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There’s something serene and nostalgic about swaying back and forth, watching the landscape float by, with the unmistakable clacking of train wheels below your feet. Train travel has the power to transport travelers through the folds of time yet conjure up a sense of adventurous newness. Luxury train travel is not only exciting; it’s also the ultimate sustainable travel experience. Not convinced? Check out some of the world’s most luxurious train journeys, and find how riding the rails can be the best guilt-free vacation option on the market.
Belmond is a brand synonymous with luxury, opulence, and comfort in some of the world’s most exciting destinations. With South America being one of the fastest-growing destinations, when the Belmond Andean Explorer launched in November 2017, it connected impacted local communities and travelers seeking new adventures. As South America’s first luxury sleeper train, travelers are swept through landscapes and mountain villages, they otherwise wouldn’t see. With thirty-five luxurious sanctuaries, an onboard spa, two stunning dining carriages, and an elegant lounge car, guests make their way from Cusco through the Andrean Mountains and step off the train in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Arequipa.
Hailed as the ‘King of Trains,’ the Orient Express has been the backdrop for some of the most famous people and books in the world. From James Bond, Agatha Christie, Alfred Hitchcock, and Czar Nicholas II. The Orient Express is a glitzy affair on rails with suits, cocktail dresses, champagne lunches, and celebrities. With personal suite attendants, marbled bathrooms, and nostalgic Art Deco design throughout the train, the Orient Express is a journey back in time with all of the modern comforts today’s sustainable luxury traveler prefers. Between March and November, the train travels through the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Switzerland, and further. But for those who want to experience history, travelers have the opportunity to experience the original Paris to Istanbul route.
The Rocky Mountaineer is the ultimate sustainable travel experience and a bucket list request for travelers looking to see more of Canada. From mid-April to mid-October, this Canadian luxury train winds its way through the iconic Rocky Mountains, spanning the awe-inspiring provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. Unlike other luxury trains, guests spend their days on the train, taking in breathtaking views, but are then taken by a luxury coach to spend their evenings in five-star accommodation. In 2022, the Rocky Mountaineer launched a new route, taking travelers from Moab to Denver through the Moab Desert.
The Rocky Mountaineer focuses on sustainability with an aggressive climate goal of “diverting 90% of the water from landfills by 2023.” They’ve planted nearly 14,000 trees since 2008 and actively participate in wildlife conservation programs.
The Seven Stars’ Cruise Train’ is Japan’s first luxury sleeper train and quickly rose the ranks to become one of the world’s most luxurious trains. Travelers are taken across five distinct regions; Fukuoka, Oita, Miyazaki, Kagoshima, and Kumamoto. For travelers who seek an in-depth cultural experience, the Seven Stars journey seamlessly incorporates local culture, food, architecture, and nature into every itinerary. The onboard experience provides guests with a selection of 12 luxurious suites, an opulent lounge car with top-shelf bar service, and a dining car serving locally sourced ingredients. If this sounds like a dreamy trip, this journey is in such high demand, there’s an in-depth application process, and it usually sells out a year in advance!
Explore the Balkans, Germany, and Austria on the newly launched Hapsburg Express. Travelers looking for a truly nostalgic train experience, they’ll love chugging across Europe’s storybook landscapes on a restored 19th-century steam train. However, when travelers aren’t luxuriating in their private cabins or enjoying Michelin quality, locally sourced cuisine in the dining car, a portfolio of incredible off-train excursions awaits those who want to enhance their trip.
Travelers are whisked away to the land of Gaelic folklore, ancient clans, storied landscapes, and warm hospitality on one of Europe’s most celebrated luxury train trips. The Royal Scotsman transports guests to the Edwardian era and takes guests on a four-night, roundtrip journey from Edinburgh. With numerous stops along the way, the all-inclusive service model means guests get to enjoy three sumptuous meals served on board, drinks, and 24-hour steward service. They also receive numerous tours and visits to historical sites, all included in their train fare.
All of that being said, why and how is train travel more sustainable?
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), commercial and passenger flights account for 2% of global carbon emissions. And in the United Kingdom, one of the most densely populated regions on earth, the carbon output for the National Rail Service equals 41 grams of carbon dioxide per passenger per kilometer. Compared to the average
Smaller Groups, Smaller Footprint
Unlike flights or busses, most luxury trains have a capacity of under 150 guests. This means less waste, less energy usage, and a much smaller carbon footprint. In addition, this smaller group size makes for a far more intimate luxury travel experience, allowing guests to mingle easily with fellow passengers and make connections.
Locally Sourced Meals
One of the best things about train journeys is the menu! Onboard chefs prepare fresh meals with locally sourced ingredients that provide guests with an upscale experience and cater to food allergies and preferences. You have the ability to make special requests during your booking so the chef has time to accommodate.
Commitment to Sustainable Practices & Ethics
Luxury train brands are constantly working hard to practice sustainability by seeking ways to be more climate-friendly. In addition, because commercial train travel was once a driving economic force in many of these communities, luxury train brands work directly with these communities to help keep tourism dollars in the community.
For travelers who love the idea of slow travel, enjoy being transported back in time, and want to luxuriate in the comfort of their own private suite on wheels, a luxury train journey may be precisely what the wandering soul needs.