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The World’s Best Scenic Train Rides

By Greig Santos-Buch
The World's 5 Best Scenic Train Rides

Scenic train journeys represent a unique intersection of leisure, luxury, and cultural immersion. Offering panoramic vistas that are otherwise inaccessible, these rail routes provide a distinctive way to explore the natural and architectural marvels of the world. The convenience and connectivity to local cities, combined with the proximity to significant cultural landmarks, make train travel a preferred mode for those seeking a deeper understanding of a region’s heritage and natural beauty.

To identify the most spectacular scenic train routes globally, JR Pass specialists conducted a thorough analysis, evaluating a variety of factors including ticket affordability, route popularity, traveler feedback, and overall journey duration. This comprehensive approach has resulted in a curated list of beautiful train trips that stand out not only for their stunning landscapes but also for the quality of the travel experience they offer.

Bernina Express, Swiss Alps, Switzerland

Bernina Express, Swiss Alps, Switzerland
Image courtesy Guitar Photography / Shutterstock.

Topping the chart with an impressive score of 8.8/10 is the Bernina Express. This journey, stretching from Chur or St. Moritz in Switzerland to Tirano in Italy, is a spectacle of the Swiss Alps’ splendor, featuring panoramic views of glaciers, snow-laden peaks, and crystal-clear alpine lakes. The journey’s design, emphasizing leisure and contemplation, allows passengers to absorb the magnificence of their surroundings fully. The panoramic carriages, with their expansive windows and glass roofs, ensure an uninterrupted connection with the landscape.

The Flåm Railway, Norway

The gorgeous Flam Railway Route
The gorgeous Flam Railway Route. Image courtesy INTREEGUE Photography / Shutterstock.

Securing the second spot with a score of 8.2/10, the Flåm Railway is celebrated for its dramatic ascent through Norway’s breathtaking landscapes. The journey from Flåm to Myrdal unveils a canvas of deep fjords, towering waterfalls, and verdant valleys. Priced affordably and powered by hydroelectric energy, this journey embodies Norway’s commitment to sustainable travel, offering a picturesque and eco-friendly adventure.

Glacier Express, Swiss Alps, Switzerland

Glacier Express Train Vacation
Glacier Express. Image courtesy Aaron Chen / Shutterstock.

The Glacier Express, with a score of 8.1/10, offers a leisurely eight-hour journey through the Swiss Alps, earning it the title of the world’s slowest express train. This route, encompassing UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the Albula and Bernina Lines, showcases the pristine beauty of the Alps. The train’s panoramic cars, featuring ceiling-high windows, provide passengers with an unrivaled viewing experience of the breathtaking landscapes.

Kyle Line, Inverness, Scotland

Kyle Train Line Inverness, Scotland
Kyle Train Line Inverness, Scotland. Image courtesy Joe Dunckley / Shutterstock.com.

Ranked fourth with an 8/10 score, the Kyle Line from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh invites passengers into the heart of the Scottish Highlands. This route offers a glimpse into some of Scotland’s most serene and untouched landscapes, including misty mountains and tranquil lochs. With the highest traveler rating of 9.44/10, this journey promises authenticity and solitude away from the bustling tourist paths.

Sagano Romantic Train, Kinki, Japan

Sagano romantic train ride in Japan
Sagano romantic train ride in Japan. Image courtesy Giggsy25 / Shutterstock.

Completing the top five with a score of 7.9/10, the Sagano Romantic Train traverses the scenic wonders of the Sagano Arashiyama region. This short but sweet journey is a showcase of Japan’s natural beauty, including the iconic Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. Its affordability and brevity make it an ideal inclusion in a day’s exploration of Kyoto and its environs.

Haroun Khan of JR Pass encapsulates the sentiment, highlighting Japan’s presence in the list and reiterating the unparalleled joy and enrichment rail travel offers. In his own words, “Japan boasts some of the most beautiful, relaxing, and breathtaking train journeys in the world,” while emphasizing rail travel as an efficient and enriching way to really get to know a country’s heritage.

If you had to pick one train route, which would you choose?

The methodology behind above rankings involved a detailed analysis of scenic train routes in the UK, Europe, and Japan, focusing on traveler reviews, journey times, and ticket prices, among other factors.

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