Top 10 scenic journeys
By Martha Hales
There’s something magical about travelling by train or by boat in far flung corners of the world, watching the unfolding wonder of your chosen landscapes as you glide by in comfort. We offer trips that include some of the world’s most scenic and iconic journeys, with all the details and reservations taken care of so you can sit back, relax and enjoy the view. We’ve chosen ten of our favourite scenic journeys to inspire you, but if you have something else in mind in one of the destinations we cover, our local experts can usually organise an itinerary to suit.
China boasts some epic scenery, and lays claim to some of the most jaw-dropping journeys anywhere. Travelling by train is a great way to see some of China’s lovely landscapes up close, so consider touring the southeast by train including some of the most scenic rail journeys in the country. The stretch between Wuyishan and Huangshan is known for its stunning mountain views, passing Mount Wuyi and the Yellow mountain, two of the most revered and beautiful peaks in the whole country. You may recognise the iconic peaks of Huangshan as it is traditionally featured in many ancient Chinese paintings, piercing its famous sea of clouds.
The train journey from Nanu Oya to Ella - or the longer version from Kandy - is ranked at one of the world’s most scenic. Winding up into the central highlands of Sri Lanka the route takes you through incredibly lush hillsides cloaked with vegetation or the pillowy green ranks of tea plantations. Stopping regularly at hill villages, the journey also showcases picturesque bridges, waterfalls, street scenes and even groups of local children who come to see the trains and wave at the passengers.
The vast expanse of Russia seems huge and unknowable, but you can gain an insight into the differences between the regions by traversing the nation on the renowned Trans Siberian Railway, one of the most iconic journeys on the planet. Beginning in Moscow after you’ve had some time to explore the splendour of the capital, this adventure could be a gruelling one, but our handpicked local experts have devised an itinerary which breaks up the trip into manageable sections with plenty of time for sightseeing in the most interesting and scenic areas.
What better way to see the wonders of Vietnam than from the deck of a traditionally styled yet luxurious river boat? Our Cruising northern Vietnam itinerary takes you through some of the most delightful scenery in the country, beginning with a thorough exploration of Halong bay’s highlights followed by a journey along the Kinh Thay river, stopping to discover local villages and the bustling city of Hanoi with its museums, fine food and coffee culture. The cruise also takes you into the highlands of Vietnam where excursions into the stunning rice terraces and minority villages are a highlight.
The lush jungles of Borneo are teeming with life - an immense variety of insects, birds, reptiles and mammals are all here, fluttering and crawling through the equally abundant plant life. One of the best ways to get deep into the protected rainforests is by boat, and with a couple of days cruising the Kinabatangan river you will certainly experience the natural wonders of Borneo up close. From day cruises on the lookout for wild orangutans and pygmy elephants, to night cruises lit up by the fireflies, you will experience the wildlife of the Kinabatangan River in comfort.
Get off the beaten track in this captivating West African nation by cruising the Senegal river, an itinerary offering a scenic exploration of this major African waterway. Start your trip with some time in Dakar, an appealing blend of history and more modern cultural forces such as exciting music and tempting cuisine, before moving on to Saint Louis to embark on your cruise. The route includes the globally important Djoudj bird sanctuary, mango plantations, the Wolof village of Dagana and the Toucouleur villages which are the oldest in the river basin, with some of the mud-built dwellings dating back as far as the 13th century.
Enjoy the experience of watching the scenery of Assam in India’s far north east glide by as you cruise the Brahmaputra river looking out for groups of rhino, elephant and buffalo in the wilds of the Kaziranga National Park, or birdwatching along the river banks - the area is known for its raptors and wetland birds. Visit riverside villages, tea plantations and nature reserves along the way, with plenty of stops to punctuate the cruise. Discover the intriguing culture of Assam on an exploration of Majuli island, where faith, the arts and artisan traditions combine to make this a cultural treasure trove and a brilliant place to seek out local handicrafts as souvenirs.
From the barren beauty of the Gobi desert in China and the high altitude meadows of the Kyrgyz lakes, this Silk Route journey unveils impressive scenery at every turn. With certain sections travelled by rail, others by air or road, this has to be one of the world’s most amazing routes to follow. Cross from Kashgar’s bustling market into the Tian Shan mountains through the Torugart Pass and on into Kyrgyzstan, before arriving in Uzbekistan and another scenic train journey from Tashkent to Samarkand, the jewel of the Silk Road and home to many architectural marvels.
A side of Africa that many have never dreamed of, the Quirimba archipelago is a string of stunning white sand islands strung alongside the northernmost coast of Mozambique. A wonderful idea for discovering these hidden gems is an island hopping cruise through the stunning Indian Ocean on a traditional dhow, from which you can take your pick from a number of activities. Go birding in the mangroves; embark on snorkelling adventures to explore glorious underwater reefs and plentiful fish; try sea kayaking in the calm shallows; or fishing from the deck.
A classic South American experience by rail is the Tren Crucero, winding its way from the plains up to the highlands in stately style, pulled on some stretches by steam engines. The route ascends to an ear popping 3,600 metres altitude in around 450 kilometres, and offers a leisurely way to experience Ecuador’s extreme contrasts of vegetation and landscape as you climb. Our local partners have put together an itinerary which includes four days travelling on the Tren Crucero - the Train to the Clouds - with comfortable overnights in towns served by the railway. Highlights include the Devil’s Nose switchback climb, the scenery of the Chanchan canyon, indigenous communities and the majestic Avenue of Volcanoes.
Make it happen
It’s a thrill to navigate the transport system of a distant nation and successfully get yourself from A to B, but if your idea of a holiday doesn’t involve that kind of stress then why not let our trusted local operators take the strain? Click on the links above to find out more about these journeys, and don’t forget, our partners can tailor any itinerary to suit your needs, so get in touch to let them know your requirements. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office please call +44 (0)117 325 7898.