When we set out on a journey, it’s easy to buy a plane ticket or pack up the car, but traveling by train is a unique, and often overlooked, way to see far off places or even our own backyard.
The current issue of National Geographic Traveler, on newsstands now, features the best and most adventurous train journeys that’ll have you traveling the world in style. From the snowy peaks of Switzerland to the open plains of Africa to our very own red desert, wherever there’s epic scenery there’s usually a set of train tracks nearby. For the lifelong trainspotter, this collection of beautiful photos is pure locomotive porn, but even if you’re yet to take your first scenic train trip, these 12 journeys should have you fired up enough to book a ticket soon.
Take an excursion through Russia, from Vladivostok to Moscow, aboard the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian, which rolls by Lake Baikal, the deepest lake on Earth.
Photo courtesy Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian
Take The Canadian, where passengers can spend three days watching the countryside scenery from Toronto to Vancouver via dome cars.
Photo courtesy Rail Canada
Rolling from the Windy City to San Francisco, the California Zephyr climbs both the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada before descending to the Pacific coast on its 2,447-mile traverse across the heartland of America.
Photo courtesy Marc Glucksman, Amtrak
Black-tie glamour still rules on the century-old Orient Express from London to Venice, which passes through Paris while you’re having dinner and brings aboard fresh-baked croissants when the train stops in Switzerland.
Photo by Hubert Fanthomme, Paris Match/Getty Images
Pack hiking boots and binoculars to explore Alice Springs on The Ghan, which runs north to south in the “Red Centre” of Australia from Darwin to Adelaide.
Photo courtesy The Ghan
A mobile palace complete with onboard spa, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels highlights India’s temples, forts, and Taj Mahal on a seven-night passage.
Photo by Vijay Mathur, Reuters
The Glacier Express distills the Alpine experience into eight hours of snowy peaks, mountain meadows, and storybook villages between Zermatt and St. Moritz, Switzerland.
Photo by Olaf Protze, Getty Images
Serbia and Montenegro
On Belgrade to Bar, riders experience 254 tunnels and 435 bridges on a 296-mile trip from Serbia’s capital to the shores of the Adriatic, at a bargain price.
Photo by Nick Cottman, Alamy Stock Photo
Japan’s Train Suite Shiki-shima has just 10 cabins and serves up kaiseki cuisine created by Katsuhiro Nakamura, the country’s first Michelin-starred chef.
Photo by Kyodo News/Getty Images
The overnight Blue Train from Pretoria to Cape Town showcases South African scenery and includes a station stop at the diamond mining town of Kimberley.
Photo courtesy The Blue Train
The Train to the Clouds climbs to 13,800 feet in the rugged Andes on its way from Salta, Argentina, to the Chilean border on one of the highest train journeys in the world.
Photo by Marco Guoli
In New Zealand, the TranzAlpine runs between Christchurch and Greymouth, racing alongside the Waimakariri River and through the Southern Alps on a nine-hour round-trip route.
Photo by Age Fotostock/Alamy Stock Photo