The Return of the Luxury Train: Bookmark These Top 5 Hotels-On-Wheels To Experience A Timeless Holiday Like No Other

These five iconic luxury trains could be appraised as an enduring symbol of luxury and mark a return to the rails to explore Europe, Africa, and Asia from a new vantage point.

  • 6 Jun '24
  • 12:53 pm by Satarupa Datta

The definition of luxury has taken manifold interpretations in the 21st century. With increasing concern about leaving a carbon footprint through air travel, conscientious travellers are turning to luxury train journeys and chugging away to slow travel. The charm of luxury train journeys still breathes within its carriages replete with vintage charm and innate opulence. Luxury lovers could never draw away from a luxury carriage, glittering with the art déco champagne bars, black-tie dinners, and cocktails by the piano that lead to interesting conversations, while looking out onto the stunning landscapes 


Such scenes are reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s classic film, “Murder on the Orient Express”, Harry Potter’s Jacobite steam train more famously known as the “Hogwarts Express” which rattles its way along the Scottish Highlands over the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct. Besides feeling like being part of an elite club, luxe trains take you beyond cities and away into high-mountain passes, idyllic English villages, scenic winelands, and river valleys. 21st-century luxury equates to authenticity that kindles nostalgia and emotion within us. With this thought, embrace the golden era of luxury train journeys with DP’s selection of the finest train expeditions.​​ 



Also read: Celebrated Architect Ed Tuttle Reimagines Amanbagh As His Contemporary Architectural Homage To Mughal India

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The ‘Venice Grand Suite is filled with rich marquetry and inlay furniture, rich silk fabrics, a marble-ensuite bath and a plush bar lounge. (Image Credit: Venice Simplon Orient Express – A Belmond Train).


  1.   The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express – This Belmond Train Is A Work Of Art in Motion

It’s impressive how Venice Simplon-Orient-Express has hosted many eminent guests throughout its history, from Hollywood celebrities to authors, ambassadors, and royals. It marked the beginning of a new era of travel known as the Golden Age of the 1920s. Once aboard, guests are sheltered under the gilded frame of art déco furnishings, marquetry wood design, and legendary artefacts. The restored suites designed by Wimberly Interiors Studio London take luxury décor to new heights. They come in three categories – grand suites, suites, and cabins. 


Drawing inspiration from enigmatic European cities like Paris, Venice, Istanbul, Vienna, Prague, and Budapest–the six grand suite designs embrace art déco indulgence with gusto. Their showstopper is the newest sleeper carriage titled ‘L’Observatoire’ imagined by world-acclaimed French artist Jean-René, famously known as JR. This is a carriage suite like none before, equipped with a bedroom, an ensuite bathroom, a wardrobe, a reclining daybed, a lounge area, a library with book selections by French publisher Gallimard, and an intriguing tea room with a fireplace.

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Unwind at the ‘Etoile du Nord Restaurant Car’ with Chef’s special table d’hôte fares and get ready to be swept up in endless moments of scenic views. (Image Credit: Venice Simplon Orient Express – A Belmond Train).


Expect breakfast in bed or move to the dining car to kick start a gastronomic journey with Chef Jean Imbert who delivers the menu with charm. Additionally, the train features three dining cars – ‘Etoile du Nord,’ ‘Cote d’Azur,’ and ‘L’Oriental.’ At sundown, if your heart desires negronis, martinis, spritzes, and sours–the bartender onboard is available to mix the finest of spirits to the tunes of the resident pianist at the bar car. This is not all, as days fall to inky nights, live entertainment, and fresh rounds of cocktails add to nights of revelry. The unique experience of combining train journeys with ultra-luxury stays at a Belmond Hotel makes the journey memorably luxurious. With 63 routes available on the Venice Simplon Orient Express to choose from, travellers are spoilt for choice. 


#DP loves Hotel Cipriani in Venice, a Belmond Hotel for its gamut of glamourous offerings from the overnight London to Venice train journey. Book your journey here 

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The all-carpeted deluxe suite features a series of picture windows framing the unseen corners of South Africa.
( Image Credit: Rovos Rail)



  1.     Rovos Rail Is A Bespoke Train Safari Across South Africa

Rovos Rail has been a game-changer since it started in 1986 with the idea of running vintage carriages across the nature-rich, wild corners of South Africa. The founder CEO Rohan Vos, a locomotive expert, wanted to save the steam engines from getting phased out by modern diesel trains. Hence Rovos Rail was born—a cross between a luxury hotel and a sleeper vintage train. Some dream of the big five safari experiences in South Africa, the more adventurous ones would opt for the red dune safaris of Namibia in search of the black-maned lions, while culturists look for renowned wine chateaus in the region.  The Rovos Journeys offer a range of experiences that would stun any avid traveller by taking them closer to South African wilds and its denizens that call it home. Each of its eleven journeys comes with off-train excursions combining wildlife safari, cultural, and historical outings. 

The observation lounge is an ideal venue for sundown viewing and large picture windows offer a closer look at the untamed beauty of South Africa. (Image Credit: Rovos Rail)


Rovos Journeys offers luxurious train accommodations in three unique suite categories – ‘Deluxe Suites,’ ‘Royal Suites,’ and ‘Pullman Suites.’ The most stunning of them is the ‘Royal Suite’, sprawling across half the train carriage, it comes with an en-suite Victorian-style bath, a private lounge, a bar fridge, and a private butler to attend to one’s needs. In addition to the luxurious accommodation carriages, this train offers dining cars, a lounge car, a small gift shop, a smoking lounge, and an observation car with an open-air deck balcony. From the lush tropical east coast of South Africa to the stoic beauty of Namibia, passengers can take in all the sights in style. Rovos prides itself in its golden-era, sit-down dinners among neatly arranged bone china, glassware, crisp linen,  and silverware where lunch would mean chic casual dressing, dinners call for black gowns and suites. The menu features a blend of ‘glocal’ and traditional dishes, offering the highest quality food paired with the finest South African wines. 


#DP loves the Champagne Sports Resort in the picturesque Central Drakensberg, part of the 9-night Golf Safari itinerary of Rovos Train Journeys. Book your journey here



Also read: 5-Luxe Airbnbs To Treat Yourself To Around Venice: Gorgeous Palazzo Suites To Whimsical-Chic Escapes

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The deluxe cabin sofas go for a stylish transformation into a double bed at nighttime. The wood slat ceiling and brass details ooze tones of riches to the space. ( Image Credit: La Dolce Vita Orient Express)


  1.    The La Dolce Vita Orient Express Charts A Fresh And Unhurried Italian Odyssey

Most travellers need to know that besides art, wine, and photogenic countryside vistas, Italy is home to a chain of mountain towns and idyllic coastal cities steeped in Renaissance treasures and cultures that have evolved in isolation. For luxury lovers who desire to find their own Italy, away from the crowd, La Orient Express La Dolce Vita‘s 2024 new vintage-style train will take you there with its eight curated itineraries. Designed by the architect firm Dimorestudio, it sublimates the 60s mid-century modern design ethos into its cabins and suites resulting in an art nouveau-steeped interior in the twelve deluxe wood-lined cabins and eighteen plush master suites. Both feature double beds, a sofa, a coffee table and a private bathroom. All cabins have in-room service. The deluxe cabins and master suites feature rich earthy tones of orange and terracotta, as well as purple– complemented by elegant brass accents.

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The lounge bar is designed to encourage interaction and socializing with a fluid layout. (Image Credit: La Dolce Vita Orient Express)


The sweet melodies of Italian music capture the taste of La Dolce Vita amid the refinements of the fine linens, delicate bone china and vintage silver tablescape of the restaurant car where the menu triumphs. It features a carefully chosen array of seasonal delicacies, starring classics that showcase the unique flavours of the regions the trains traverse. The most prominent feature of the bar is the curved lounge sofa that complements the refined colour scheme of beige, off-white, and camel within the space. Experience the allure of Italian drinking etiquettes while indulging in aperitifs alongside antipasti buffets. Delight in after-dinner cocktails and savour the finest wines of Tuscany, all while enjoying live music.


Those uninitiated should know that this train runs in partnership between the French hotel group Accor and the Italian luxury hospitality group Arsenale S.P.A and shouldn’t be mistaken with Venice Simplon-Orient-Express by Belmond which is part of LVMH


#DP loves the stunning Santavenere hotel in Maratea, Sicily where one partakes a cooking masterclass, part of the 2-night Sicily Itinerary. Book your journey here

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The walls, woodwork and furnishings of the ‘Presidential Suite’ take the lead with rich hues of brown and its sophistication with textures add to the luxury. ( Image Credit: Golden Eagle)


  1.     The Deccan Odyssey By Golden Eagle Promises To Introduce An Incredible India 

The Deccan Odyssey has indeed kicked off in India with routes that traverse beyond the royal forts and palaces of Rajasthan. Run independently by the Golden Eagle Luxury Train franchise, its journeys are designed to bring out the best of India. This train looks tailor-made for modern-day royalty with its palatial decor and opulence. The accommodation clubs are split into two categories: ‘Deluxe Cabins’ and ‘Presidential Suites.’ One can expect to be transported within the luxurious cloisters of  Indian royal palaces with elegantly designed interiors that harness the regal aura of a bygone era with contemporary design. The extravagant presidential suite features an elegant double bedroom that opens to a private lounge area with a writer’s desk. The other add-ons include a private guide and chauffeured car services during off-train jaunts included in the itinerary.

The rich decor and impeccable services elevate the bar experience to that of the Luxe bars of the regal Indian palaces. ( Image Credit: Golden Odyssey )


The train has two multi-cuisine restaurants, a bar, a lounge, and a reception car. Keeping luxury and leisure in mind, a prerequisite for luxury hospitality, Deccan Odyssey includes a dedicated spa unit for ayurvedic massages, a gym, and a salon onboard. The reception car is well equipped with a library, reading area, and a convention hall for business meetings. Discover the true essence of India through Deccan Odyssey’s carefully selected journeys, ranging from the vibrant historic cities of the north like Delhi, Agra, and Fatehpur Sikri, to the culturally rich cities of Kolkata and Varanasi, and the former summer retreat of the British Raj like Darjeeling. 


#DP loves the 2-night luxe stay inclusion at Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Hotel which is one of the world’s most iconic hotels, a highlight in the Mumbai – Kolkata itinerary. Book your journey here



Also read: 5-Luxe Floating Restaurants Explore Stylish Tropical And Bohemian Dining On Water

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The super deluxe cabins look compact operating in dual functions featuring comfortable daytime seating that rolls out as a double bed at night. ( Image Credit: Golden Eagle Danube Express)


  1.     Golden Eagle Danube Is Your Luxe Travel Ticket To Central And East Europe

Cities like Vienna, Budapest, Munich, Berlin, and Salzburg are steeped with Baroque streetscapes and imperial palaces that set the stage for artistic and musical masterpieces alongside its coffee-house culture and vibrant epicurean and design scenes. Meanwhile, Switzerland calls for heart-racing Alpine pursuits and much more. The Golden Eagle Danube offers a luxurious hotel-on-wheels experience, taking you to Europe’s most spectacular cities with off-train stays at A-list hotels in Europe. Golden Eagle Danube Express features twelve super deluxe cabins and five deluxe ensuite cabins. Indulge in the refined interiors of the super deluxe with a full-length sofa and two armchairs. Come evening it transforms into a comfortable double bed. Both cabins feature a large double wardrobe with excellent storage space, individually controlled air-conditioning, lighting with dimmer switches, individual reading lights, in-cabin Wi-Fi, and an ensuite bath.

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The meal hours at Golden Eagle Danube Express are enjoyed with Europe’s best produce among muted shades of green, beige, and crisp linen tables alongside an exquisite collection of cart glasses and bone china. (Image Credit: Golden Eagle Danube Express)


At Golden Eagle Danube, a bar car and two onboard dining rooms are like a delightful private venue at an elite club. Besides hosting world-class dinners and cocktail hours, there are various infotainments and engaging talks by experts who offer engaging discussions on local history and culture, opening a window into each euro city’s culture. 


#DP loves the art nouveau gilded Four Seasons Gresham Palace stay in Budapest, a part of the ‘Grand Alpine Express’ journey. Book your journey here.


Some of these carriages have been lovingly restored to their former glory, while others are newly crafted to offer an adventure of a lifetime. You may even discover the writer, photographer, or curious traveller inside you. There is no denying that this glamorous old-world way of traversing to one’s bucket-list destinations can’t be experienced any other way.