1. Rocky Mountaineer

Trip: Considered by many the world’s most spectacular rail route, this two-day excursion runs only during the day, so passengers miss none of the breathtaking sights—rushing rivers, snowcapped peaks, primeval forest and wildlife (including bears and elk). The train runs from cosmopolitan Vancouver through the Fraser River Valley to Kamloops, where passengers overnight in hotels. The next day it ascends the majestic Canadian Rockies, arriving in either Jasper or Banff/Calgary.

Onboard: First-class passengers sit in a bi-level domed observation car, get fresh-air views from a covered vestibule, and enjoy breakfast and lunch in the lower dining room, which boasts such regional delights as wild salmon and British Columbia wines. Coach passengers sit and eat in comfortable, reclining seats by picture windows. Attendants in each car provide service and commentary on the route.

Don’t Miss: The churning rapids of Hell’s Gate, where the rushing Fraser River shoots through a narrow, rocky gorge.

Insider Tip: Rent a car and spend a few add-on days exploring Banff and Jasper national parks, staying at AAA Four Diamond Fairmont Banff Springs.

2. California Zephyr

Trip: Celebrate the beauty of America on one of the country’s most scenic routes, departing from Chicago and crossing the Great Plains, Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada.

Onboard: Relax in the Sightseer Lounge Car while watching snowy peaks and red-rock canyons glide past.

Don’t Miss: As part of Amtrak’s Trails & Rails partnership with the National Park Service, onboard rangers share their expertise during the summer months.

Insider Tip: For a more luxurious experience, reserve a spacious coach seat, or a roomette or bedroom in a Superliner Sleeping Car.

3. Orient-Express Hiram Bingham

Trip: Departing from the ancient Incan capital of Cuzco, Peru, the route winds through the Andes and the Sacred Valley to the lofty ruins of Machu Picchu, discovered 100 years ago by Hiram Bingham, for whom the train is named. This one-day roundtrip takes in soaring peaks, steep canyons and the Urubamba River.

Onboard: Passengers revel in the retro-chic dining and bar/observation cars, modeled on ritzy 1920s Pullman carriages. The leisurely trip includes Andean-inspired cuisine—a three-course brunch on the way there and a four-course dinner on the return, with a Peruvian band serenading the bar car.

Don’t Miss: Thrilling Machu Picchu (tour included), along with high tea—really high—at the Sanctuary Lodge, overlooking the Incan citadel.

Insider Tip: The bartender will happily demonstrate how to mix an authentic Pisco Sour, a traditional Peruvian cocktail.

Want to visit more landmarks by rail? Discover the Grand Canyon.

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4. Maharajas’ Express

Trip: India’s new luxury train combines princely ease with modern engineering. Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, is on both seven- and eight-day itineraries. The latter links Delhi and Mumbai and features the forts and palaces of Rajasthan, with stops in such regal spots as Jodhpur, Jaipur and Udaipur.

Onboard: The train features 24-hour butler service to all cabins in the newly built, wood-paneled cars. Panoramic windows, LCD TVs, DVD players and Wi-Fi make for the ultimate in luxury.

Don’t Miss: Stops that include tiger spotting in Ranthambore National Park supply loads of local color.

Insider Tip: Take comfortable walking shoes and a sun hat for maximum enjoyment of daily off-train excursions.

5. The Blue Train

Trip: The 1,000-mile route between Cape Town and Pretoria, South Africa, crosses splendidly diverse countryside—mountains, expanses of grassland known as the veldt, the Karoo desert, sunflower farms and vineyards.

Onboard: Marked by its cars’ blue-and-white design, Africa’s premier train is, essentially, a rolling five-star hotel. Each passenger is assigned a butler. All suites have bathrooms with showers (some add that rail rarity: a roomy tub). Gourmet cuisine draws on South Africa’s bounty of seafood, game (like ostrich and impala) and fine wines. The Observation Car at the end has a huge picture window that shows the landscape unspooling like a vivid movie.

Don’t Miss: The attractions of sun-kissed Cape Town, among them Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens and Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.

Insider Tip: After touring Kimberley’s diamond mine, browse the exquisite jewelry—from South Africa’s best designers—in the train’s onboard boutique.

All Aboard

Contact your AAA Travel Advisor to plan your next railway excursion.

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