SATW Travel Writers Select the World's Top Ten Train Rides
The Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), the world’s largest organization of professional travel journalists and photographers, recently polled its members to come up with the “Top 10” most exciting and scenic train rides in the world.
SATW President Bea Broda states, “For many travelers, Edna St. Vincent Millay said it perfectly when she wrote: ‘My heart is warm with the friends I make, And better friends I'll not be knowing; Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take, No matter where it's going.’”
“Train travel,” according to Broda, “is romantic, scenic, a wonderful way to meet and mix with locals and equally important today, a very green way to experience a country.”
Listed in order of votes with comments from SATW writers are the world’s “Top 10” train rides:
1. The Rocky Mountaineer (www.
rockymountaineer.com) offers spectacular two-day journeys through the Canadian Rocky Mountains from Vancouver to Banff or Jasper. “The Rocky Mountaineer is humbling travel – both for the monumental landscapes it slices through and the appreciation of the workers who risked – and sometimes gave – their lives to build it.” Betsa Marsh, freelance travel writer
2. The Glacier Express (www.glacierexpress.ch
) is the famous Swiss mountain railway from St. Moritz to Zermatt, a 7.5 hour railway journey that crosses 291 bridges and burrows through 91 tunnels.
“Take the Glacier Express in winter – you will pass by skiers, people playing golf in the snow and spectacular alpine settings.” James O’Reilly, publisher, Traveler’s Tales
3. Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (www.durangotrain.com
) winds through rugged canyons in the remote wilderness of Colorado’s two-million-acre San Juan National Forest. The narrow-gauge train is pulled by a coal-fired, steam-powered locomotive along the same tracks traveled over a century ago by miners, cowboys and settlers of the Old West.
4. The Bernina Express (www.rhb.ch) from Chur, Switzerland to Tirano, Italy, makes the highest rail crossing of the Alps, passing from icy glaciers to palm-shaded piazzas in just a few hours. It crosses 196 bridges and passes through 55 tunnels, while winding around countless spectacular switchbacks. You can take the scenic stretch from St. Moritz to Tirano for lunch in Italy in just three hours. “The Bernina Express takes your breath away before dropping you off in the marvelous little Italian village of Tirano,” Stan Wawer, travel writer
5. Peru Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu (www.perurail.com), car
ries passengers on a spectacular journey through the high Andes. There are three levels of service, from backpacker trains to Vistadome cars to the luxurious blue and gold Hiram Bingham train, named in honor of Hiram Bingham, the explorer who discovered the Inca citadel in 1911.
The train passes by lush green fields and colorful villages in the foothills of the Andes and climbs along the Urubamba River through a dramatic canyon before reaching Machu Picchu. “On the train from Cusco to the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu, it’s easy to feel you’re traveling into a mystery as you roll past secluded farms, squeeze between rugged mountains and, on my trip, become enveloped by low brooding dark clouds.” Susan Farlow, freelance travel writer
6. The Coastal Classic Train on the Alaska Railroad (www.akrr.com) winds through the wilderness between Anchorage and Seward. Massive glaciers are visible from the track as the train climbs into the Kenai Mountains and travels to the shores of Resurrection Bay for convenient connection to Kenai Fjords National Park, offering whale watching, sea kayaking, tidewater glacier viewing, fishing, and dog sled rides.
7. The Royal Scotsman (www.royalscotsman.
com) rolls through the ever-changing landscapes of sweeping glens, towering peaks and mirror-calm lochs as the train weaves through wild countryside and along virgin stretches of coast on two to seven night journeys in the Scottish highlands. “Ancient castles. Misty moors. Stark cliffs, covered in black shadows from the clouds. Lochs. Chimneys sticking out of thatched roofs. And Rob Roy and Braveheart waiting beyond every turn.” Steve Winston, freelance travel writer
8. The Whistler Mountaineer (www.
whistlermountaineer.com) in Canada is a three-hour ride along the magnificent coast of British Columbia, from Vancouver to Whistler, famous for its views of cities, old-growth forests, deep valleys, snowcapped peaks and seascapes.
9. Mexico’s El Chepe (www.chepe.com.mx) ventures into the imposing landscapes of the Sierra Tarahumara and into Mexico’s famed Copper Canyon, passing through 87 tunnels and crossing 37 bridges. The Copper Canyon is four times the size of the Grand Canyon – and deeper. “Mexico’s Chepe train from Los Mochis to Copper Canyon has it all: tall bridges crossing rivers, dozens of tunnels, a winding track that climbs high out of the canyon and, waiting for you at the end, the fascinating indigenous Tarahumara people.” Eric Lindberg, freelance travel writer/photographer
10. The Flam Railway (www.norwaynutshell.
com) is regarded as one of the highlights of the “Norway in a Nutshell” tour. The 20-km-long train journey from the mountain station of Myrdal down to Flam, beside a fjord, takes 55 minutes. On the journey, you have views of some of the most magnificent mountain scenery in Norway with a panorama of tall mountains and cascading waterfalls. The train moves slowly or stops at the best views. “The Norway in a Nutshell ride fulfills its clever name, and stopping to let passengers take pictures is a real plus.” Bob Jenkins, freelance travel writer
The Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) is a non-profit professional association that works to promote responsible travel journalism and to provide professional support for its members, including travel journalists, photographers, editors, electronic media, film lecturers, television and film producers, and public relations representatives from the travel industry.
For more information on the Society of American Travel Writers, visit www.satw.org