Wild Train Rides

Wild Train Rides

This might come as a great surprise, but one of the best ways to get into the absolute back of beyond and see vast tracts of wilderness is actually to travel by train. The great, intercontinental lines frequently travel thousands of kilometres through sparsely populated terrain, enabling you to see see remote forests and steppe, mountains and rivers, as well as tiny villages and farmsteads far removed from urban conurbations.

The most talked-about of these train routes is the Trans-Siberian Railway between Moscow and Vladivostok. Although this railway line is entirely within one country (Russia), it crosses two continents (Europe and Asia), seven time zones and a bewildering array of scenery. Many of the areas the railway passes through are not accessible by car, and even if they were, it’d take you many weeks to drive the same distance. The fastests passenger service on the Trans-Siberian takes five days to complete the journey, and it leaves Moscow twice a week. Many more trains operate along shorter routes between major cities, and the luxury Golden Eagle Express potters along at a sedate speed, enabling you to sightsee along the way. The train also runs in the depths of winter: Siberia under snow is quite something to behold, though not for the frail or under-dressed!

Trans-Siberian Railway

flickr image by Boccaccio1

No less impressive is the Silk Road train line between Moscow and Beijing. This impressive route goes south through Russia to join the old camel caravan paths across Central Asia, including major Silk Road cities such as Samarkand and Bukhara. Although you have to change trains on entering China (Russia and China operate different width gauges), one ticket can take you all the way through, enabling you to see fascinating and diverse cultures on a single trip.

Another incredible cultural train ride is the Jewels of Persia, the most popular route of the Danube Express, which runs back and forth between Budapest in Hungary and Tehran in Iran. The only luxury train allowed into Iran, the two-week itinerary includes some of the most remarkable historic sites in Iran (including Shiraz, Persepolis, Isfahan and Mashhad) as well as important places in Turkey such as Istanbul and Capadoccia. This train ride takes you through a variety of climates and environments, from arid deserts to snow-capped mountains, and the train even goes across Lake Van by ferry as there isn’t a train line around the lake.

Danube Express

flickr iamge by Dariusz Sieczkowski

If it is the natural environment that impresses you most, why not take a train into the Arctic Circle? Starting from Saint Petersburg in northwest Russia, you can take the train up through Scandinavia to view the Northern Lights. Although some regular passenger services do run, it’s better to join a special tourist train with all mod cons and the assistance of an onboard astronomer to help you understand the natural wonder that is the Aurora Borealis.

Date posted: 27th June, 2017

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