Like it or not, many of us fly to our holiday destination, contributing to the already high level of greenhouse gasses. However, with climate change and the environment becoming a critical issue, one increasingly popular alternative is rail travel.
In many countries, and certainly across Europe, the rail network offers passengers an alternative to flying to their chosen destination, and there is little doubt that avoiding the hassle and stress of crowded airports and strict security has its attractions.
However, another attraction of rail travel is that it opens up new holiday possibilities.
The Silk Road is forecast to be one of the more popular journeys of exploration for 2020 and it is one that can be done by train. Passengers can choose to start from Moscow or join the train a little later. However, the 17 day full journey covers Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. As well as all the older historic sites, visitors also go to Baikonur in Kazakhstan. It is home to the world’s largest and oldest cosmodrome. It’s where the first satellite, Sputnik, was launched as well as the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin. Today it’s where all astronauts leave when heading to the international space station and it’s even open on launch days.
Another amazing trip is the magnificent Pride of Africa. The fifteen day journey starts in Cape Town on the southern tip of the continent and travels north, taking guests to the historic village of Matjiesfontein, the diamond town of Kimberley and on to South Africa’s capital Pretoria. This is followed by two nights in the Madikwe Game Reserve.
The journey continues through Botswana and on into Zimbabwe where guests overnight at the stunning Victoria Falls Hotel. After crossing the mighty Zambezi River, the train climbs to the Tanzanian border. It then descends into the Great Rift Valley negotiating the tunnels, switchbacks and viaducts of the spectacular escarpment. Climbing again, it traverses the Selous Game Reserve, the largest on the continent, before reaching its destination, Dar es Salaam. The fare includes all meals, drinks on the train, hotels and excursions.
Perhaps the best known rail journey is Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer. The towering mountains, glassy lakes and cascading rivers make a fabulous backdrop, providing passengers with great memories and enviable pictures. The journey between Banff in Alberta and Vancouver in British Columbia lasts two days with an overnight hotel stay in Kamloops, so passengers travel only during daylight hours.
Dating back to 1909, The Little Yellow Train of the Pyrenees takes in some of France’s most dramatic scenery. It starts at the walled city of Villefranche de Conflent, a UNESCO Heritage site, some thirty miles from Perpignan. From 1400ft above sea level, the line climbs to an impressive the country’s 5200ft at Bolquère Eyne before descending to Bourg Madame. The station here is close to the Spanish border, an easy walk to the old Spanish town of Puigcerda. The train reaches its terminus at Latour de Carol where it connects to the French line from Toulouse and the Spanish line from Barcelona. The twenty-two stations along the forty mile track include fourteen request stops. The route is jam-packed with things to see and trains have several open carriages from which to enjoy impressive gorges, forested mountains and rolling lush pastures.
Australia boasts two major train journeys, criss-crossing the country from North to South and East to West. The Ghan covers 1,850 miles during its three day journey between Adelaide in the south and Darwin in the north, travelling via Alice Springs and the red centre of Australia. The journey includes off-train excursions at Katherine, Alice Springs and Coober Pedy, famous for its Opals. Much of Coober Pedy is built underground because of the extreme daytime heat, making it a truly memorable stop. The Indian Pacific covers the East/West route between Sydney and Perth. The four day trip via Adelaide covers over 2,700 miles and travellers experience all that Australia has to offer, from the Blue Mountains to vast plains and gold mines, big cities to ghost towns.
However, probably the most unique train journey is the Qinghai to Tibet railway, also known as the Lhasa Express. The 21 hour journey links Xining in the province of Qinghai, China, already 7,500ft above sea level, to Lhasa in Tibet, at around 12,000ft. On the way it negotiates the Tang Gu La Pass at over 16,500ft. Tang Gu La station is the world’s highest. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that there is oxygen available at every seat.
So you can explore some of the world’s most exciting places from the luxury of the train, and think of all those greenhouse gasses you are saving as you travel.