Like air travel, train travel is less glamorous than it once was. But it remains a far less stressful mode of transportation. As a result, passengers are more likely to reach out and connect with other passengers. It's safe to say that getting hit on by an attractive stranger on a railway car slipping through a spectacular foreign landscape is preferable to getting propositioned at 32,000 feet while stuffed into economy class en route to Cleveland. Even couples traveling by train may be brought closer together instead of bickering all the way from check-in to baggage claim. It's just different.
In celebration of rail travel's amorous appeal, we've rounded up six of the world's most romantic train journeys. While it's not out of the question to find romance on your run-of-the-mill Amtrak ride, our picks are mostly, though not entirely, scenic and touristic affairs that come with sizeable price tags. They're ideal for newlyweds or established couples celebrating a milestone, seeking an escape or simply looking to rekindle a neglected flame.
Is there a specific train journey that you and your beloved found to be particularly invigorating in the romance department? Tell us about it in the comments section.
Now, all aboard the love train...
Belmond Hiram Bingham
Photo: Adrian Houston/Belmond
We wouldn't go so far as to refer to Machu Picchu as Niagara Falls for Millennials, but it has garnered a reputation in recent years as a (sometimes overcrowded) hotspot for honeymooners and adventure-seeking lovebirds – not to mention nude selfie enthusiasts, though that's another story. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, this ancient Incan city rises nearly 8,000 feet above sea level in Peru’s Andes Mountains. The vistas — and climbs — can be every bit as breathtaking as love's first blush.
For those who would rather not hoof it up the Inca Trail, the only way to access Machu Picchu is by train. A handful of rail services will take you there, but the Belmond Hiram Bingham is a top choice among travel aficionados. The exclusive train service is named for the Yale professor/explorer-turned-United States Senator who put the forgotten city (back) on the map. It’s been ranked by numerous publications as one of the most spectacular rail journeys in the world.
The train departs from Poroy station in the historic Andean city of Cusco and whisks passengers to Machu Picchu in cars done up like classic 1920s Pullman carriages. Cozy up with your companion, sip a pisco sour and enjoy the four-hour picture show staged by the landscape unfolding outside the window.
Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacífico
Photo: Justin Vidamo/Flickr
If you require white glove service and fine dining in order to properly canoodle on a railway car, then Mexico's famed Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacífico, or Chihuahua-Pacific Railway, may not be for you. But if viewing some of Mother Nature's most dramatic handiwork for more than 15 hours is enough to get your motor running, than, by all means, climb aboard.
Connecting the desert city of Chihuahua in northwestern Mexico to the bustling port of Los Mochis on the Gulf of California, the railway, also known as El Chepe, is a no-frills, tourist-packed haul. But what a glorious haul it is. The main attraction is Las Barrancas del Cobre, or Copper Canyon. It's a jaw-dropping network of canyons that’s deeper and more expansive than the Grand Canyon.
The train stops at a handful of detour-worthy destinations over its 405-mile journey, including Creel and Cerocahui. But it takes an extended breather at the Divisadero, aka the Continental Divide. It's an ideal place to stretch your legs and pose for photos with su amante if there ever was one.
Feel free to bring a blanket for cuddling as both of El Chepe's daily first-class express and local economy trains feature reclining seats and air conditioning.
Grand Canyon Railway
Photo: Xanterra Parks & Resorts
While most crown jewels of the National Park Service boast their own uniquely amorous appeal, none quite stir the imagination – and perhaps the libido – like Grand Canyon National Park. Add a historic railway to the mix and the romance quotient is grander still.
A journey on the Grand Canyon Railway is relatively short, a quickie compared to other journeys on this list. The trip from Williams, Arizona, to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park and back spans 130 miles and is covered in two hours, though various packages allow travelers to extend their escapes. As for the train trip, we suggest that those with romance on their minds splurge and opt for either Luxury Dome or Luxury Parlor class. While the views from any of the railway's six service classes are nothing short of spectacular, the luxury classes offer special touches (sparkling wine toasts!) and a more subdued atmosphere (no passengers under 15) ideal for honeymooners, anniversary celebrators, vow renewers and other PDA-prone passengers.
Napa Valley Wine Train
Photo: Andrew Zarivny/Shutterstock
For scenic wining and gourmet dining with that special someone, you can't top this three-hour excursion through the heart of California's Napa Valley.
The Napa Valley Wine Train has been carrying (slightly inebriated) passengers from the city of Napa to the village of St. Helena and back on twice-daily lunch and dinner trips since 1989. Executive chef Kelly Macdonald currently oversees the railcar kitchen, where he emphasizes locally and sustainably sourced ingredients. For those with the grape on the brain, the railway hosts a Vitner Series in which red, white, and bubbly from local vineyards flows a bit more freely than on regularly scheduled lunch and dinner trips. Suggested wine pairings are offered for each course. (Worth noting: passengers are welcome to bring and enjoy their own bottles of vino, subject to a corkage fee.) Also popular are the Napa Valley Wine Train's winery tour packages, monthly Murder Mystery shows and Moonlight Escape excursions.
Rocky Mountaineer: Journey through the Clouds
Photo: Rocky Mountaineer
In Canada, enchanted land of super-nice people and stunning train rides, lauded tour company Rocky Mountaineer offers lovebirds epic railway journeys across the Pacific Northwest and Canadian Rockies.
Rocky Mountaineer is the largest privately owned passenger rail service in North America. As people who have experienced one could probably tell you, a journey along one of the company's five distinctive routes is as "life-changing" as described. It's difficult to recommend just one of the single- and multi-night trips. But Journey Through the Clouds, which winds through a variety of stirring landscapes (valleys! mountains! glaciers! waterfalls!) from Vancouver to Jasper via Kamloops, is perhaps the most heavenly. Passengers looking to be pampered silly should opt for the GoldLeaf service class. Gourmet meals are presented in an exclusive dining room, and serious vista-gawking sessions take place in a luxurious glass-domed coach with full-length windows. Journey Through the Clouds is sure to put you and your special someone on a cloud of your own.
Venice-Simplon Orient Express
Phto: Mikio Miura/Belmond
To be clear, the mega-swank Venice-Simplon Orient Express isn't the Orient Express, That famed Paris to Istanbul route (drastically shortened from Paris to Vienna and eventually, Strasbourg to Vienna in its final years) ceased to exist in 2009. But it evokes much of the same glamour, romance and intrigue.
Luxury hotelier/train operator Belmond tries hard to recall that golden age of European rail travel, offering theatrical white-glove service, five-star cuisine and lovingly restored vintage carriages, Passengers play their part as well. During a trip from London to Venice and points beyond, you might encounter the following: painfully forced "Continental" accents, vintage Louis Vuitton steam trunks, well-heeled hipsters with Hercule Poirot mustaches, and pretty ladies staring out windows while sipping champagne from the tastefully appointed cabins. A spot aboard this luxury-cruise-on-wheels – daytime dress code: "smart-casual" – doesn't come cheap. But for those willing to leave their jeans at home and splurge on an exceedingly romantic experience that explores the intersection between high-end tourism and playing dress-up, the Venice-Simplon Orient Express awaits.
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