Train vacations don't have to be as flawed as Amtrak's northeast regional. In fact, the journey by rail can be one of the most efficient, adventurous, and luxurious parts of any honeymoon. Whether you choose a high-speed train through scenic European routes, a less-discovered itinerary that runs along the footsteps of the Andes Mountains, or a scenic jaunt through the Swiss and Italian Alps, there are few more unforgettable ways to get from one destination to the next on your honeymoon than aboard a romantic, throwback train.
"When considering a rail journey, it's important to think about what you want to take away from the experience," says Todd Powell, CEO of Vacations By Rail, a trusted train tour operator. "Believe it or not, there are trains that offer all-out luxury, incredible scenery, multi-cultural history, adventure, romance, or all of the above." No matter which you choose, take into account the following advice from Powell before you book:
Tip 1: First consider what type of honeymoon rail experience you want to have: you can opt for an itinerary with overnight travel (meaning you sleep on the train) or one in which you travel during the day and sleep in hotels at night. If you book a trip that only calls for daytime train travel, spring for a private cabin, so you and your spouse can have alone time away from the other passengers.
Tip 2: Keep your budget in mind; a rail vacation can range from $1,000 to $15,000 (or more) per person for a multi-night itinerary.
Tip 3: Pack light. There's limited space on the train, so don't load up with multiple duffle bags. And don’t forget to pack comfortable shoes for off-train excursions.
Tip 4: Drop a casual mention that it’s your honeymoon, and you'll likely get treated like royalty. Vacations By Rail, for example, offers a complimentary space-available room upgrade to all honeymooners.
Tip 5: Set up private car transfers to and from all train stations. Pre-arranging on-the-ground transport will save you the headaches that come with foreign-language barriers and arguing over who has to schlep the luggage.
Now, a few of our favorite honeymoon-worthy trains:
Belmond Andean Explorer, Peru
Belmond is one of the most historic and luxurious train operators, offering journeys on nearly every continent. This year marked the brand's first foray into South America with the launch of the Belmond Andean Explorer, Peru's first luxury sleeper train. Couples can book a one-night journey from Cisco to Puno, on Peru's famed Lake Titicaca, with an excursion through the scenic La Raya mountain range. Or, try the two-night voyage from Cusco to Arequipa, with a visit to the floating islands on Lake Titicaca and lunch on a private beach overlooking the glacial peaks of La Paz, Bolivia.
It may be hard to motivate for the outdoors, though, since cabins are outfitted with plush, neutral interiors and have large windows that perfectly frame the ever-changing scenery of snowcapped-mountains, pristine lakes, and landscapes dotted with herds of alpacas and llamas. At night, sip a pisco sour alongside mouthwatering dishes from Chef José Avillez, a veteran of Lima's famed Astrid & Gastón (don't miss the lime with melted chocolate and apple custard for dessert). And for those who want to learn the art of Peruvian ceviche, there's even an onboard cooking class.
Rocky Mountaineer, Canada
The Rocky Mountaineer has been operating seasonal journeys (from mid-April to mid-October) through some of the most iconic and scenic destinations in the Pacific Northwest since 1900. Four distinct itineraries take couples to such destinations as Seattle, Whistler, Vancouver, and Alberta's majestic Canadian Rockies. It's perfect for those who prefer daytime-only journeys and overnight hotel accommodations, plus gourmet dining: Rocky Mountaineer’s Michelin-trained chefs use locally sourced ingredients (Pacific salmon and berries from Aldergrove, British Columbia) for dishes served in a gorgeous dining room with panoramic windows (also a major plus: alcoholic beverages are included in the fare).
Belmond Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express, Italy and France
The world's most iconic train crisscrosses Western Europe, offering day journeys and overnights for 194 passengers. The two-night trip between Venice and Paris (available in both directions), however, is perhaps its most iconic route. Each cabin is an original 1920s model—outfitted with art-deco interiors that harken back to the glory days of train travel. Next March, the train will add three new Grand Suites, featuring a spacious bedroom, living area with a dining nook, and a private en-suite bathroom—topped off with complimentary caviar on arrival and free-flowing champagne throughout the journey.
Expect to pair that champagne with meals at the three restaurant cars—Etoile du Nord, Côte d’Azur, and L’Oriental—each with its own distinct culinary approach. And should you decide to extend your trip in Paris or Venice, no worries—it's easy to add a few nights at, say, the world-famous Belmond Hotel Cipriani, located on Giudecca Island, overlooking the Venetian canals.
Belmond Grand Hibernian, Ireland
At first glance, Ireland may not seem like the hottest honeymoon destination, but board the Belmond Grand Hibernian—which offers two-, four- and six-night journeys through Northern Ireland—and you'll find romance aplenty. Each itinerary begins and ends in Dublin and includes such adventures as boat trips on Lough Leane, tours of Ashford Castle and Blarney Castle and Gardens, a trip to Kylemore Abbey, and a walking tour of the city of Galway. Not only will you take in the pastoral beauty of Ireland, but you'll also get the throwback experience of travel on a traditionally-designed luxury rail car (think: white-glove service and all-inclusive food and drink). So go ahead and order that second Irish coffee—you deserve it.
Rovos Rail, Tanzania and South Africa
The 15-day journey from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to Cape Town, South Africa—passing through Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana—is one of the world's most famous train trips. Not only will you get to see the world-famous diamond town of Kimberley, but you'll also get two nights on safari in the Madikwe Game Reserve, see Victoria Falls, and pass through tunnels in Tanzania's Great Rift Valley and the Selous Game Reserve (the largest in Africa). Book a Royal Suite for your own private lounge area, ensuite bathroom, 24-hour room service, and more.
Golden Eagle Luxury Trains, Tibet and China
If you're looking for an epic honeymoon, it's hard to top this 12-night tour along the Golmud to Lhasa railway, 600 miles of track at an altitude of more than 13,000 feet, passing through the breathtaking Himalayan Mountains. The journey begins in Lhasa, the storied capital of Tibet, moving through the Qinghai Province (visit the Tibetan Buddhist monastery of Ta'er Si) and the Hexi Corridor (see the Westernmost fortress of the Great Wall) before crossing the Tangula Pass, the world's highest railway—at a staggering 16,640 feet above sea level (safe to say this train is not for the faint of heart).
Belmond Royal Scotsman, Scotland
Seeing your new husband in a skirt may not be #goals (or maybe it is), but we guarantee the two- to seven-night journey through Scotland's Grand West Highland—which includes a black-tie evening requiring male passengers to don traditional tartan kilts—won't disappoint (bonus: if you book with Vacations By Rail, they'll gift you a kilt so you can remember this Scottish experience forever). Couples looking for privacy will appreciate the 40-person maximum, while outdoorsy folks can get their kicks during activities such as clay pigeon shooting, highland safaris, fishing, rounds of golf, and tours of traditional whiskey distilleries, historic castles, and grand country estates.
Prestige Continental Express, Switzerland
The 10-day journey aboard the Prestige Continental Express (launching July 2018) isn't called the "Swiss Rail Spectacular" for no particular reason. Want breathtaking alpine views? A gala dinner in an opulent Orient-Express-style dining car? Even a cruise excursion on a historic paddle steamer? You get it all—and then some—on this unparalleled tour through Switzerland’s mountainous landscapes.