20 of the World’s Best Rail Holidays for 2021
With many of us experiencing disruptions to our travel plans over the last few months, 2021 is looking like the year of the long-awaited holiday!
With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of some of our most popular holiday ideas, whether you’re looking for a scenic rail journey, an epic adventure or even a road trip with train connections from the UK, we can help arrange your perfect 2021 holiday.
For further information on the top twenty rail holidays for 2021, call us on 020 3322 7741 to speak to a member of our friendly team, or send us an email and we’ll get right back to you.
SCENIC RAIL JOURNEYS
Combining majestic snow-capped mountains, alpine meadows dotted with distinctive wooden chalets, clear glacial lakes and cool, cultural cities, it’s not surprising that Switzerland is one of our best loved destinations. Whilst the energetic and the adventurous can explore the beautiful valleys on foot or on skis, two stunning rail lines mean you can enjoy some jaw-dropping views from the comfort of panoramic train carriages.
The Glacier Express climbs over 6,550 feet above sea level, snaking through dramatic mountain passes until it reaches Switzerland’s oldest town, Chur. The Bernina Express connects Chur with Italy, crossing breathtaking viaducts and delivering you into Tirano in time for lunch.
Find out more about our 4-day Glacier and Bernina Expresses holiday
The Rhine and Moselle Valleys have been a tourist draw for centuries and it’s not hard to see why. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Rhine Gorge features gravity defying cliff-top castles and rolling hills carpeted with vineyards. The lesser-known Moselle flows sedately between Trier and Koblenz, meeting the Rhine at the famous Deutsches Eck (German Corner).
Both regions have been cultivated since Roman times, with plenty of wines to choose from along with picture-postcard villages and picturesque river cruises. This itinerary combines a stay in the Roman city of Trier with stops in Boppard and Rudesheim am Rhein.
Find out more about our 8-day Romantic Rhine & Moselle Valleys by Rail holiday
Venice is famous for its relationship with water: the canals, the gondolas and the uneasy truce with the Adriatic Sea. What is perhaps less well appreciated is how close this beautiful city is to the imposing Dolomites. As a result, the train journey from Munich to Venice via the Brenner Pass is stunning, with incredible views throughout as the Bavarian plains give way to Alpine peaks and valleys, before you pass through historic Verona and on into Venice.
Our suggested itinerary allows you plenty of time to explore the city’s numerous highlights before travelling onto Turin for more architectural and gastronomic indulgence.
Find out more about our 6-day Venice via the Brenner Pass holiday
Some of the world’s most fantastic scenery is just on our doorstep. The wild, majestic landscapes of the Scottish Highlands are quite simply jaw-dropping and if you want to get around in comfort, then a journey on one of the country’s scenic railways is hard to beat.
This suggested itinerary takes in three of the best – including the West Highland Line between Fort William and Mallaig which is regularly voted among the world’s most beautiful rail journeys. You can also enjoy a relaxing cruise on Loch Ness and spend time in cultural hubs Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Find out more about our 10-day Grand Tour of Scotland holiday
LAKES AND COASTAL RESORTS BY RAIL
Lake Como in the summer is the essence of Italian style, with beautiful boats transporting beautiful people across beautiful clear blue waters. You can enjoy fantasy shopping for your perfect lakeside villa whilst enjoying a ferry-ride between stunning resorts.
The region is full of restaurants and bars where you can revel in the sunshine whilst enjoying exquisite food and excellent wine and all of this is prefaced by a journey on one of the world’s most revered railways, a line which carries you over and through a series of Alpine valleys as you travel from Switzerland into Italy.
Find out more about our 8-day Lake Como via the Bernina Express holiday
The beautiful Bernese Oberland is one Switzerland’s most stunning mountain regions. Interlaken, Grindelwald, Wengen, the soaring Jungfrau, Eiger and Monsch Mountain peaks and the Reichenbach Falls (where Sherlock Holmes famously met his end) – all are accessible in this small but perfectly formed area just south of Swiss capital Bern.
Whilst it’s quite possible to access many of the Bernese Oberland’s attractions by rail, you might prefer the freedom of your own car to get around so you can travel whenever and wherever you please from your base on Lake Thun.
Find out more about our 9-day Bernese Oberland Rail-Drive holiday
If you like your sunshine served with a certain je ne sais quoi, this trip to France’s Mediterranean coast, via the high-speed TGV, will meet your every expectation. Nice and Cannes offer excellent people-watching opportunities as well as great weather, great food and fabulous scenery.
Day trips to the principality of Monaco with its casinos and yacht-stuffed harbour are easily organised, or you might choose to head inland, to explore beautiful Provence with its purple lavender fields and aromatic perfumeries.
Find out more about our 7-day French Riviera: Nice & Cannes holiday
Culture, history, sun and sea – this holiday has it all! Everyone knows that Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world, but Thessaloniki too played a huge part in Western Civilisation. A significant metropolis in Roman times, it became one of the most important cities in the Byzantine Empire.
There’s a rich seam of history to explore in both cities before you cross the Aegean Sea and relax on the beach in Santorini, one of the most picture-perfect of the Greek Islands. If you don’t want to fly both ways, it’s quite possible to travel to Thessaloniki by rail.
Find out more about our 10-day Thessaloniki, Athens & Santorini holiday.
Although the route is no longer operated by steam engines, and the service now terminates in Venice, not Istanbul, the principles which underpinned the Orient-Express when it launched in 1883 – of luxury, comfort and class – remain unchanged.
Gliding through France and Switzerland before crossing the Alps at the Gotthard Pass and crossing the border into northern Italy, the beautiful views from your private compartment will be accompanied by fine dining, impeccable service and, in the evening, a chance to enjoy a cocktail in the bar whilst a baby grand piano plays in the background.
Find out more about our 5-day Classic Orient-Express: London to Venice holiday.
Ranking amongst the world’s most luxurious trains, the Belmond Royal Scotsman combines Edwardian elegance, fine dining and breathtaking scenery in one unforgettable experience. Onboard, you’ll be treated to gourmet dining and onboard entertainment. There’s even a spa, where you can relax and rejuvenate before your next exciting off-train adventure.
The Western Scenic Wonders tour includes a fabulous journey via Loch Lomond, Ben Nevis, the Morar Sands and the Isle of Bute with some exclusive off-train activities.
Find out more about our 4-day Belmond Royal Scotsman: Western Scenic Wonders holiday.
This increasingly popular holiday takes all that is wonderful about the original Orient-Express and applies it in the beautiful landscapes of Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. The air-conditioned carriages have been fitted out to exacting standards, allowing you to relax and enjoy the ever-changing scenery, from tropical jungles to dramatic limestone gorges.
Whilst your cabin is very comfortable and luxurious, the train is also equipped with a range of communal carriages, including two dining cars and an open-air observation car, giving you a choice of spaces in which to enjoy this incredible journey.
Find out more about our 7-day Eastern & Oriental Express: Singapore to Bangkok holiday.
Offering exciting rail journeys aboard, by their own account, ‘the most luxurious train in the world’ Rovos Rail has built a reputation for excellence since its inception in 1989. Beautifully refurbished wood-panelled carriages carry passengers between the grasslands of the Highveld, through the desert landscapes of the Karoo to the mountains and winelands of the Cape.
With a maximum complement of 72 guests, this is a journey that’s all about service, with gourmet dining, stunning South African wines and sundowners in the observation car all included in the package price.
Find out more about our 7-day Rovos Rail: Cape Town to Pretoria holiday.
EPIC RAIL JOURNEYS
What could be more of an adventure than travelling overland to the Arctic Circle? This exciting itinerary gives you the chance to make the journey part of the holiday with stops in Cologne, Gothenburg, Odense and Oslo before you continue north through the heart of Norway via Trondheim and across the Arctic Circle to Bodø.
Once in Bodø, you could go kayaking or golfing under the midnight sun in the summer or experience the wondrous spectacle of the northern lights from the pier in the harbour during the winter.
Find out more about our 10-day London to the Arctic Circle holiday.
From the continent’s Western edge to its borders with Asia, via Brussels, Munich, Budapest and Bucharest, this wonderful adventure is an opportunity to explore the historic and cultural diversity of Europe before revelling in the aromatic, ear-bending bustle of Istanbul.
Whether you are interested in celebrated city-centre parks or award-winning museums, giant gothic parliament buildings or perfectly preserved peasants’ homes, Michelin stars or traditional cuisine, this exploration of some of Europe’s most charismatic cities will leave you beguiled.
Find out more about our 9-day London to Istanbul by Rail holiday
Whereas a trip to Istanbul will leave you on the cusp of another continent, this tour of Morocco takes you deep into new cultures and experiences. Taking advantage of Europe’s high-speed train lines, you will cross into Tangier, the gateway to the African continent, in no time at all, and from there you will be able to explore the souks, old towns and mosques of Marrakech, Rabat, and Fez.
Travel between Morocco’s main cities is easy and comfortable on the country’s railways, and we are happy to organise additional tours and excursions to the places the trains can’t reach: the incredible Atlas mountains or the beachside town of Essaouira with its world-class surfing.
Find out more about our 14-day Moroccan Discovery holiday.
If a random sample of people were asked to name some famous trains, it’s likely that this one would be on their list. Truly epic in every sense, the Ghan crosses the world’s largest island country, travelling almost 2,000 miles from Adelaide through the unique landscapes of the ‘red centre’ to Darwin on the Timor Sea.
On this holiday of a lifetime, you’ll watch the sun set behind the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage listed Uluṟu, experience an Aussie barbecue under the stars and visit some exciting outback destinations like Kings Canyon, Kata Tjuta and Alice Springs.
Find out more about our 15-day The Ghan: Red Centre Explorer holiday
Barcelona is an all-round city destination. There’s a thousand years of architecture from Roman remains to the atmospheric Gothic Quarter and the exuberant creations of Antoni Gaudí. There’s the beach. There are brilliant museums and galleries including the famous Picasso Museum. There’s an abundant food culture encompassing colourful markets, gourmet dining and late-night tapas.
It’s easy to get to the Catalan capital without the need for airports. There’s a high speed train from Paris or, as we suggest here, a more scenic journey via wine-capital Bordeaux and the landscapes of the Pyrenees. On the way back, stop in the lovely Provençal city of Avignon.
Find out more about our 7-day Barcelona via the Pyrenees holiday
Take the train to Prague on this exciting holiday by rail. Your journey takes you across the English Channel to France and Belgium before you continue via Cologne to pretty Erfurt in the German state of Thuringia. From here, take the route along the stunning Elbe River valley, passing the imposing Brühl’s Terrace in Dresden en route to the Czech capital.
Prague has been at the centre of European politics and power for over a millennium and, with its sweeping cityscape across both banks of the Vltara River, it’s not surprising that this is one of the Continent’s most visited destinations.
Find out more about our 6-day Prague without Flying holiday
By the time you reach southern Italy, the Mediterranean has turned turquoise, the heat has turned up, and your desire to do anything too strenuous has probably turned off. The Amalfi Coast is dotted with picture perfect fishing villages, many of which now have gorgeous hotels where you can laze by the pool, sipping a cool drink as the sun slides across the horizon.
After a few days of relaxation, a combination of train and ferry will transport you to Sicily, where seafood, sunshine and the slopes of Mount Etna await.
Find out more about our Sicily & the Amalfi Coast by Rail holiday
The Black Forest looks like the inspiration for a hundred children’s stories with its dark brooding canopy of evergreens, timber farmhouses, green meadows and hidden waterfalls. This is the perfect place to explore on foot with hundreds of marked trails to choose from. It’s also not best served by rail with only a couple of main stations.
So, head out by car and discover winding roads through stunning scenery with the odd pastoral lake or pretty village dotting the landscape. Your base is the little town of Loßburg, which you reach by catching a train to Freiburg im Breisgau and then picking up a hire car for your drive into the forest.
Find out more about our 7-night Black Forest Rail-Drive holiday