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From the rhythmic hum of metal wheels on welded rails to ever-changing panoramas beyond the window, few journeys evoke the glamour and elegance of a bygone era as deftly as luxury train travel in Africa.
Trains remind us of the golden age of travel. Of journeys packed with nostalgia, charming comforts and a little old-world sparkle. And luxury train travel in South Africa, in particular, has seen something of a revival over the past two decades. Today, a few five-star options confidently rattle along tracks throughout the Cape Winelands, the beloved Karoo, game reserves and brilliant historical regions, making for an unprecedented travel experience like no other.
In an age where every aspect of our modern lives have been taken over by electronic devices and social media, what better way than to disconnect, relax, and rediscover a distant era of elegant travel aboard a vintage luxury train.
This celebrated style of travel can transport you to some of Africa’s most exciting destinations in unforgettable style, allowing you to relive the days of high tea, dressing up for dinner and watching the landscape gently unfold before you.
South Africa’s luxury train journeys are less frantic than flying; no bag drop, security, or waiting in an airport departure area, and with private suites onboard they’re also more efficient than driving the long distances.
With the following luxury rail operators, expect to travel in style and top-class comfort, allowing you to be well-rested and refreshed upon arrival.
Notorious for its elegance and extravagance, the grandeur of the Rovos Rail epitomises luxury train travel in Africa at its finest. Amble your way back towards the Victorian days with the help of vintage carriages and glamorous lounges finished with sleek wood-panelling and wingback chairs. Guests will also indulge in a first-class dining experience with excellent cuisine, in an amiable pre-1940s atmosphere.
The Rovos Rail experience has always been characterised by enjoying the journey rather than rushing to the destination, and each adventure submerges guests into an enchanting Edwardian-style fairytale. Trains travel blissfully along at no more than 60 km/h allowing guests to admire the scenery, observe birds, spot wildlife and take photographs. There is an absence of radios and televisions and the use of technological devices is confined to the privacy of guests’ suites.
The most frequented route is between Pretoria and Cape Town. This 1,600-kilometre meander journeys through the grasslands of the Highveld to the barrenness of the Great Karoo; trundling through spectacular mountain ranges and scenic winelands, before ending off in South Africa’s Mother City.
Other varying, multiple-day itineraries venture as far as Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Swakopmund in Namibia. But the equally popular three-night adventure to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe is another particularly stellar option. Departing from Pretoria, the trip winds its way through Warmbaths and Nylstroom, before crossing the Tropic of Capricorn en route to the border with Zimbabwe. Eventually traversing Hwange National Park, a rich and diverse wildlife sanctuary where animals can be spotted from the train and a game drive excursion is enjoyed. Before the sojourn ends at the incomparable Victoria Falls on the mighty Zambezi River. The surrounding areas offer travellers many recreational opportunities including cruises, whitewater rafting as well as superb game viewing and photo safaris.
Unhurried and untroubled, these classic railway journeys radiate romance, elegance and grandeur for all who step aboard.
An icon of South African travel, The Blue Train counts celebrities and presidents among its clientele, combining world-class accommodation and dining with the ever-changing backdrop of the South African landscape. Routes run from Pretoria to Cape Town and Pretoria to Hoedspruit.
The Blue Train route between Pretoria and Cape Town is a two-night journey that encompasses 1,600 kilometres, through some of the most diverse and spectacular scenery offered by the African sub-continent. Along the way, there’s a stopover in Kimberley to visit the Big Hole and the mining museum. It’s ostensibly the best way to make the trip to Cape Town all the more inspiring and luxurious.
The Blue Train journey between Pretoria and Hoedspruit takes 19 hours, during which guests experience the full Blue Train offering, including an overnight in one of the train's beautifully appointed suites, with a gourmet dinner and a sumptuous breakfast served before arrival. And it is the perfect way to get to your dream safari in the Kruger.
The two trainsets each include two lounge cars, dining cars and an observation car, and some of the en-suite cabins have the rare facility of a full-sized bath. Above all else, however, personal service and attention to detail is what makes The Blue Train a perfect five-star option. Offering guests a lavish experience that incorporates fine-dining gastronomy with deluxe suites, finished with touches of gold and marble as well as a personal butler to tend to your every need.
In an era when time is a luxury, train travel exists to indulge those wishing to see the South African countryside in slow-moving style.
If the comfort and safety of a ‘travelling hotel’ appeals to you, then book your truly unique trip-of-a-lifetime aboard a luxury train with one of our Travel Experts today.
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