Air travel is a drag these days. Between poor customer service, constant delays and that pesky liquid limit, flying is rarely a pleasurable experience. Enter trains, the form of high-speed transportation that is popular in Europe and Asia but seriously lagging in the United States. And though the standard bullet trains are plenty nice, we’re really here for the ultra-luxe locomotives that offer an experience rather than simply a way from point A to point B. Not only do they boast large suites with personal bathrooms and sumptuous multi-course meals, these trains are designed with the bar cars of our dreams. Whether you’re planning your next trip or simply need some travel eye candy, let these four opulent trains whisk you away.
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As the first South American luxury sleeper train, the Belmond Andean Explorer is setting the bar extra high. On the two-night journey from Cusco to Arequipa, guests enjoy uninterrupted views of snow-capped mountains, glittering lakes and herds of grazing alpacas. Chef Diego Muñoz helms the dining car, which boasts a menu of perfectly prepared Peruvian food, and hosts ceviche-making classes. But the real draw is the train’s wide selection of places you can drink, including a piano bar car, observation car and open-air terrace where you can enjoy a Pisco Sour as the Andes drift by. Price available on request
If an African safari is on your bucket list, then we suggest kicking it up a notch with a luxury train ride from Rovos Rail. Choose from journeys that whisk you to places like Cape Town and Victoria Falls as you take in the gorgeous scenery (and maybe a giraffe or two), all from the comfort of their lavish accommodations. Enjoy a meal (formal attire is required at dinner) in the Victorian dining car that boasts a large selection of South African wines, and a nightcap in the starlit observation car. There’s even a smoking lounge for those who can’t have their scotch without a cigar pairing. Rates start at R17 495 ($1,363)
Perhaps the most iconic train on this list, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is a nod to the heyday of luxe travel in the 1920s. Embark on a one-night journey between Western European cities or take a longer trip to places like Istanbul and Budapest. Either way, you’ll enjoy plush fabrics, glittering crystal and nightly live entertainment as you relish in the lap of luxury. Enjoy multi-course meals for brunch and dinner and sip libations in both the traditional bar car and at the glamorous Champagne bar. Rates start at £2,129 ($2,720)
Every journey on this ultra-modern train highlights Japan’s seasons and diverse landscape, whether you’re on board for one, two or three nights. They have different trips planned for spring, fall and winter, so you can take in the surrounding nature at its peak. Not only does each suite take up an entire train car, but they also include amenities like fireplaces and a mix of traditional and modern architecture. The lounge car is where you’d find us spending most of our time. Designed with a forest-inspired wall pattern, it’s the perfect spot to sip on some Japanese whisky. Rates start at 320,000 yen ($2,888)