10 Epic Train Journeys For Your Gap Year

I do like flying. It’s fast and convenient but I have to say I rather enjoy train trips too. There’s none of the security checks and turning off your electronics. You get your ticket, find a seat and away you go. It might take longer but it can also me more affordable (unless your opting for a luxury train!) and comfortable and is a great alternative to passing through a country and getting to see some incredible landscapes. You can use a resource like Seat 61 for planning info and book a train trip through someone like Railbookers. For now though, check out these epic train journeys that you could take as part of your gap year.

Bernina Express, St Moritz, Switzerland to Tirano, Italy

Trundling through part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, the red carriages of the Bernina Express head from St Moritz, Switzerland to Tirano, Italy through the Alps. The train takes on 196 bridges, 55 tunnels and even a 360-degree spiral. From your window you will see frozen lakes, glaciers and many icy peaks. This route takes approximately two and a half hours.

Brocken Railway, Germany

This is a rather exciting short line rain trip that can be taken in Germany. You’ll get spectacular views whether it’s summer or winter as you pass through Harz National Park on the way to the summit of Brocken mountain, the highest point of the Harz. The quickest train takes a mere 49 minutes to reach the top. The carriages have open-ended platforms and you can stand behind the locomotive to get the full experience of the steam engine. While you’re in the area, don’t forget to check out Wernigerode Castle too.

Tazara Railway, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to Kapiri Mposhi, Zambia.

Tazara Railway, also known as the Uhuru Railway or the Tanzam Railway, runs from Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania to Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia. The 1860km east African track runs twice weekly in both directions and should take 36 hours. Expect delays which could extend this to 50 hours! A popular option is the slower train that rums from Dar es Salaam to the mountain city of Mbeya near the Malawian border. If on schedule, the train passes through the Selous Game Reserve during daylight hours so be on the look out for elephants and giraffes. Although a slower service compared to overland buses, this method of transport is deemed safer.

The Ghan, Australia

The Ghan is a service that has been running for over 80 years taking passengers from Adelaide to Darwin via Alice Springs. This trip takes three days and two nights and is 1,851 miles one way. It’s a great way to travel through such a huge diverse country from the tropical north to the red centre. You can also arrange a fly-in visit of Uluru and also experience sunrise and sunset in the outback.


The Trans-Siberian is probably the first thing you picture when you think of an epic train journey and with good reason. This beast is the longest railway line in the world at 9,289km. The line connects Moscow with the far east and also has connecting lines into Mongolia, China and North Korea. Moscow to Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean takes 6 days and 4 hours. This one is not for the fainthearted but a unique way in which to travel across two continents.

The Rocky Mountaineer

The Rocky Mountaineer is quite simply award winning. It’s been awarded the World’s Leading Travel Experience by Train at the World Travel Awards seven times. That certainly says a lot. They operate four different routes across British Colombia and Alberta where you can take in sighs like the Rockies, Banff and Jasper. The views are simply breathtaking.

Alaska Railroad

The Alaska Railroad operates The Denali Star from May to September and travels been Anchorage and Fairbanks. It also happens to travel through the wild 6 million-acre Denali National Park and Talkeetna where tours can be arranged. The route is 573km but takes 12 hours due to the tracks winding through the mountains and valleys.

Hiram Bingham, Peru

This trip is named after the American historian and explorer who brought the ancient Inca site to the world’s attention. The Hiram Bingham is one of the shortest luxury trains in the world and is the extreme polarity of trekking to Machu Picchu. The trip from Cusco takes four hours and you’re treated to beautiful views as you journey through the Urubamba River Valley.

West Highland Line, Scotland

The West Highland Line is one of the most scenic lines in the world. The route runs between the city of Glasgow and Mallaig in the Scottish Highlands. The hour and a half, 164 mile line offers views of sprawling hills, the snowy peaks of Ben Nevis, huge lochs, Morar beach and fields of deer. For the Harry Potter fans out there, you’ll also get to see the Glenfinnan Viaduct which is where they filmed the Hogwarts Express.

The Flam Railway, Flam to Myrdal, Norway

One of the steepest lines in the world also has spectacular panoramic views of the Norwegian fjord landscape. During the course of an hour you will travel from sea level to an altitude of 863m passing through 20 tunnels, narrow passages and steep inclines. You’ll also get to see the Rjoandefossen waterfall about halfway up the line which has three drops and stands at 241m. Highly rated by both National Geographic and Lonely Planet, this is a very popular attraction in Norway, and for good reason!

Are any of these overrated? Would you have something else in your top ten? Let us know in the comments below.

  • rebecca
    Posted at 02:08h, 10 September

    great list! I’m hoping to so the Transiberrean at some point soon

  • Peter
    Posted at 11:57h, 17 October

    🙂 that a great list 🙂

  • Abhisek
    Posted at 08:17h, 27 October

    Nice list, but I would like to add up a couple of more routes(India based)

    1. Kalka -Shimla
    2. New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling
    3. Mettupalayam-Ooti
    4. Konkan Railway(all routes)
    5. Neral-Mathern

  • Gap Year Escape
    Posted at 09:04h, 27 October

    Thanks Abhisek!

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