Any list of the world’s great rail journeys should include a trip on the Ghan, which runs straight down the center of Australia. The train’s name refers to camel handlers brought in from Pakistan and Afghanistan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to transport goods into the Australian outback. The Ghan stops in Darwin, Alice Springs and Adelaide, to name just a few places. The journey can last three or four days, depending on your itinerary, offering spectacular views of tropical, pastoral and desert landscapes. Prices range from about $650 per person during the low season to more than $3,000 during high season. Details are available at greatsouthernrail.com.
Whether you love or hate the latest Hollywood adaptation of “Murder on the Orient Express,” you can get an idea of what inspired the original mystery novel with a ride on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express train. It’s not the same train that Agatha Christie once rode: This high-end version was started in 1982 by a guy from Kentucky. However, each of the 1920s-era cars has been beautifully restored. You and your companion can exchange witty repartee over cocktails in the art nouveau bar car. For 2018, its owner-operator, Belmond, is introducing cabin suites with “free-flowing champagne.” Thanks to a plethora of potential itineraries between London and Istanbul, the cost can vary. Investigate further at belmond.com/trains.
In 2014, CNN dubbed the Seven Stars “Cruise Train” Japan’s answer to the Orient Express. The train has only seven cars with 14 suites and limits the number of passengers per trip to 30. You also have to apply and be chosen in a lottery to be one of them. You have a choice of two itineraries, a two-day trip and a four-day one, both on Kyushu, Japan’s third-largest island, home to one of the world’s largest volcanoes and filled with hot springs. Local craftsmanship is on display throughout the train, including in the showers, which are made with hinoki cypress wood that has a lemony scent. The gourmet cuisine and cocktails are oft-cited highlights. Prices start at about $2,760 per person for double occupancy. Details at cruisetrain-sevenstars.com.
In the 1920s, the Union Limited and Union Express, both steam-engine trains, ferried passengers between Johannesburg and Cape Town. After World War II, the lines were redubbed the Blue Train after the blue steel train cars that were introduced in 1937. The train’s regular route, between Pretoria and Cape Town, covers 994 miles and takes 27 hours with spectacular views of the Winelands and the Great Karoo desert, and a stopover in the diamond-mining center of Kimberley. Inside, the train’s suites have marble tiles and gold fittings and butler service. Dinner is an event: Men are requested to wear a jacket and tie, and ladies “elegant evening wear.” Prices start at $1,085 per person for double occupancy in low season. Details at www.bluetrain.co.za.