In the age of Instagram, the Old World romance of overnight train travel isn’t restricted to bygone eras. In fact, luxury sleeper train travel — occasionally and aptly referred to as “cruise trains” — are chugging along like five-star hotels on tracks with high-brow amenities, like in-suite bathtubs, gourmet dining, and plentiful windows to take in the panoramic views.
The fall seems like an ideal time to take it all in, particularly if a week at sea with waterslides and mudslides doesn’t appeal to you. These journeys don’t come cheap — most range under $5,000, but not far off — but each ticket wraps the better facets of a vacation into one all-inclusive plush parcel.
Fine dining and entertainment? Check. Designer accommodations? Check. Concierge services? Check. Off-site activities? Check. Killer views? Oh, you betcha.
And there’s no queue for customs or baggage check along the way, either.
Where to start? Here are five journeys to get your wanderlust flowing — or rather, chugging, along.
Belmond Andean Explorer
The Peruvian Andes rush past your cabin windows at 14,000 feet on this one- or two-night journey between Cusco, Puno, and Arequipa. Inspired by “slow living” and the natural tones of Peru’s terrain, the 48-passenger train includes a cocktail carting Piano Bar Car and two dining cars from the country’s renown Chef Diego Muñoz of Astrid & Gastón fame. (Your journey’s ticket includes a locally inspired lunch and dinner.) Day trips to the artisan towns along the route can be added for an additional fee, and plans to add a full-service spa car are in the works for 2018.
Seven Stars at Kyushu
This Japanese luxury sleeper drifts through the dreamy, naturally dynamic island of Kyushu. The seven-car train hosts just 14 guest rooms, but the ultra luxurious Deluxe Suites are lined with preciously carved white sycamore, and just one reveals a full rearmost window for the most fleeting view of the journey. The journeys — which range from two or four days — include lounge and formal dining options with Bond-worthy dress codes (gentlemen, pack your tuxedo) featuring traditional, thoughtful Kyushu cuisine.
Rovos Rail’s The Pride of Africa
While the compartments on this opulent family-owned sleeper line are charming to the hilt — Royal Suite passengers have the opportunity to sink into their very own clawfoot bathtub — it’s the extracurriculars that give each multi-day journey from Cape Town through Southern Africa a sense of adventure. Sightseeing stops may include the rare wildlife at Etosha National Park in Namibia or other forces of nature at Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River. On board, guests split their time between gourmet feasts and lounging in tufted armchairs with unlimited imbibements while the wild world passes by.
Belmond Royal Scotsman
Mahogany panels and traditional tartans make this plush journey through the Scottish countryside feel like peak hygge. Dining rooms are designed to encourage group mingling, and men, on more formal nights, are advised to bring their kilts. (Though tuxedos are acceptable, if you must.) Journeys range from two to seven nights, with daily excursions to Highland romps, clay pigeon shooting and whisky distilleries and the like. Guests retire to one of the 22 leather-lined sleeping cabins before the train stabilizes for the night, meaning no rocking as the night rolls in.
Via Rail’s The Canadian
For Canada’s 150th anniversary, you can take in the range of our northern neighbor’s terrain, aboard Via Rail’s cross-country journey from Toronto to Vancouver. A Prestige Class ticket buys you a spacious private sleeper compartment with a personal concierge and turndown service. Beds can then be turned into a leather sectional, for lounging and reading on this three-day excursion. Regionally inspired gourmet dining and beverage services come inclusive, with priority access to the window-dome-topped Panorama car for a sky’s the limit view of your journey west.Rachel Raczka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @rachelraczka.