the Royal Scotsman at the Glacier Express

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With Europe’s airports in disarray, it might be time to check out some of the continent’s great train journeys. Traveling from a train station is far less hassle than an international airport and splurging on a first class train ticket seems much more reasonable than current flight prices in many parts of the world.

Here are five spectacular train rides to consider.

The Cinque Terre, Italy

The local train to La Spezia, which departs from Genoa’s bustling central station, takes its time over a 120 kilometer stretch, rumbling slowly for two and a half hours along the spectacular Ligurian coast between two of Italy’s main seaports. Italy.

While the first stops and picturesque sea views are already alluring, as posh holidaymakers descend in Rapallo and Santa Margherita Ligure en route to the mythical seaside resort of Portofino, the crucial part of the journey begins when the train arrives at Monterosso.

It is the first of the Cinque Terre, five idyllic villages of brightly painted fisherman’s and farmer’s houses that cascade down jagged, dead-end headlands that jut into the sea. For centuries, the Cinque Terre was virtually cut off from the rest of Italy, and today there is still no road connection, only this little train, whose station is still a good walk to the edge of each village.

After Monterosso, the train enters and exits mountain tunnels, stopping each time it arrives at the next Terra – Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, each unique in their own way. The coastline is Unesco protected, with no modern development, and most visitors arrive and depart the same day by train.

A maze of narrow paths along steep cliffs connects each village, so you can leave the train at Manarola for example, enjoy a plate of traditional pesto pasta overlooking the sea, then walk to Riomaggiore to take the train back to La Spezia or return to Genoa. A one-way ticket from Genoa to La Spezia costs €8 (36 Dh)

Royal Scotsman, Scotland

The famous Glenfinnan railway viaduct in Scotland, which featured in the Harry Potter films.  Getty

Some of the world’s most famous train journeys have been operated by luxury hotel group Belmond for years.

As well as the famous Orient Simplon Express from London to Venice, Belmond’s classic trains climb through the mountains and plains of the Andes in Peru and through the rice paddies and tropical jungles of Southeast Asia, weaving from Singapore to Bangkok through Malaysia.

But it’s one of its more understated European routes that truly offers a memorable journey – the legendary Royal Scotsman. This lavish palace on wheels departs from Glasgow station and follows a route through the wild hills and glens of the Western Highlands.

Voyages last an average of five days, and with luxurious vintage cabins, fine dining and even a carriage-turned-spa, the price reflects that this is a very special occasion. Depending on the trip you choose, the trip can pass by unforgettable sites such as Loch Lomond and Ben Nevis, but also include stops at an artisanal smoked salmon producer, a visit to the majestic Glamis Castle, a round of golf or a skeet shooting spot in the private estate of a local laird. An outstanding view must be as the train crosses the Glenfinnan Viaduct, made world famous by the adventures of Harry Potter. Tickets cost from €4,500 (20,280 Dh)

The Glacier Express, Switzerland

The Glacier Express travels between the famous alpine <a class=ski resorts of Zermatt and St Moritz, above. Getty” src=”https://thenational-the-national-prod.cdn.arcpublishing.com/resizer/EwW5uvvyiNgwExQQVvTMs8wVr2c=/1440×0/filters:format(jpg):quality(70)/cloudfront-eu-central-1.images.arcpublishing.com/thenational/VWCK7ZZ3ZJAEFD7LEWXOKND6VM.jpg” width=”1440″ height=”0″ loading=”lazy”/>

Don’t let the name of Switzerland’s most famous train fool you. It’s not an express trip, as it takes nearly eight hours to cover the 290 kilometers that separate two of the most famous alpine ski resorts, Zermatt and St Moritz.

The average speed is only 38 kilometers per hour, but don’t think you’ll need a book to read or a Spotify playlist to keep you awake, because you won’t be able to take your eyes off the scenery ever-changing mountain landscape, visible through large panoramic windows.

At its highest point, the narrow-gauge railway rises to just over 2,000 meters, and when you find that the line has only been in service since 1930, it’s hardly surprising, as engineers had to work in extreme conditions to build a staggering 291 bridges and 91 tunnels.

From the foot of the Matterhorn to Zermatt, the Express cuts through the dazzling valleys and glaciers of the central Swiss Alps until it reaches the exclusive and glitzy playground of St Moritz. Along the way, it’s not just the natural beauty that catches the eye, but examples of the centuries-old alpine lifestyle, with tiny clusters of ornate wooden chalets surrounding an onion-domed church, herds of cows, medieval castles and isolated farmhouses.

The trains are ultra modern, equipped with a comfortable restaurant car serving traditional Swiss cuisine, and there is not even a big difference between first and second class comfort. One-way tickets cost €135 (608 Dh) in second class and €237 (1,070 Dh) in first class.

Somme Bay Railway, France

The French village of Le Crotoy.  Getty

The Somme estuary is one of France’s best kept secrets, an unspoiled natural paradise.

These huge wetlands change dramatically with the tide. Vast sand dunes appear at low tide, resembling an arid desert quickly filled by the sea at high tide, creating a natural harbor where a thousand years ago William the Conqueror hid his fleet before crossing the English Channel to invade England successfully in 1066.

Two deliciously outdated seaside resorts face each other on the other side of the bay, Saint-Valery-sur-Somme and Le Crotoy. Adventurous hikers can join the daily low tide eco-walk across the estuary, but for train fans nothing compares to zipping around the estuary on the great name’s antiquated steam engine of the Somme Bay Railway.

The volunteers who run this now private railroad have renovated half a dozen old steam engines, the oldest dating from 1889, which served in the Panama Canal. Passengers board at Saint Valery-sur-Somme, a genteel picture-postcard village, with fishing boats and sailboats dancing in the harbour, imposing medieval ramparts and a long waterside promenade lined with sumptuous 19th century villas that were artistic retreats for the likes of Victor Hugo and Jules Verne, Alfred Sisley and Degas.

The track follows the edge of the estuary, passing fields of sheep and migrating birds that range from herons and storks to egrets, swans and spoonbills.

On the other side of the bay, the last stop is Le Crotoy, a charming old-fashioned seaside resort with donkey rides and games rooms, as well as quirky excursions ranging from seal-watching and birds to help fishermen harvest local mussels. The one hour trip is a bargain at €12 (55 Dh)

Oslo to Bergen, Norway

The Flamsbana train journey travels between Flam and Myrdal in western Norway.  Getty

The Bergen Railway travels approximately 800 km through the beautiful mountains, lakes, rivers and fjords of Norway, beginning at the nation’s capital of Oslo and ending in Bergen, a distinguished Hanseatic port which is the gateway to Arctic and home to famous Norwegians such as composer Edvard Grieg and painter Edvard Munch.

The train is always full of adventurous tourists, who pile in at various stops to reach nature hiking trails, mountain bike trails and, when snow covers the landscape, winter sports resorts offering downhill skiing and mountain biking. cross-country skiing.

The highlight of the trip is when the train arrives at Myrdal, when almost everyone is transferred to the single spur to Flams. Considered one of Norway’s top tourist attractions and described as the most beautiful rail journey in the world, the Flamsbana does not disappoint.

In just one hour, the retro train travels almost 1,000 meters steeply downhill to Flams on the scenic Aurlandsfjord, descending perilously for 20 kilometres, along dizzying mountain tracks, cascading waterfalls and flowing river gorges. fast.

A round trip on the Flamsbana costs 45 € (202 Dh). Keep in mind that reaching Bergen by train might just be the first part of an unforgettable journey, as the Hurtigruten, the Norwegian coastal steamer that acts as both a freight and passenger line, departs from Bergen for his epic slow journey around the Arctic Circle to as far as the North Cape. Oslo to Bergen costs from 400 Norwegian kroner (Dh172).

Updated: July 21, 2022, 09:39

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