Mapping the greatest train trips on Earth.

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World's Greatest Train Travel: The Grandest Babushka of All

September 12, 2008 at 3:20 PM | by | ()

This week, we're mapping some of the world's greatest train trips.

We'd be crazy if we didn't include the Trans-Siberian Railway on our list of the world's best trains. The Moscow-to-Vladivostok luxury line, the third-longest continual service route in the world, was one of the first to intentionally connect across borders (via the Beijing spur, technically known as the Trans-Manchurian) and to allow its posh clientele the opportunity to see areas of the world that even now are considered dangerous.

As the only route we covered that gets its own Lonely Planet volume, the Trans-Siberian is still influencing the direction of international train travel: Russia, China and Germany announced this year that it would collaborate on a Beijing-to-Hamburg route.

We get a little stir-crazy thinking about being on a train that long but with a little vodka, it just might be bearable.

Related Stories:
· Not a Real Trans-Siberian Trip [Jaunted]
· Travel Films: Transsiberian Is an Ice Cold Thriller [Jaunted]
· Ulan Bataar To The Russian Border [The World Is Not Flat]

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World's Greatest Train Travel: Ain't No Mountain High Enough

September 11, 2008 at 3:00 PM | by | ()

This week, we're mapping some of the world's greatest train trips.

The Darjeeling Himalayan "Toy Train" may not look like much. But the haunting wail of this still-operating steam train echoes across some magnificent vistas en route to Siliguri-New Jalpaiguri, major transfer cities between India's state of West Bengal and its neighbors Nepal and Bangladesh.

The narrow-gauge route has weathered earthquakes and cyclones to garner the designation of UNESCO World Heritage Area along its 53 miles of track. Expect the trip to take seven to nine hours with frequent interruptions between the 800-plus bridges the train crosses en route; buy fragrant snacks on board or wait for a cup of extra-strong chai at one of the through stations.

Related Stories:
· An Indian-Born Man Reminisces About His Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Travels []
· Movie Set Travel: The Darjeeling Limited [Jaunted
· Rail Travel: Toy Train to Shimla [Telegraph]
· World's Best Train Trips coverage [Jaunted]

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World's Greatest Train Travel: Olde Africa, Bathtubs Optional

September 10, 2008 at 2:30 PM | by | ()

This week, we're mapping some of the world's greatest train trips.

Desk jockeys may find the route traveled by the Pride of Africa to be prohibitively long, not to mention impractical: The classic Cape to Cairo track may have been an innovation back in the days of "Doctor Livingstone, I presume?"

But on a continent known for being unknowable, the Pride of Africa, making tracks through Zimbabwe and Tanzania aboard the self-described "World's Most Luxurious Train," this route attracts because, even with its airplane attachments, it's the kind of journey no one takes any more.

Between the classic train cars (some dating from the 19-teens) to the built-in balconies, there's only one word for it: audacious. We can't help picturing some kind of adventure along the lines of "Strangers on a Train" meets "The Constant Gardener," or a dry "African Queen," that envelops everyone on board.

Related Stories:
· Cape to Cairo [Rovos Rail]
· Cape to Cairo, Mostly by Train []
· A Bunch of South Africans Who Took the Trip in 2007 [Our Cape to Cairo]
· Transsiberian Is An Ice-Cold Thriller [Jaunted]

[Photo: Old Fogey 1942]

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World's Greatest Train Travel: Pick of the Ecuadorean Hills

September 9, 2008 at 2:30 PM | by | ()

This week, we're mapping some of the world's greatest train trips.

Earlier this year, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez declared his intention to string South America together by establishing a transcontinental train. While this type of border-crossing trip is still a matter of navigating the national railways of each country--where they even exist--it also means that hidden gems along the tracks tend to stay (a little more) hidden than the needle threading along the Eurail routes.

But the "Devil's Nose" in Ecuador isn't a train you take to get somewhere: It's pure sightseeing.

The Riobamba-to-Alausí route was so named because of the nearly sheer rock cliff the train was forced to ascend in order to get to the Andean city, a process it accomplishes by... well, watch the video, you might enjoy it. Those of strong stomach might enjoy a platano from a local farmer on the way up on the roof of the train. We'll just be cowering in our seats with one finger on the shutter button.

Related Stories:
· A Train to Cross All South America? [Treehugger]
· Theft and the Devil's Nose []
· Ecuador Field Trip: Escape to Mindo [Jaunted]

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World's Greatest Train Travel: West Is Best with the Coast Starlight

September 8, 2008 at 4:15 PM | by | ()

This week, we're mapping some of the world's greatest train trips.

When The New York Times made its semi-annual nod to plebeian vacations last fall, it plugged Amtrak's southernmost route, the "Sunset Limited," which crosses the Cadillac desert between New Orleans and Los Angeles. But travelers hoping to catch some scenes of green (or, this time of year, fall foliage) should check out the Coast Starlight instead.

The 35-hour trek between Seattle and LA, which the Gray Lady described in 1982 as "a serious train," traverses both purple mountain majesties and fruited plains--as well as Napa wine country and the edge of the Pacific Ocean. On-board comforts include artisanal cheeses, an arcade room and meals delivered right to your seat.

Related Stories:
· Sunset Limited [Official Site]
· Amtrak's Coast Starlight Classes Up Its Act [LAT]
· Amtrak's $100 Booze Credit [Jaunted]