High-speed rail may be the wave of the future, but romantics seduced by the old-school glamour of train travel have new options, too. In Ecuador, Tren Crucero(pictured) deploys a restored 1900’s steam locomotive along a route from the Andes to the Pacific Ocean, with stretches past the 19,347-foot Cotopaxi Volcano and the Devil’s Nose, a daunting series of switchbacks. The 158-year-old Panama Canal Railway Company—created to haul cargo across the isthmus in pre-canal days—ferries passengers in vintage coaches from the capital to Colón, gateway to the Caribbean coast.
In the Balkans, you can ride between Serbia and Montenegro on the Blue Train, the luxury carriage in which former Yugoslav leader Marshal Tito once entertained Queen Elizabeth and other heads of state. The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express has launched its first Scandinavian itineraries; the Art Deco–era icon travels between Venice, Copenhagen, and Stockholm, with guests staying in classic hotels.
Thirsting for luxury in Israel’s Negev region? Look no further than this new crater-front property.
In a nation of countless historic natural wonders, Israel’s 200 million-year-old Makhtesh Ramon crater has always stood out. Set in the stark Negev desert region 2 1/2 hours south of Tel Aviv, this 23-mile-long geological depression is rich both in rare wildlife and the archaeological remnants of its first human inhabitants. Now Mitzpe Ramon—the area’s dusty boomtown—finally has a hotel as wondrous as its location. Named after the Hebrew word for genesis, Isrotel’s Beresheet lives up to its weighty moniker. Built using indigenous stone and tropical Brazilian wood, it has 40 low-slung structures housing 111 rooms and suites, including 42 with Israel’s first private infinity-edge pools. All face the 1,000-foot-deep crater, where four-wheel-drive jeeps take visitors to see prehistoric fossils, early dwellings, and endangered birds and mammals. While the surrounding desert is home to a clutch of boutique wineries, you can appreciate other types of local bounty right at the resort. The pan-Mediterranean restaurant sources ingredients from nearby farms and kibbutzim for dishes such as lamb kebabs and pine nuts wrapped in eggplant, and native herbs are used in essential oils at the nine-room spa. After a treatment, head over to the resort’s crater-front pool for a dip—what better way to drink in the desert than from a water-filled oasis? 972-8/659-8000; doubles from $300.