By LISA KLEIN
Traveling by train conjures up romantic visions of days gone by, and today, rail tours are offering up luxury options on every continent so that passengers can continue to take the leisurely route.
These five are a good start in exploring all that 21st-century train travel has to offer.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express – Europe
The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, owned by LVMH’s Belmond, uses some of the original, but refurbished, train cars from the iconic Orient Express, which made its first journey in 1889.
The train features luxe cabins, a bar car and dining rooms serving multi-course gourmet meals created by Michelin-starred French chef Jean Imbert.
Traveling between London and Istanbul, with stops in Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Geneva, Verona, Venice, Florence, Roma, Prague, Vienna and Budapest, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is quite the journey.
The Ghan – Australia
The Ghan journeys through the vast interior of Australia, stopping at rarely visited locales on the way.
From Darwin on the north coast to Adelaide on the south coast, the Ghan offers plenty of off-train outback adventure, from cruising through Nitmiluk Gorge to a view of the starry skies to touring an underground opal-mining community.
Along the way, cuisine inspired by each region and local wines are served on board.
Maharajas’ Express – India
The Maharajas’ Express has 23 carriages – all named after precious gemstones – that travels across India. The Presidential Suite has one of them all to itself.
Two dining cars – the Rang Mahal, with a hand-painted colorful fresco, and the Mayur Mahal, with a peacock theme – serve a mix of international and Indian cuisine, while two bar and lounge cars feature a range of beverages.
The train follows several itineraries starting in Mumbai or Delhi and making stops in stunning locations such as Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur and Varanasi to explore Indian cuisine and culture.
Rovos Rail – Africa
Guests on Rovos Rail, based in South Africa, can choose between a few-day trek through the country or expand their adventure across the continent on an up to 15-night voyage.
From wild safaris to views of Victoria Falls, Rovos Rail offers trips through Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Along the way, guests are treated to luxe rooms, gourmet meals served on fine china and theme nights aboard the vintage wood-paneled train cars.
The Rocky Mountaineer – North America
The Rocky Mountaineer has several routes that travel through the mountains of southwest Canada, between Vancouver and Jasper or Banff, and the southwestern United States between Moab, Utah, and Denver, Colorado.
Trains only travel during daylight hours to make the most of the scenery they pass through, and onboard hosts regale guests with stories of the history and culture of each area.
The train also features either oversized windows or an entire glass-domed top for maximum viewing.
Other tours, excursions and hotel stays can be added on to any train trip to experience even more of North America.