxury travel.

Rovos Rail, South Africa

Get a taste of the diverse landscapes in South Africa on the Rovos Rail journey from Pretoria to Cape Town. The three-day excursion takes passengers on a wide-ranging tour of landscapes, from the grasslands of Highveld to the desert of Great Karoo. The view is particularly exceptional from the train’s open-air balconies on the observation car. The train stops in the Cape Winelands for a parting drink before leaving passengers at the station in Cape Town.

Royal Scotsman, Scotland

Explore Scotland’s lochs, castles, and countryside on a slow-moving train. As the Belmond Royal Scotsman chugs through the Highlands, nestle underneath tartan wool blankets in your suite or nurse a scotch in the mahogany dining car. But what makes the Royal Scotsman unique among luxury trains is the onboard Dior Spa. Book a facial, massage, or manicure in the spa car for relaxation with a side of picturesque scenery.

Matt Crossick/Courtesy of Belmond

Andean Explorer, Peru

In the 15th century, the Andean Road System was a feat of engineering, where locals used to trek the 18,000 miles of road by foot or by llama. Today, guests can travel in luxury on the Belmond Andean Explorer. The train starts at the ancient capital of Cusco and proceeds through the Andean Plains, up to Lake Titicaca. Because of the high elevation in Peru, this is one of the highest train routes in the world. Inside, the cars are filled with local flair, from Peruvian tapestries (made from alpaca wool) on the bed to pisco sours served in the rear observation bar car.

Maharajas’ Express, India

There are a few reasons why Maharajas’ Express consistently ranks among the most luxurious train rides in the world. Every car has a private butler, and there’s a two-bedroom presidential suite for those willing to splurge. The seven-day Heritage of India tour is among the rail line’s most popular offerings, with stops in Mumbai, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Agra, and Delhi.

Patricia de Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty Images

The Presidential Train, Portugal

Portugal’s Douro Valley is internationally recognized for its food and wine, so it’s no surprise the region’s Presidential Train offers a journey centered on culinary delights. Departing from Porto, the train chugs past vineyards as guests enjoy live music and extravagant dishes prepared by local chefs. Originally built in 1890 for the Portuguese royal family, the train has hosted its fair share of dignitaries, including Queen Elizabeth II, and its interiors still exude regal elegance. Portuguese wine flows throughout the 10-hour trip and a stop at the Quinta de Vargellas estate treats guests to a Port tasting before the train returns to Porto.

The Ghan, Australia

Not every journey through the Australian Outback needs to be a dusty adventure. The Ghan is one of Australia’s most luxurious train rides, taking passengers on a four-day expedition from Darwin to Adelaide. The train has been in operation since 1929 but has been updated with modern amenities. Onboard meals include local fare like saltwater barramundi and grilled kangaroo fillet.

The Canadian, Canada

Journey across the Great White North all while staying warm in your train cabin. Canada’s national passenger rail service, Via Rail, offers a cross-country route from Toronto to Vancouver. Along the way, passengers will spot waterfalls, charming small towns, and the grand Rocky Mountains. It takes about four days to complete the trip in one straight shot but we recommend disembarking in Jasper, Alberta, or Kamloops, British Columbia, for hiking, biking, or skiing. Take the train in winter for the best views of snow-capped peaks and endless fields of white powder.

The Transcantábrico Gran Lujo, Spain

If you like your luxury with a dose of history, book a trip on the Transcantabrico Gran Lujo, where four of the cars are original 1923 Pullman cars. The trains are decorated to evoke the feeling of stepping back to that era. Passengers can experience some of Spain’s best vistas from the panoramic viewing car. Service goes across the northern coast of the country from San Sebastian to Santiago de Compostela.

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Rockies to the Red Rocks, Colorado and Utah

Voted the best train operator by Travel + Leisure readers, the Rocky Mountaineer traverses some of North America’s most impressive landscapes. While the company previously only serviced Canada, its two-day Rockies to the Red Rocks route between Denver, Colorado, and Moab, Utah, is one of the latest and greatest ways to experience the natural beauty of the American Southwest. The journey is enhanced with onboard storytelling, gourmet dining, a one-night stay at a hotel in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and glass-domed windows for unobstructed views of the epic surroundings.

Eastern & Oriental Express, Asia

Since 1993, this elegantly decorated train has been making stops in three of Asia’s most glittering destinations — Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Bangkok; and Singapore. The interiors of the Eastern & Oriental Express were inspired by the 1932 Marlene Dietrich film “Shanghai Express,” and come with high-end details such as Thai silk, Malaysian embroidery, and cherrywood paneling. The rich design is enhanced by the views when the train passes through lush rain forests or ancient temples. Be sure to pack apparel worthy of the scene — evening wear is required for dinner.

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