11 Best Magical Train Journeys in the World

Sources: penpaland.com 
buzzle.com

“It’s not getting from A to B. It’s not the beginning or the destination that counts. It’s the ride in between…This train is alive with things that should be seen and heard. It’s a living, breathing something ― you just have to want to learn its rhythm.”
― David Baldacci

It’s tragic how we’ve turned traveling into simply getting from place A to B. Today, more often than not, there seems to be a greater emphasis on the destination―what to see and what to eat once you get there. The journey itself is seen more like a hassle, a mere footnote in the grander scheme of things that your destination holds.

Stop and smell the roses if you will, the next time you’re out on a holiday. The best way to do so is to pick a place so picturesque, that the only way to do justice to its beauty is to explore it by rail. We’ve got a few ideas to get you started.

AMAZING TRAIN JOURNEYS IN THE WORLD

Cinque Terre

CINQUE TERRE, ITALY

Cinque Terre refers to a bunch of 5 idyllic fishing villages―Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Monterosso, and Vernazza―that lie between Pisa and Genoa. A gorgeous stretch of the Italian Riviera, this region is a national park and a vehicle-free zone. Thus, the best way to get around is to take the train which chugs along the tall cliffs, offering a magnificent view of the azure Ligurian waters extending as far as the eye can see. The Cinque Terre National Park is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s easy to see why. Though the region has fallen prey to tourism of late, its really refreshing to see the considerable lack of corporate consumerism in these villages. The restaurants here are more or less homegrown, and the people display the best of Italian hospitality and charm. The gorgeous views round up to make this an oft-visited destination for anyone who comes here even once.

Canadian Rockies

BANFF NATIONAL PARK, CANADIAN ROCKIES

The Rocky Mountains in west Canada have some breathtaking landscapes on offer. The Rocky Mountaineer railroad snakes through glacier lakes, dense forests, and abundant wildlife. The train takes you on a two-day journey from the resort town of Banff in Alberta through the beautiful Canadian Rockies, culminating in the city of Vancouver. You have the option of picking the Gold Leaf Service which includes cooked-to-order meals and unlimited cocktails while onboard, making this an ultra-luxurious and idyllic getaway.

TranzAlpine train

TRANZALPINE, NEW ZEALAND

The KiwiRail Scenic Journeys-run TranzAlpine passenger train promises to take you on the most beautiful train ride ever. Considering New Zealand’s abundant natural wealth, it’s wise not to dispute their claim, when you’d rather just jump aboard. This is a relatively short trip―under 5 hours―beginning in Christchurch, going through Arthur’s Pass over to Greymouth on the South Island’s west coast through the amazing misty mountain scenery of the Southern Alps.

Pikes Peak Colorado

PIKES PEAK COLORADO, UNITED STATES

The Pikes Peak Cog Railway takes you to the summit of the mountain, and offers stellar views of the mountainous Colorado Springs. The just-over-three-hours trip takes you through a dense green cover of Englemann spruce, Colorado blue spruce, and Ponderosa pine trees, crossing the Minnehaha Falls along the way. In fact, some estimates tell us that some bristlecone pines in this region are over 2000 years old. You get to spend some time at the summit, following which you return to Manitou Springs. This railway is considered to be the highest in North America, developed almost exclusively to foster tourism in the region.

Darjeeling Himalayan Railways

DARJEELING HIMALAYAN RAILWAYS, INDIA

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway ranks among the finest legacies of the colonial era. Popularly known as the Toy Train, this railroad takes you from New Jalpaiguri to an elevation of 2200 meters to the hilltop town of Darjeeling. The DHR was declared a World Heritage Site, only the second rail network to be bestowed with this honor. Pictured here is the Batasia Loop section of the railroad, which offers panoramic views of Darjeeling town with the Kanchenjunga and other Himalayan mountains in the background.

 Inca rail Machu Picchu

MACHU PICCHU, PERU

The Belmond Hiram Bingham is a luxury train which takes you up the Sacred Valley to the ruins of Machu Picchu. Named after the American explorer who discovered the famed ruins, this train is the last word in luxury travel. A journey on the Belmond Hiram Bingham commences in Poroy, close to the city of Cusco. The train runs through Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, heading up to the ruins, believed to have been built in the mid-15th century and are the finest examples of Inca architecture.

Ghan Express

THE GHAN, AUSTRALIA

The Ghan Express follows a 1851-mile route from Darwin to Adelaide, crossing the length of this huge country. The trip takes three nights and four days to complete, with a stopover in Alice Springs. In true colonial style, the erstwhile Afghan Express was an offensive reference to the Afghan camel herders who were brought here to “help” explore the harsh expanse of the Australian desert. The modern journey is an experience in itself, offering several off-train excursions, including a helicopter ride over the Uluru.

Glacier Express

GLACIER EXPRESS, SWITZERLAND

The Glacier Express is perhaps the most famous railroad in the world. The train travels from Zermatt to St. Moritz, winding through virgin mountain landscapes, glamorous resorts, gorges, and ravines via 91 tunnels and across 291 beautiful bridges. This is one journey where every moment is a photo op, seeing as you’re traveling through the majestic Swiss Alps rising tall against the deep blue sky.

West Highland Line Scotland

WEST HIGHLAND LINE, SCOTLAND

This one’s exclusively for all the Potterheads out there. And even if you don’t happen to be one, this magical train journey across the Scottish highlands is a treat to the senses in every manner. This historic steam train is called The Jacobite, which runs from Fort William to Mallaig along the west coast of Scotland. The main highlight of the journey, of course, is crossing the 21 arches of the Glenfinnan viaduct, memorably captured in the Harry Potter films which overlooks the Loch Shiel.

Qinghai Tibet railway

QINGHAI-TIBET RAILWAY, CHINA

Dubbed as “rocket to the roof of the world”, the Qinghai-Tibet railroad is a landmark achievement in terms of human ambition and tenacity. The railroad extends 1215 miles from Xining, Qinghai Province, to Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region. The train runs through the Tanggula Pass, located 5072 meters above sea level, making it the world’s highest railway. Along the way, travelers can witness unrivaled views of the Tibetan landscape including the Kunlun and Tanggula mountain ranges, Qinghai Lake, and the Tuotuo River. Breathtaking doesn’t even begin to describe this experience.

Orient Express station Istanbul

THE ORIENT EXPRESS

Yes, yes, we most certainly realize that the Orient Express in its original avatar ceased its operations years ago. The original service ran from Paris to Istanbul, traveling through Strasbourg, Munich, Vienna, and Budapest, thus connecting the world’s finest cities. Little surprise then, that this journey was one of the most famous back in its time, featuring in several books and films of the era. The Venice-Simplon Orient Express, as it is now known as, offers a solitary trip from Paris to Istanbul every year. It is known to be quite exclusive, and thereby rather expensive as well, but if you are fortunate enough to have the means, this is one train trip that is highly recommended. Because when you embark upon a trip that begins in Paris and culminates in Istanbul, its surely got to create some fantastic memories.

Some train journeys really bring the element of romance and intrigue back into traveling. Don’t believe us? Take any of these train trips to know for sure!

How to Plan a Trip to Machu Picchu

Source(s): penpaland.com
buzzle.com

Machu Picchu is one of the most enchanting locations to visit, and every year, millions of tourists from around the globe plan to make a trip there. Read this Buzzle post to know how to go about planning a trip to this ancient Inca city.

Quick Tip

 

Only 2,500 people are allowed to enter Machu Picchu daily, half of which are porters. So, it is advisable to book your trip well in advance, and also keep your travel dates flexible.

Machu Picchu is the site of an ancient Inca city, located in the South American country of Peru. Situated on an elevated terrain, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has been very well marketed by the Peruvian government. The mountainous location, the archaeological ruins, the unparalleled scenic beauty that surrounds it, and a mystery element that has been associated with the place, all have made it extremely popular amongst domestic and international tourists, who tend to flock there every year in large numbers. It is one of those few tourist destinations, which offer something or the other for all kinds of visitors. Apart from being a haven of trekkers and hikers, it is also immensely popular amongst history enthusiasts and people who go there to enjoy the sanctity of nature. Interestingly, Machu Picchu has also been marketed as a pilgrimage site of the Incas, and so it has also come to the forefront as a spiritual destination. Added to this, its elevated location in the Andes of Peru offers some of the most breathtaking and majestic views of the surrounding areas.

Planning a Machu Picchu Vacation

If you intend to visit this place, which has a spellbinding fusion of ancient man-made wonders and scenic beauty, here are a few tips that will help you plan your trip.

When to Go?

Hiking in machu picchu

➥ The peak time to travel to Machu Picchu is in the months of July and August. The site is particularly busy during these two months, because they are considered to be the driest months in the Andean foothills. So, it is relatively easier to go around the ancient city, and also to hike. If you intend to travel during the peak season, it is vital that you book your trip well in advance.

Rainy season in andean foothils

➥ However, if you wish to avoid large crowds during your trip, you can go during the off-season, i.e., from November to April. This is the rainy season in the Andean foothills, wherein January and February are the wettest months.

➥ However, if you opt for the first or last month of the season, i.e., November or April, you will be able to do both―avoid large crowds as well as heavy rains.

Do Thorough Research

Man checking travel website

➥ First and foremost, decide whether you want to book a group package or go independently.

➥ If you wish to go independently, it is vital that you go through authorized sources, preferably through the government website. This will help you get safe accommodations, and save you from making unnecessary payments.

➥ Several tailor-made tours are also available for independent travelers, wherein travel agents take care of the bookings to your destination, and then let you manage the rest on your own.

➥ On the other hand, going for a group package can also be a good idea, which will not only ensure your safety, but will also assure you company all through your trip.

➥ If you intend to take a group package, compare several of them on various parameters, including costs, accommodation and food facilities, past record, availability of licensed guides, cooks, porters, and so on.

➥ Also, inquire about the tips to be given out, in order to avoid spending much more than your expectations.

Travel agent with customers

➥ If it’s a group tour package, your tour operator will do everything, right up to booking return tickets for the group. Just check that the price quoted by the tour operator is all-inclusive.

➥ If you are traveling independently (not tailor-made), you will have to book your own airline tickets as well. So, look for the best prices that suit your budget. Comparing prices on different websites, such as Travelocity, Expedia, etc., is a good idea, as you may land up with some pretty good deals.

➥ At the end, research well regarding the overall budget of the trip. Keep in mind that the bus and train tickets, food, and accommodation in Peru are a little expensive, and many facilities there do not accept credit cards. So, keep enough hard cash with you.

Be Prepared for the Elevation

➥ As mentioned above, Machu Picchu is situated on a highly elevated terrain, which means that you might have to face troubles such as altitude sickness during your trip. The good news is that there is a way to avoid this.

Cuzco city

➥ All travelers to Machu Picchu have to halt at Cusco, a city that is about 112 km away from the ancient site, and sits at an elevation of about 3,400 m above sea level.

➥ Because Cusco is more elevated than Machu Picchu, the symptoms of altitude sickness, such as headache and/or vomiting, etc., start becoming apparent here itself.

➥ Therefore, it is recommended to arrive in Cusco at least four to five days ahead of your visit to Machu Picchu so that your body can get accustomed to elevation, and its lower oxygen levels.

➥ Machu Picchu sits at a height of 2,430 m above sea level, so when you travel down to your destination from Cusco, conditions often seem to get better.

➥ Trekkers are generally advised to consult their physicians, and get medications prescribed for altitude sickness. Moreover, alcohol can intensify the symptoms, so it is recommended to stay away from it, until your body adjusts to the elevation.

Carry Appropriate Trekking Gear

Trekking gear kit

➥ This is vital, especially if you are planning a trekking trip to Machu Picchu. Make sure that your trekking gear is up-to-date and appropriate.

➥ Your travel company will provide you with a detailed list of items to carry for your trek. Be absolutely sure that you do not miss out on even a single one of them.

➥ If you are going independently, the Internet is the best source to find out what may be needed. If you know people who have been there before, consulting them is also a good option.

➥ Remember that even if you plan your trip during the dry season, Machu Picchu keeps getting sporadic showers during that time as well. So, see to it that your backpack and gear are waterproof.

➥ Moreover, carry good hiking shoes, as the terrain is bound to be slippery. Also, there are no vehicles in the park area, so good walking shoes are a necessity.

➥ Finally, travel as light as possible. You can carry some foodstuff such as chocolates, cheese, dry fruits, or instant noodles (food is not allowed on the archaeological site). However, this is not an absolute necessity as the porter you hire would generally carry all these for you.

Note: It is essential to hire porters even if you are traveling independently, as the region can get a bit confusing. Moreover, owing to the difficulty of the terrain, it becomes essential at times to be free of any load on the shoulders. The porters are experienced people who are used to carrying loads on this terrain.

Few Essential Tips

➥ The climate of the region is very unpredictable, and can get warmer or colder all of a sudden. It would be good to consider layering your clothes so that you can adjust them from time to time.

➥ For waterproofing your clothing, spray it with a silicone spray waterproof sealant, but only after reading all the manufacturer’s instructions on the pack.

➥ Because the climate is wet most of the time, cotton is not a good fabric to wear, as it does not dry fast. Opt for fabrics, which can breathe well and dry fast.

➥ Also, make sure that your hiking shoes are waterproof and sturdy enough. Remember to keep an extra pair with you.

➥ Peru is located very close to the equator. So, although it rains every now and then, the Sun can be really powerful. Be sure to carry a sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.

➥ Carrying a mosquito repellent also helps, as the region is wet and has a lot of vegetation.

➥ Keep some extra cash in hand. Peru can be really expensive, and you will have to tip various people here and there during your trip.

➥ Lastly, no matter how excited you are about your trip, do not ignore or overlook the safety aspect. Always consider getting a travel insurance that will cover for the contingencies. Carry valid documents of the same during your trip.

So, pack up and get going to the most incredible place on earth―Machu Picchu―where man, God, and nature seem to come together.