Riding the Rails: The Top 10 Most Luxurious Sleeper Trains for a Night on the Tracks
Riding the Rails: The Top 10 Most Luxurious Sleeper Trains for a Night on the Tracks - The Orient Express - Travel in Style on this Iconic Route
Step aboard the legendary Orient Express for a journey back to the glamour and romance of vintage rail travel. This iconic train takes passengers on an unforgettable ride between Europe's most captivating cities. Tracing routes that evoke the intrigue of Agatha Christie's famous novel Murder on the Orient Express, a ride on the polished, navy-blue carriages promises a luxury experience.
First inaugurated in 1883, the Orient Express quickly became the ultimate in lavish train travel, a moving five-star hotel. While the original route connected Paris to Istanbul, today's Venice Simplon-Orient-Express only operates select routes between London, Venice, Prague, Paris, Budapest and Bucharest. Nevertheless, a trip offers a taste of the train's opulent history.
The gleaming 1920s and 30s carriages have been lovingly restored to their former glory. Mahogany panels, brass fixtures, silk lampshades and embroidered armchairs set the scene for a bygone era of elegance. By day, relax in your private, wood-paneled cabin as European villages and hills roll past your window. In the evening, dress up for a gourmet dinner of regional specialties like foie gras and lobster, paired with fine wines.
Nightcaps in the piano bar car allow you to mingle with fellow travelers and soak up the old-world ambiance. Cabin stewards discretely turn down your beds while you finish your cognac. You'll drift off to sleep as the rhythmic rattling of wheels on tracks lulls you into dreams of distant, exotic lands.
Travelers consistently rave about the impeccable service and attention to detail. With a nearly 1:1 staff to guest ratio, the experience feels intimate, not mass-produced. Many say it's the realization of a lifelong dream. While several days aboard can cost upwards of $3,000 per person, travelers say it's worth the splurge for the chance to sip champagne and watch the sunset over the Swiss Alps while ensconced in luxury.
What else is in this post?
- Riding the Rails: The Top 10 Most Luxurious Sleeper Trains for a Night on the Tracks - The Orient Express - Travel in Style on this Iconic Route
- Riding the Rails: The Top 10 Most Luxurious Sleeper Trains for a Night on the Tracks - A Trip Back in Time on the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express
- Riding the Rails: The Top 10 Most Luxurious Sleeper Trains for a Night on the Tracks - Coast Through Scotland in a First Class Cabin on the Caledonian Sleeper
- Riding the Rails: The Top 10 Most Luxurious Sleeper Trains for a Night on the Tracks - All Aboard the Pride of Africa for a Journey Through Southern Africa's Spectacular Scenery
- Riding the Rails: The Top 10 Most Luxurious Sleeper Trains for a Night on the Tracks - Experience Australia's Outback in Comfort on The Ghan's Platinum Service
- Riding the Rails: The Top 10 Most Luxurious Sleeper Trains for a Night on the Tracks - Sleep Like Royalty in the Maharajas' Express Through India's Diverse Landscapes
- Riding the Rails: The Top 10 Most Luxurious Sleeper Trains for a Night on the Tracks - Rolling Through the Canadian Rockies in a Luxury Cabin on The Rocky Mountaineer
- Riding the Rails: The Top 10 Most Luxurious Sleeper Trains for a Night on the Tracks - Traverse Switzerland's Alpine Scenery on the Glacier Express Panorama Cars
Riding the Rails: The Top 10 Most Luxurious Sleeper Trains for a Night on the Tracks - A Trip Back in Time on the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express
Step back in time aboard the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express, a luxury train journey between Moscow and Vladivostok. As the train rolls through Siberia and along the tracks adjacent to Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake, you’ll soak up panoramas and experiences reminiscent of Russia’s imperial heyday.
These vintage carriages whisk you off on the greatest train adventure. In your handsomely appointed private en-suite cabin, wake up each morning to sunrise over expansive taiga forests or the Ural Mountains. Attendants deliver piping hot coffee as you gaze out picture windows framed with brocade curtains.
After breakfast in the restaurant car, retire to the lounge car’s leather club chairs to learn about Russian history and culture from onboard lecturers. Socialize with your fellow travelers over caviar, vodka and black bread. In the evenings, relax in the piano bar with live music as you watch this epic landscape unfold.
The Golden Eagle provides an unparalleled glimpse into exotic Russia, a nation often overlooked and misunderstood. Discover ornate palaces, historic forts and quaint dacha villages frozen in time. At Lake Baikal, traverse its shores by private boat and dine on freshly caught fish prepared by your cabin steward. In Irkutsk, tour wooden churches with blue and green onion domes on a classic Soviet bus.
This two-week odyssey appeals to adventurous travelers craving to go beyond standard sightseeing. You’ll venture into areas rarely experienced by Westerners. Encounters feel authentic, not staged. According to one passenger, “This journey took me out of my comfort zone and exposed me to the real Russia.”
With Golden Eagle’s all-inclusive experience, everything is arranged for you. Their team handles your visa, prepays gratuities and provides transfers to and from rail stations. You won’t need to hassle with logistics during the 8,000 mile expedition.
Riding the Rails: The Top 10 Most Luxurious Sleeper Trains for a Night on the Tracks - Coast Through Scotland in a First Class Cabin on the Caledonian Sleeper
Drift off to sleep in London or Edinburgh and wake up in the Scottish Highlands after an overnight journey on the Caledonian Sleeper train. This moving hotel offers first-class cabins with en-suite bathrooms so you can explore Scotland in comfort and wake up refreshed in the morning light.
Unlike most modern sleeper trains focused on basic transportation, the Caledonian Sleeper aims to evoke the romance of classic rail travel. The handsome midnight blue trains with gold lettering transport you back to an era of luxury on the tracks. Your private cabin furnished in earthy tones and tartan fabrics creates a cozy retreat as the train rolls through rugged landscapes and along loch-studded shores.
In first class, settle into your full-sized bed with crisp linens and a welcome pack of Scottish treats. Relax over a complimentary dram of whisky from the Highlands as you watch hills and villages pass by your window. The cabin’s compact en-suite bathroom with shower and toilet ensures you can freshen up in the morning before breakfast is served. With only about a dozen first class cabins on each train, the experience feels intimate yet spacious.
The sociable lounge car allows you to mingle with fellow travelers while a steward plays soft background music. Order a nightcap and swap stories about your Scottish adventures. You may discuss whisky tasting in Speyside, seal spotting off the Isle of Skye or shopping for cashmere in Edinburgh.
According to Colin, who travels from London to Inverness monthly, “I’ve sampled economy, classic and first class and think the extra cost is well worth it, especially if you’re a light sleeper. The bed is comfortable, the cabin is quiet and I get a great night’s rest."
Riding the Rails: The Top 10 Most Luxurious Sleeper Trains for a Night on the Tracks - All Aboard the Pride of Africa for a Journey Through Southern Africa's Spectacular Scenery
Embark on a once-in-a-lifetime rail journey through Southern Africa’s most breathtaking landscapes aboard the Pride of Africa. This luxury train operated by Rovos Rail Tours carries up to 72 passengers in vintage wood-paneled coaches as it traverses savannas and grasslands teeming with exotic wildlife. It’s a moving five-star hotel and game viewing vehicle rolled into one.
According to Mary, whocelebrated her 50th birthday on the train, “Waking up to views of elephants bathing in muddy watering holes while sipping coffee in my robe was an unforgettable experience.”
The Pride of Africa transports you back to the golden age of rail travel with lavishly outfitted carriages featuring period furnishings and decadent decor. Deluxe suites offer the ultimate in privacy with wood-burning fireplaces and full bathtubs. The restaurant car provides an ever-changing backdrop of the landscapes rushing past while you enjoy gourmet 5-course dinners paired with South African wines. Open-air viewing cars allow you to get startlingly close to wildlife.
Trackside game drives and tours led by expert guides provide a more immersive experience. You’ll venture deep into Kruger National Park, home to the Big Five and over 500 species of birds. At a family-owned winery, learn about varietals grown in the fertile valleys along the route. The train stops at Victoria Falls, where you’ll gasp in awe at the thundering cascades and rainbows in the mist.
With accommodations for just over 70 passengers, the experience feels intimate and social. Lifelong friendships are frequently forged over cocktail hour in the lounge car. The staff quickly learns every passenger’s name and preferences, providing individualized service.
Riding the Rails: The Top 10 Most Luxurious Sleeper Trains for a Night on the Tracks - Experience Australia's Outback in Comfort on The Ghan's Platinum Service
Journey into the heart of the Australian Outback aboard The Ghan, an iconic train connecting Adelaide to Darwin through the Red Centre. While the regular experience offers sleeper berths and sightseeing tours, upgrading to Platinum Service provides an extra level of luxury and personalized attention as you traverse the Australian wilderness.
According to Michael, who celebrates his anniversary each year with the three-night northbound journey, “the Platinum upgrade was worth every penny. The cabin felt like an upscale hotel room. And the lounge access and off-train experiences really immersed us in the outback’s raw, rugged beauty."
Platinum guests enjoy private hotel-style cabins outfitted with double or twin beds, ensuite bathrooms, sitting areas and panoramic windows framing ever-changing desert vistas. Cabin stewards deliver refreshments and ensure your every need is met as the train rattles down the spine of the continent. Dine in your cabin or socialize with fellow guests in the exclusive Platinum Club. Sip cocktails and share travel tales against a backdrop of the setting sun over red-earthed plains dotted with spinifex grass.
Platinum status guarantees access to the best off-train experiences the route offers. At the opal-mining town of Coober Pedy, venture underground into historic mineshafts carved out of the rock. At Kings Canyon, embark on a scenic rim walk overlooking the weathered, crimson-hued rock formations of the Watarrka National Park. A helicopter flight over Kata Tjuta and Uluru provides a birds-eye perspective of these monumental natural icons.
According to Alyssa, “The Platinum Service really differentiated the experience from a standard tour bus journey. The excursions were small-groups and we had an expert guide to provide context at each stop." She added, “The Outback felt more approachable with the train as a comfortable home base."
Riding the Rails: The Top 10 Most Luxurious Sleeper Trains for a Night on the Tracks - Sleep Like Royalty in the Maharajas' Express Through India's Diverse Landscapes
Step aboard the Maharajas’ Express for a once-in-a-lifetime luxury rail journey across India's diverse landscapes. This indulgent train brings the grandeur of the maharajas' era to life while you traverse temples, forts and palaces between Mumbai, Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Udaipur.
With accommodations, cuisine and service fit for royalty, the Maharajas’ Express aims to be one of the world's most luxurious trains. Guests reside in handsomely appointed cabins with silk linens, attached bathrooms and window views of India’s beautiful scenery. According to Mary, “Waking up to the sunrise over Jaipur's pink architecture was a highlight. The cabin had all the comforts of an upscale hotel."
The train's namesake, Maharaja Pratap Singh, was known for his lavish feasts. In his spirit, the restaurant cars serve sumptuous regional specialties crafted from farm-fresh ingredients. At lunch, graze on fragrant biryani rice studded with nuts and rosewater kebabs as the train snakes past banana plantations. For Rajasthani dinner, savor laal maas, a mutton curry in spicy red gravy, while gazing out at mighty forts dotting the desert landscape.
The train's pierced metalwork, mosaic tiles and intricate wood carvings echo the craftsmanship found in India's royal palaces. After dinner, retire to the lounge car, where a historian spins tales of maharajas over after-dinner liqueurs. The sound of sitars seeps in from the neighboring music car. According to Michael, "The entertainment and storytelling offered an intriguing look into India's regal history."
While on board, pretend you're royalty being pampered on a lavish vacation. Attendants in colorful turbans cater to your every need while expert guides lead enriching excursions at each stop. The experience provides an intimate look into India's diversity. In Jaipur, witness artisans hand-painting ethereal patterns on saris and textiles. At the Taj Mahal, behold the marble monument glowing at sunset, then savor a champagne dinner against its backdrop. While cruising along Lake Pichola, glimpse locals practicing yoga on the ghats at dawn.
Riding the Rails: The Top 10 Most Luxurious Sleeper Trains for a Night on the Tracks - Rolling Through the Canadian Rockies in a Luxury Cabin on The Rocky Mountaineer
Traverse the stunning snow-capped peaks, turquoise lakes, and dramatic glaciers of the legendary Canadian Rockies aboard the Rocky Mountaineer. This luxury train journey transports you into the wilderness through floor-to-ceiling domed windows perfect for wildlife-watching in deluxe private cabins.
According to Samantha, who gifted the two-day Vancouver to Banff trip to her parents for their 50th anniversary, “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and the ideal way for less-mobile travelers to see the Rockies in comfort." She added, “The up-close views of mountains and roaming wildlife left them speechless.”
The Rocky Mountaineer offers four rail route options through different regions of the Rockies. Regardless of which one you choose, prepare to be awed by Mother Nature’s majesty revealed through the panoramic glass observation deck. Capture photos of bald eagles swooping over crystalline lakes and views of ranges blanketed in pines. In this moving photo shoot, guides enrich the journey with stories about the engineering feats and history behind the iconic Canadian Pacific Railway.
What truly sets this journey apart is upgrading to the SilverLeaf or GoldLeaf premium service. With access to the bi-level dome coach, enjoy mountain views from spacious, reclining seats. Or, opt for the ultimate in luxury by booking a private cabin in GoldLeaf class.
Michael, who booked a GoldLeaf cabin for his 60th birthday, said “Having our own private space with leather seats, complimentary snacks and a dedicated attendant felt incredibly indulgent.” The stewards expertly explain the passing scenery while ensuring your champagne flute never runs dry.
The slower pace on the train allows you to relish panoramas often rushed past in the car. According to to Emma, “I went back and forth from our cabin to the viewing platform, not wanting to miss a single glimpse of towering peaks with glacier-fed, aquamarine lakes at their base.” At night, cozy up in your cabin as pine forests and valleys fade to inky blackness. Wake to mountain sunrises flooding your room with golden light.
With the train as your moving hotel, daytime is freed up for sightseeing. Disembark for included excursions like touring the dramatic peaks and turquoise lakes of Yoho National Park. In Jasper, opt for an optional helicopter ice walk on Athabasca Glacier. At remote mountain lodges, feast on regional cuisine like tender, slow-roasted Alberta beef.
Riding the Rails: The Top 10 Most Luxurious Sleeper Trains for a Night on the Tracks - Traverse Switzerland's Alpine Scenery on the Glacier Express Panorama Cars
Of all the scenic train journeys in Europe, Switzerland's Glacier Express stands in a league of its own. This panoramic train connects St. Moritz to Zermatt in just under eight hours, whisking passengers through majestic Alpine scenery featuring snowcapped mountains, gushing waterfalls and charming villages. With floor-to-ceiling windows on both sides of the bright-red train cars, Glacier Express offers unparalleled views that leave travelers awe-struck.
According to Michael, who rode the Glacier Express on his honeymoon, "it was like live immersion in a Swiss postcard - green hillsides dotted with cows, tiny hamlets with flowerboxes under each window, icy blue lakes reflecting the Matterhorn." He added, "the ever-changing panoramas outside our window were more spectacular than anything we saw up-close on our trip."
While the Glacier Express journey can be undertaken in a standard seat, upgrading to the panorama first-class cars takes the experience to the next level. These special cars have been retrofitted with extra-large windows running along both sides of the carriages. Without obstructed sight lines, photographers and nature-lovers alike can fully immerse themselves in the dramatic landscapes.
Jessica, an amateur photographer from Boston, prioritized booking first-class for her late summer trip. "I wanted to capture the Alps in all their glory," she said. "The panorama cars let me see in all directions - out one window I'd see a glacier, out the other side a waterfall tumbled down sheer cliffs into an emerald valley." She was able to snap unforgettable pics for her portfolio.
The first-class tickets also include an onboard three-course lunch highlighting regional cheeses, freshwater fish and Swiss wines. Darren, who surprised his wife with Glacier Express tickets for her 50th birthday, said “we felt like royalty, dining on such a gourmet meal while watching the Swiss countryside roll past our window.” The meal service makes for an intimate, unique setting without taking away from the views.
While some may balk at the elevated cost, Guy, who rode both standard and panorama and found it “worth every extra penny.” He explained, “I regretted pinching pennies for the standard ticket on my first trip - the views felt blocked. The panorama cars are really what make this train so special.”