Comfort and efficiency are the hallmarks of the European rail system and its punctuality is world famous. Excellent maintenance of all trains, moreover, guarantees the passenger cozy seats or very comfortable sleeper compartments that not only ensure a smooth journey across the continent but safety also. As you zoom across, enjoy the Alpine glaciers, dine on some gourmet cuisine and have a great night’s rest when traveling overnight. So get yourself a Eurail Pass and keep going! The following train routes are considered to be some of Europe’s best.
Glacier express route from Zermatt to St Moritz in Switzerland
How about a scenic train journey that takes you through beautiful mountains, landscapes, deep gorges, 91 tunnels and 291 bridges in approximately 7 hrs, Interesting right? That is why Switzerland’s Glacial express route is one of the most popular route amongst the Scenic Trains – and also probably the longest. Glacier express is known worldwide as world’s slowest express train. Begins with the views of Matterhorn (peak near Zermatt) and ends at St Moritz.
Bernina Express between Chur and Tirano
When you’re traveling from Chur in Switzerland to Italy’s Tirano, it’s going to take you 4 hours and 14 minutes. This railway is unique because it’s a vertigo-inducing, narrow-gauge train that moves on 7% inclines, has a spiral of 360-degrees, goes through 55 tunnels & over 196 bridges! You reach a height of 7,391 feet first, then descending a good 5,905 feet, when the train stops. You can get reservations at a short-notice seat and the view of the Alps from it while you travel, is just amazing.
Switzerland’s Chocolate Train
This route extends between Montreux & Broc and back. The journey’s duration is 9 hours and 45 minutes for a round trip. It runs during fall and summer, climbing from Montreux that overlooks Lake Geneva to Gruyères, a medieval town that produces the famous Gruyères cheese. While traveling, you can stop to see Gruyere’s cheese factory and local castle. Have a quick lunch and get on the train again to reach Broc. At Broc, take a bus trip to Cailler-Nestlé’s chocolate factory and get free samples. Get onboard again for return.
Trans-Siberian Railway: An Epic Journey
This is one long rail journey spanning over 19 days and stretching from Moscow city to Vladivostok in Russia. The Trans-Siberian Railway route, over the years, has become iconic, crossing 8 time zones. Class and age barriers disappear onboard with the poor mingling with the wealthy, the young with the old and foreigners with Russian locals. Drink liters of vodka at an unbelievable price of $3 per liter. The train stops at various spots for passengers to disembark and go on individual excursions for trekking, scuba diving and city tours.
Bergen Line with Flåm Railway between Oslo and Bergen via Flåm (Norway)
The Bergen Railway between Oslo and Bergen is a 7 hr journey that takes you through beautiful mountain landscapes, and across Europe’s highest mountain plateau, Hardangervidda Plateau to the highest station in Norway called Finse. There are four daily departures from Oslo and Bergen. Experience the world’s steepest railway line on this awe-inspiring journey from Myrdal toFlåm.
Balkan Flexipass route from Belgrade to Bar
Starting at Belgrade in Serbia to Montenegro’s Bar over a time period of ten hours, the Balkan route is equally scenic. The Balkan Flexipass entitles you to unlimited travel spanning over 5, 10 & 15 days through the heart of Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece, Romania, Turkey, Serbia, and Montenegro. Start off in Belgrade and get off at any particular stop to either stay overnight or shop. Subsequently, board another train later to visit the ancient town of Bar on the Adriatic Sea. Great way to save money when you are traveling in Europe.
Great Britain Heritage route
This rail route stretches from Inverness in Scotland to Gwynedd in Wales and keeps you onboard for 15 days. A great way to discover Britain’s historic fortresses by using the BritRail and Great British Heritage passes. These passes allow entry into 580 tourist attractions when you stop for local sight seeing. Visit Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle, Stirling Bridge, Edinburgh Castle and Dover Castle on the way. Tour Wales and see its Caernarfon Castle.
Venice to Munich Via Innsbruck (Italy, Germany & Austria)
The route takes in glittering lakes, views Germany’s highest mountain (Zugspitze) and glorious mountainous landscapes. there are plenty of beautiful sites passing through Italian villages, Alps and snowy peaks, then reaching Bavaria – one of the most beautiful parts in Germany.
La Spezia (Italy) to Nice in France
Rustic candy-colored villages, coastal-scenery, turquoise Ligurian Sea, bucolic vineyards and olive groves. What else one can ask for? You get it all on this route between La Spezia—the nearest mid-sized Italian city to the popular and colorful 5 villages of Cinque Terre —and Nice la Belle on the French Riviera. Perfect combination of romance and beauty.
The Scottish Highlands, Scotland
Two of the most beautiful scenic routes in Scotland are Fort William to Mallaig and Inverness to Kyle having spectacular glens, lochs and everything that desolates Highlands landscape beautifully from others. Fort william to Mallaig route is said to be the trip of extremes. The round trip passes Ben Nevis – the highest mountain in Britain, lakes Loch Morar and Loch Nevis, River Morar. Its a 2 hour dream ride that transports one to the surreal world of Harry Porter saga.
How to buy a Rail Europe Pass
When buying a Rail Europe Pass, you should first consider your age because anybody under 26 gets certain discounts. This also applies to senior adults. However, age requirements tend to vary from the rail line to rail line. The total length of your tour is also to be considered as prices of rail passes vary according to time increments. Therefore, make an accurate calculation of the total time you will be actually traveling by train.
Moreover, buy those passes only for the countries that you intend visiting because specific passes are available for a single country while others may cover up to 4 countries. Also take into account the number of cities you will visit. This assumes significance because if you intend staying in a particular city, you will probably use local transport and not your rail ticket. Buying a Flexipass, therefore, makes sense as it doesn’t require daily use consecutively, allowing some random days within the longer period.
Also, bear in mind whether your rail pass needs to be consecutive. If no, then it’s cheaper to go for passes that are valid for the minimum of any 5 days of a particular month. Buying passes for ten or fifteen consecutive days doesn’t make sense. If the city that you are visiting is a border location, chances are that point-to-point tickets may be cheaper for short distances rather than adding the next closest country to the ticket.
It’s also important to keep track of travel dates carefully because some railways observe certain holidays or reduce services during weekends and/or the off-season period. Take the help of authoritative guidebooks that clearly mention legal holidays of countries you intend visiting. In case surcharge is payable in certain railway systems, pay it as these are much faster and save valuable travel time. Another important strategy is to calculate the sum total payable on individual tickets for covering your itinerary, devoid of a railway pass because it may so happen that passes may be more costly than their individual counterparts. Remember, unlimited travel does not always happen to be the cheaper option. Finally, prices apart, also look at the flexibility offered by each rail system on your short list. This would help you avoid paying extra for additional options when you don’t actually need them.
Eurail Passes enable you to travel to 28 countries in Europe and grants you the flexibility to board any train you like for each day of travel. The trains usually stop at each city’s center and your hotel may be at a walking distance. Various types of passes are available to suit any travel plan and extra benefits include free and discounted transportation services, accommodations, ferry crossings, to visit tourist sites and city tours.
Check out this map to select the cities you would like to visit on the map and build your itinerary
Link to my other blog on train travel