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Travel the old-fashioned way for a front-row seat to the
world’s most beautiful landscapes. All aboard!

Technicolor greens, brilliant saris, ancient temples: these
are my clearest memories of riding India’s
South Eastern Railway in 1996. I still recall the rickshaws and rivers full of
locals bathing, as the tropical landscape passed in a constant, captivating
blur.

My vivid memories speak to the power and allure of train
travel. After all, a railway itinerary allows travelers the opportunity to
experience a destination in a way that’s just not possible from the air. Above
the clouds, it’s hard to tell the difference between a Mexican canyon and a
Norwegian fjord. From a train window, the passing vistas are completely
distinct.

Sure enough, says Mark Smith, founder of the train travel
website Seat 61, many travelers are
frustrated with the airlines. “People
want to cut their carbon footprint, and they want to avoid the hassle,” he
says. “They’re looking for a more relaxing alternative.” The evidence: visits
to Seat 61 have increased 800 percent in the past three years.

But let’s be clear: some train routes serve up more scenery
than others—a lot more. The ride from Calcutta was mesmerizing, but India’s
natural beauty shines in its northern mountains as well. There, the Darjeeling
Himalayan Railway takes riders on an eight-hour ride through jungle and tea
gardens to the base of the Himalayas, all from a 19th-century steam
locomotive.

Closer to home, the Rocky Mountaineer traverses the dramatic
Canadian Rockies from Vancouver to Calgary. The two-day
route passes the snowcapped peaks of the Coast Mountain range, the rushing
Fraser River, and down over the Continental Divide to Banff National Park.

Best of all, even the most spectacular train ride offers
riders something many travelers crave these days: authenticity. “A flight across Vietnam is an identical experience to a plane ride in India, Canada, or Australia,” says Smith. “But a train trip gives
insight into the culture of a country. The journey becomes part of the
experience.”

World's Most Scenic Train Rides

Travel the old-fashioned way for a front-row seat to the
world’s most beautiful landscapes. All aboard!

Technicolor greens, brilliant saris, ancient temples: these
are my clearest memories of riding India’s
South Eastern Railway in 1996. I still recall the rickshaws and rivers full of
locals bathing, as the tropical landscape passed in a constant, captivating
blur.

My vivid memories speak to the power and allure of train
travel. After all, a railway itinerary allows travelers the opportunity to
experience a destination in a way that’s just not possible from the air. Above
the clouds, it’s hard to tell the difference between a Mexican canyon and a
Norwegian fjord. From a train window, the passing vistas are completely
distinct.

Sure enough, says Mark Smith, founder of the train travel
website Seat 61, many travelers are
frustrated with the airlines. “People
want to cut their carbon footprint, and they want to avoid the hassle,” he
says. “They’re looking for a more relaxing alternative.” The evidence: visits
to Seat 61 have increased 800 percent in the past three years.

But let’s be clear: some train routes serve up more scenery
than others—a lot more. The ride from Calcutta was mesmerizing, but India’s
natural beauty shines in its northern mountains as well. There, the Darjeeling
Himalayan Railway takes riders on an eight-hour ride through jungle and tea
gardens to the base of the Himalayas, all from a 19th-century steam
locomotive.

Closer to home, the Rocky Mountaineer traverses the dramatic
Canadian Rockies from Vancouver to Calgary. The two-day
route passes the snowcapped peaks of the Coast Mountain range, the rushing
Fraser River, and down over the Continental Divide to Banff National Park.

Best of all, even the most spectacular train ride offers
riders something many travelers crave these days: authenticity. “A flight across Vietnam is an identical experience to a plane ride in India, Canada, or Australia,” says Smith. “But a train trip gives
insight into the culture of a country. The journey becomes part of the
experience.”

Imagebroker / Alamy

World's Most Scenic Train Rides

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