Trains are one of the best ways to get around in the summer months, especially if you’re looking for a way to slow down and take it all in. But beyond skipping the road-trip traffic jams and long TSA lines, these scenic train rides also provide access to some of the world’s most beautiful views—often in places where cars can’t go. So, whether you’d like to ride the rails along Japan’s coastline or high up into the Canadian Rockies, here are our favorite trains around the world to take this summer.
Rocky MountaineerRoute: Vancouver to Jasper or Banff, Canada
Starting in Vancouver, British Columbia, the luxurious Rocky Mountaineer offers multiple routes through the Canadian Rockies—and western Canada’s most spectacular scenery. The most popular one is The First Passage to the West, which takes passengers east to Kamloops up to Lake Louise and over to Banff, or you can go north to Jasper from Kamloops on the Journey Through the Clouds passage. To travel even farther north, the Rainforest to Gold Rush route takes passengers up through Whistler and into gold rush country in Quesnel before ending the train ride in Jasper. All packages include seats in a panoramic dome car and range from trips as short as two days to multi-week journeys with longer layovers in national parks along the way.Book Now: From $1,247 all-inclusive, rockymountaineer.com
Flam RailwayRoute: Flam to Myrdal, NorwayAfter boarding this train at sea level near the Sognefjord in the village of Flam in southwest Norway, you’ll climb more than 2,800 feet in an hour to the Myrdal station in the mountains. Along the way, you’ll pass by numerous waterfalls and mountain towns and through a total of 20 tunnels. In the summer, trains depart 10 times per day from each station and tickets are sold for round-trip journeys (but keep in mind that the Myrdal station also connects to the Bergen-Oslo train line, if you’d like to continue to one of those cities).Book Now: From NOK440 (US$50) round-trip, visitflam.com
The Gono LineRoute: Aomori to Akita, JapanThe JR East Japan’s Gono Line is a local railway that runs along the northwestern coast of Japan’s main island with views of the Sea of Japan on one side and the forested mountains of the Shirakami-Sanchi UNESCO World Heritage site on the other. Be sure to take one of the popular Resort Shirakami tourist trains that have snack bars and live music performances on board to go along with the striking views. The entire journey takes a little over five hours, but it includes short stops for sightseeing along the way.Book Now: $182 for a five-day pass, eastjapanrail.com
White Pass and Yukon RailroadRoute:Skagway, Alaska to Carcross, YukonConstruction on this narrow gauge railway started in 1898 to take ore from the mines beyond the summit of White Pass down to sea level in Skagway during the Klondike Gold Rush. Reopened in 1988 as a tourist train, the White Pass and Yukon Railroad operates shorter excursions today up to the summit as well as eight-hour day trips that go all the way over the border to Carcross in Yukon, Canada (remember to bring your passport!). Trains run from late spring until early fall, but summer is when the area’s natural beauty is at its best and the days are the longest.Book Now: From $129 round-trip, wpyr.com
The JacobiteRoute:Fort William to Mallaig, ScotlandYou may recognize it as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter movies, but the Jacobite has been operating in the Scottish highlands long before J.K. Rowling wrote the books. After closing for winter, the Jacobite runs this year from April 22 until October 25, 2019. While this train ride is beautiful in the fall, too, summer is when the surrounding Highland hills along the route turn bright green and there’s an extra afternoon service added.
Book Now:From £37.75 (US$48) round-trip, westcoastrailways.co.uk
Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge RailroadRoute: Durango to Silverton, ColoradoCompleted in 1882, this historic train was originally built to bring gold and silver out of Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. But passengers were quick to catch on to the beautiful views the train offered—views that remain unaccessible by cars today. Now solely a tourist train, vintage steam locomotives operate on the tracks year round, but they only take the full round-trip journey to the mining town of Silverton from Durango between May and October, making summer the best time to visit.Book Now:From $94 round-trip, durangotrain.com
Schynige Platte Railway
Route:Wilderswil to Schynige Platte, SwitzerlandSnow lasts late into the season in the Swiss Alps, so this train that takes travelers from the town of Wilderswil near Interlaken up to the Schynige Platte viewpoint only operates from June 8 to October 27, 2019. After the 52-minute train ride up the mountain is complete, you can explore the nearly 700 native plant species in the Botanical Alpine Garden while enjoying views of the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau mountains. (Eurail pass holders are eligible to receive discounts on this railway.)