Over the past few years, long-haul train travel has been undergoing a real renaissance – and we’re all for it. Nothing quite compares to the romance of railway. Throw in private butlers, an ensuite bathtub and fine dining all day, and we’re very happy to forgo our air miles. The destination doesn’t even need to be particularly exciting. As a wise man (Robert Louis Stevenson) once said: “I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move”. And what a great affair these sleeper train journeys are. From storied train carriages to brand spanking new rail routes, here are some of the most incredible sleeper trains around the world.
The most incredible sleeper trains around the world
Journey: Paris, France to Istanbul, Turkey
We’re all familiar with the most storied sleeper train in the world, not least because we’ve seen Agatha Christie’s Poirot jiggle across it quite a few times. This legendary train’s reputation is entirely warranted though – it’s a palace on wheels.
The journey starts off in Paris and finishes up in Istanbul. You could break it up and stop at Venice, but if you’ve got enough cash to spend one night on board, we’ll wager you can afford the rest. In five days, you’ll travel across Budapest, Romania and Bulgaria before hopping off at Istanbul and transferring to the Four Seasons. With its polished wood, black lacquer panelled walls and antique furniture, it’ll whisk you across Europe and back to the Golden Age of travel in no time.
Journey: Cusco to Arequipa, Peru
This luxury sleeper train combines the romance of railways with a dramatic Peruvian backdrop. Winding its way through the Peruvian Andes, it’s one of the highest-altitude rail lines in the world. There are 24 cabins in total and 50 members of staff which means (gasp) there’s always a higher staff to passenger ratio. Sumptuous interiors are inspired by the landscape, with hand-woven textiles made with Alpaca wool and bathrooms fashioned from local stone. Each cabin is even fitted out with oxygen tanks and masks, for when the altitude kicks in.
3. Seven Stars
Journey: Kyushu Island, Japan
Billed as the most luxurious sleeper in the world, Japan’s Seven Star train sleeper service is so popular you’ll need to enter a lottery to get a ticket for one of the train’s 11 suites. The sleeper slices through the island of Kyushu, famous for its volcanic peaks, beaches and hot springs. There’s fine dining in the Jupiter dining car and live music in the Blue Moon lounge, which features its own Grand Piano.
Journey: Mumbai to Dehli, India
Ostentatious and over-the-top, the Maharajas Express is everything a luxury sleeper train should be. Onboard no expense has been spared – every car on the train has a private butler, dedicated to your every whim. There’s fine dining at the Mayur Mahal and Rang Mahal Restaurant, exotic cocktails in the Safari bar and sophisticated aperitifs and nightcaps in the Raja Club. The seven-day Heritage of India itinerary stops off at Udaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Jaipur and Ranthambore National Park along the way.
5. The Ghan
Journey: Adelaide to Darwin, Australia
This train has been around since 1924, but you couldn’t tell – inside, the carriages are the height of modernity. But it’s the scenery that’s the real draw here. The weekly sleeper train slices through Australia, following the trail of Afghan ‘cameleers’ deep into the outback and russet-red desert. There’s plenty of opportunities to stretch your legs en-route, with days out in Alice Springs and the pristine wilderness of Katherine.
Journey: Moscow to Vladivostok, Russia
Possibly the greatest rail route in the world, this once-in-a-life-time railway journey clocks up 5,7000 miles from Moscow to Vladivostok. Onboard, there’s a resident pianist, lavish furnishings and three categories of cabins to choose from. The route traverses across Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater lake in the world, as well as Kazan and the Urals. Those staying in the Imperial cabin get a private guide.
Journey: Pretoria to Cape Town, South Africa
Beloved by celebs, kings and presidents, the Blue Train travels 1000-miles from Pretoria to Cape Town, soaking up South Africa in style. The route meanders past the Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, through the Savannah and Karoo desert. Onboard, guests can enjoy a restful nights sleep under goose-feather filled linen and sink deep into bubbles in a full-sized bathtub in the ensuite.