In many countries, train travel offers spectacular scenery, ease and efficiency for groups of all sizes. Today, the Orient-Express remains one of the world’s most famous luxurious trains, with a memorable itinerary between Paris and Istanbul.
In Kenya, the train provides a classic way to travel between Nairobi and Mombasa on the way to or from a safari. Mexico’s Copper Canyon Railway crosses the rugged terrain of the Sierra Madre Mountains. And aboard Rail Australia’s Spirit of the Outback, the 24-hour journey allows for opportunities to interact with other travelers or to simply enjoy the Queensland countryside.
Copper Canyon Railway
The dramatic Copper Canyon Railway takes groups on a 400-mile journey from Chihuahua to El Fuerte, Mexico. Aboard the Ferrocarril Chihuahua Pacífico, often referred to as the Chepe, groups will travel from sea level to approximately 7,500 feet. This engineering marvel took almost 90 years and $90 million to complete; it opened in 1961 after decades of construction.
The journey begins in the desert scrub landscape before ascending into mountain wilderness that features plummeting gorges and high peaks. The train winds around hairpin curves, travels through almost 100 tunnels and crosses more than 37 bridges. As it chugs toward the Pacific Ocean, it drops into subtropical forests.
Along the way, it passes through the dizzying depths and heights of Copper Canyon, which is four times the size of the Grand Canyon. As one of the world’s largest canyon systems, it covers 25,000 square miles of territory. This geographical landmark is filled with history and culture; it is also the home of natural wonders and caves, forests and notable biodiversity.
The train makes seven stops, and lodges along the way offer accommodations. Groups can opt to extend their trip to explore the charming towns. Along the route, eco-adventures include hiking, zip lining and a river float, depending on the season.
Spirit of the Outback
The Spirit of the Outback aboard Rail Australia travels along the east coast of Queensland from Brisbane to Longreach. As the capital of Queensland and Australia’s third-largest city, Brisbane offers access to the beaches of Australia’s Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. After leaving Brisbane, the train passes through the historic towns of Blackwater, Emerald and Barcaldine. At its destination of Longreach, there’s plenty for groups to explore, including the Qantas Founders Museum, the Outback Heritage Centre and the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame.
Passengers can opt for first-class cabins for one or two people. These fares include meals in the Tuckerbox Dining Car, which serves hearty Aussie-style fare. First-class passengers also have access to the Shearers Rest lounge, which offers movies available on portable tablets and light refreshments available for purchase. Afternoon tea is also served. Groups who opt for economy single sleepers or seats can purchase meals and light snacks from the Servery and have access to the Economy Lounge.
Extended touring packages are available, offering coach connections to Winton. A host of surrounding attractions includes the historic Wellshot Hotel, Lark Quarry Dinosaur Footprints, the Australian Worker’s Heritage Centre and the Waltzing Matilda Cultural Centre. In Blackwater, groups can tour the Blackall Woolscour complex and eat a bush dinner at the last remaining steam-operated wool-washing plant in Australia.