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man looking out window of a train taking a photo of the swiss alps
Travel tips

Top scenic train ride tours to book now for the best views

Sep 02, 2022 by Nick Patterson

These aren’t your average train rides. Spotting an elk in the Canadian Rockies or zipping through the Swiss Alps are just a few awe-inspiring moments you can have on our scenic train rides. Traveling by train has its advantages, and they’ll be even clearer once you read on and find out about the most scenic train tours.

a red and silver train crossing between two cliffs over a bridge with flags hanging

Switzerland by Train: Lucerne to Zurich

The only thing as sweet as Switzerland’s chocolate are the views. And our Switzerland by Train: Lucerne to Zurich tour bundles all the beauty in one trip. Travel by train and soak in Switzerland’s essentials—stunning mountains and turquoise lakes—as you go from the city to the countryside and back again.

“The train trips afforded spectacular views of the Alps with waterfalls and quaint villages along the way,” said Group Coordinator Richard. “It was truly a trip of a lifetime.”

Train rides you’ll take:

GoldenPass Railway

The train destinations are split into three sections and runs from Lucerne to Montreux. On our Switzerland by Train tour, you’ll hop aboard for the Lucerne to Interlaken leg. Peer out the window for jaw-dropping views of Switzerland’s icons including Mount Pilatus and Lake Lucerne. (The scenic railways even have a Chocolate Train from Montreux to Broc-Chocolat, where passengers pair their views with authentic Swiss chocolate and cheese tastings).

Glacier Express

The world-famous Glacier Express will take you cross country like you’ve never been before. This train is the slowest train in the world (traveling at an average speed of 18 mph), and for good reason! The fire-engine red train cars have to make their way through 186 miles of the Alps’ narrow valleys and tight curves (it’s also a prime pace for photo ops). And, thanks to the glass-topped roof, you won't miss an inch of the stunning Swiss scenery.

Bernina Express

Dubbed the most beautiful train ride in Switzerland (and maybe even the world), the only thing more electrifying than the red paint on the Bernina Express are the views from its panoramic windows. The Bernina Express operates on the Rhaetian Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll wind through 55 tunnels and over 196 bridges from St. Moritz to Tirano, Italy, passing by fairy tale castles, glass-like lakes, and quaint Italian towns along the way. Be sure to get your camera ready for the famous Landwasser viaduct in Albula valley—a 214 feet high, single-track, curved limestone portion of the route. This is hands-down one of the best train trips in the entire world.

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the conductor of a bullet train leaning out of the window under an image of the "floating" gate of Itsukushima Shrine, surrounded by water with mountains in the background

Japan: Kyoto, the Japanese Alps & Tokyo

If you daydream about smelling cherry blossoms on the breeze or finding your zen in the Japanese Alps, pinch yourself—our Japan: Kyoto, the Japanese Alps & Tokyo is here. On this 14-day adventure, you’ll take a series of high-speed trains to zip around the country. Japan’s bullet trains are world-famous and reach max speeds of 150—200 mph. Traveling by train in Japan is also one of the more sustainable travel experiences. The trains use about 1/8th of the energy and emit 1/12th of the carbon that air travel would.

Train tip: Japan’s bullet trains are a great, affordable way to experience Japanese cuisine. Enjoying an Ekiben bento box is a must for travelers who want to pair mouthwatering eats with mind-blowing scenery.

Train rides you’ll take:

Osaka to Hiroshima

After indulging in some A-plus eats in Osaka, travel by train to historic Hiroshima. Get to know this renowned City of Peace and visit Peace Memorial Park—the exact location where the atomic bomb detonated during World War II. Visit the Peace Memorial Museum to learn about the aftermath of the bombing and the mission to create a world without nuclear weapons.

“The ride on the bullet train was fascinating, and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial was sobering,” said traveler Susan. “Everyone should see it.”

Kyoto to Kanazawa

Take a scenic train ride to Kanazawa, a city bordered by the Sea of Japan and the Japanese Alps. Laying eyes on the alps is magical. The mountain range features thick pine forests, snow-tipped peaks, and teal rivers. To top it all off, you’ll roll past stunning Gassho-zukuri-style houses (characterized by their steep, slanted roofs) in the distance.

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the aquamarine-colored lake in Banff National Park, lined with dark green trees and steep mountains in the background

Canadian Rockies by Train: Banff, Lake Louise & Vancouver

“I highly recommend this trip for two reasons: the beautiful Canadian scenery and the Rocky Mountaineer train,” said traveler JoJean.

Need we say more? The iconic Canadian Rocky Mountains and Banff National Park’s jewel-colored lakes and snowy summits are waiting for you. And on our Canadian Rockies by Train tour, you’ll see it all from a rare lens aboard the Rocky Mountaineer. The award-winning train has been snaking passengers through Canada’s otherworldly landscapes (and taking their breath away) for over 30 years.

Train rides you’ll take:

Rocky Mountaineer

Board the train at the heart of the Rockies in Banff National Park. Ride through the untamed landscape and admire shimmering glacial lakes, towering mounting peaks, and raging rivers. The dazzling, day-long journey (the train only runs during daylight hours, so no sites go unseen) will surely have you yearning for more. That’s why travelers on our Canadian Rockies by Train tour hop aboard again the next day to cross the coastal range of British Columbia on your way to Vancouver.

“I loved traveling through the Rockies while aboard the Rocky Mountaineer,” said staffer Andrew. “The guide onboard was exceptional at keeping us comfortable with quality service, as well as providing great commentary and information on all the towns, wildlife, and natural landmarks.”

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a traveler taking a photo of the rocky, dry scenery from the Rocky Mountaineer train

America’s National Parks by Train: Rocky Mountains, Arches & Zion

Towering mountains. Otherworldly rock formations. Ancient petroglyphs. The scenic train rides on our America’s National Parks by Train tour are bucket list busters. This brand spanking new tour has sparkling scenery and features the newly installed U.S. version of the Rocky Mountaineer. Play in America’s backyard like few have as you explore four national parks.

Train rides you’ll take:

Rocky Mountaineer

The Rock the Rocky Mountaineer launched its first ever U.S. route in 2021 after 20-plus miles of underutilized rail tracks linking Denver to Moab were discovered. Just like its Canadian cousin, the sightseeing train trips on the U.S. Rocky Mountaineer do not disappoint. You’ll wiggle past rugged peaks alongside the rushing rapids of the Colorado River as you go from Denver and Glenwood Springs. Enroute to Utah, you’ll encounter desert canyons and magnificent mesas (keep an eye out for bald eagles!). End your journey in Moab and explore some of the city’s beautiful rock art and petroglyphs that date back as far as 3500 B.C.

Pikes Peak Cog Railway

Since making its first ascent in 1891, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway has been the world’s highest rack railway. Summit all 14,110 feet of Pikes Peak as an optional excursion on our America’s National Parks by Train tour. Feast your eyes on sweeping views of Pike National Forest and Engelmann Canyon. Once back at sea level, head to the Garden of the Gods, a National Natural Landmark that shows off red, pink, and white sandstone rock formations that sit against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks.

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Ready to hop aboard one of these beautiful train rides? Check out our train tours!

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About the author | Nick Patterson
After one deep breath of the crisp Iceland air, Nick knew travel was for him. He’s been hooked ever since. In his free time, you can find Nick on the golf course playing poorly, getting too worked up about the Celtics and Patriots, or enthusiastically talking about the most recent movie he watched.

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