12 epic rail journeys from Intrepid’s brand-new rail theme

written by Stefan Prince May 28, 2024
Group of travellers outside train at station

Bird’s-eye views are beautiful, but seeing the world by rail lets you soak in the journey firsthand.  

‘It’s the climb’, award-winning multi-hyphenate Miley Cyrus once declared. She was talking about how it’s not the start nor the end point of life’s many journeys that’s important – it’s about how you get there. The same is true with just regular journeys. Sometimes, it’s possible to miss moments in a blur of getting from A to B. But Intrepid’s newly launched rail theme is here to bring you the journeys that are just as good as, if not better than, your next destination.  

NEW: Express to the Orient: Paris to Istanbul 

It’s been a fixture in pop culture for over 100 years. It’s inspired movies and features in books, but while the historic Orient Express carriages might not be running anymore, it’s still possible to trace the trail it laid. Intrepid’s new Express to the Orient: Paris to Istanbul trip takes you back in time, using local trains to follow the original train route from Paris to Budapest, then takes the historic Simplon-Orient-Express route from Belgrade to Istanbul. Local experiences abound along the way – think a traditional Serbian lunch, visits to Buda Castle and more.  

NEW: Paris to Rome by Rail  

Tie together two of Europe’s most iconic cities by train on the new Paris to Rome by Rail. If the comfort, smaller footprint and arrivals right into city centres aren’t big enough drawcards, the scenic stops along the way are sure to convince you. In Lucerne, Switzerland, you’ll take the world’s steepest cogwheel railway to the peak of Mt Pilatus. Then, the Gotthard Panorama Express train from Lucerne to Bellinzona will show you every angle of the Alps you could ask for. If you want to keep your adventure chugging along, you might add on an extension from London at the start of your journey or time your arrival in Rome with the start of Best of Italy.  

NEW: China & Mongolia by Rail  

Looking for a truly remote rail experience? Intrepid’s new Trans-Mongolian Railway Adventure has you more than covered. You’ll first get a taste of the new, seeing the bright lights of Beijing and taking a bullet train to Chifeng. Then, it’s on to the sweeping grasslands of Mongolia. You’ll explore the vast steppes of Khustai National Park, see the dunes of the Gobi Desert, go deep into Inner Mongolia and even spend a night in a desert camp.  

Uncover Vietnam’s history via rail 

Trace your way along Vietnam’s coastline on the North-South railway line. First constructed in 1899, the line is sometimes called the Reunification Express for its symbolic role in reconnecting the north and south of post-war Vietnam. Travellers can get a glimpse of this history during Scenic Vietnam – on overnight journeys from Hanoi to Hue, and then later hopping back on board as they make their way from Quy Nhon to Ho Chi Minh City.  

Get a window seat through Switzerland 

If you want to see more of Switzerland’s staggering scenery, Best of Switzerland is a perfect way to do exactly that. And just as you’d expect from a land of watchmakers, Swiss trains are a punctual (and fast) means of getting around. You might head to Jungfrauroch, home to the highest railway station in Europe. Trains and cable cars can whisk you to the various viewpoints and hikes of the Jungfrau Region. Or simply enjoy the comfortable ride as they take you from city to city throughout your trip! 

READ MORE: 5 things I loved about my car-free journey through Switzerland

Experience rail’s renaissance in Italy 

You don’t want to miss a moment of the Italian countryside and coastline – and with Intrepid’s Best of Italy trip, you won’t. Using Italy’s extensive rail network you’ll take in the rolling green fields of Tuscany, stop by the seaside villages that make up Cinque Terre and cover all the ground between the piazzas of Rome to the canals of Venice. 

Zip through Japan by shinkansen 

Japan’s a world-renowned destination for a lot of reasons, but it being the birthplace of the bullet train (shinkansen) makes it an essential stop for trainspotters. Experience the thrill throughout Ultimate Japan – on trips to the foothills of Mt Fuji, the Edo period town of Takayama and into Hiroshima, to name a few. You’ll also get a taste of more modestly paced trains as you venture from stop to stop, which themselves are one of the best insights into culture (and efficiency!) of the country. 

READ MORE: Why train travel is the one experience you won’t want to miss in Japan

Choo-choo your way through China  

China’s monuments might be steeped in ancient history, but how you’ll get between them sure isn’t. On Intrepid’s Beijing to Hong Kong Adventure, travel with ease on China’s modern high-speed rail network to the Great Wall’s Mutianyu section, the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an and more. You’ll also get a taste of different local lifestyles, staying at a Taoist temple in Mt Qingcheng and taking a dumpling making demonstration near the Great Wall.  

Ride the world’s highest railway to Tibet 

Not all train journeys are created equal, and the journey from Beijing to Lhasa on Tibet: Beijing to Kathmandu Overland isn’t your average commute. Clocking in at a 45-hour ride, reaching altitudes of over 5000 metres and covering over 3700 kilometres, the Train to the Roof of the World certainly lives up to its billing. You’ll travel across the wide-open highlands of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, past snow-dusted black cliffs and onto further adventures in Tibet and Nepal.  

Ride vintage steam trains in southern India 

Toy trains? Sign us up. On Intrepid’s Southern India trip, a stop into Ootacamund provides the chance for a delightful ride along the Nilgiri Mountain Railway. The bold blue carriages will transport you to great views over the lush countryside. You’ll also get a taste of India’s rail network on journeys between Mysore and Chanai, and Villupuram to Madurai.  

Leave the car at home and discover France and Spain 

Speaking of not doing things by halves, Intrepid’s Paris to Madrid by Rail lets you go all-in on public transport. Make your way to the likes of Pont du Gard, Sagrada Familia, Arena of Nimes and Maison Carree all with the knowledge you’re travelling more consciously. If you’re after even more rail-based exploring, choose to extend your journey and start in the UK with the optional Eurostar transfer from London to Paris (it only takes 2.5 hours!). 

READ MORE: Tips and hacks for train travel in Europe

One for train lovers of all ages in Italy 

Kids love trains. The north of Italy has a lot for everyone to love. And when you combine the two, you get a surefire good time on the Northern Italy Family Holiday trip. Explore the winding canal maze of Venice, dip your toes in the ocean by the beautiful Cinque Terre coastline, get the perfect snap of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and a whole lot more. And with trains as your transport, you’ll do it all while avoiding the traffic and arriving right into city centres.  

See more of Intrepid’s rail trips around the world, which celebrate slow travel, cultural immersion and a lower environmental impact. 

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