Train journeys – an unforgettable experience

What can beat that feeling of going to sleep with a Karoo moon in the sky outside, and waking up to a pot of fresh coffee, surrounded by Cape vineyards as the Blue Train makes her stately way into the Mother City?

In general, the romance of a South African rail journey never disappoints, wherever you travel in this beautiful country. Whether you’re continuing off on safari through the bushveld or traversing the Karoo desert, the luxury train journeys all deliver scenic beauty, dining-car pampering and the kind of exceptional service normally reserved for royalty. A popular way of integrating a train journey into your South African itinerary is to use rail to traverse the sector between Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Each train—and their range of routes—is different. Rovos Rail, for instance, is pure nostalgic elegance harking back to the 1930s. Royal suites take up half the carriages and are named after famous money-men of the British Colonial era. Tuck yourself away in your small but comfortable apartment, or sit in the observation car at the back of the train, and take high tea or sip a glass of bubbly as the lovely scenery unfolds outside the big windows.

The Shongololo Express is marketed as a “fully serviced travelling hotel” and their Safari Train offerings range from battlefield tours to hot air ballooning—with a score of other adventures in exotic places in between. The chefs offer South African menus that include Cape Dutch and Malay recipes as well as authentic African dishes. Meals are complemented by a selection of delightful and distinguished South African wines. It is the aim and the pleasure of every staff member on board to provide you with friendly and efficient service.

The Blue Train is undoubtedly one of the most luxurious trains in the world, and when you meet your personal on-board butler and experience the fine dining and superb service, you’ll know that you are in the ultimate “romantic holiday heaven.” The Blue Train traverses South Africa and its breath-taking scenery in a manner that befits the mystique that has grown around it. Kings and presidents have indulged on this magnificent, moving five-star “hotel-on-wheels”. From love-struck honeymooners to adulated celebrities. And even ordinary folk who romanticise about a life of spectacular luxury, a life that has seemed tantalisingly out of reach. Until now…

Who to contact

Rovos Rail

Tel: +27 12 315 8242

The Blue Train

Tel: +27 12 334 8459

Shongololo Express

Tel: +27 11 486 4357

How to get there

Rovos Rail departs from Arcadia Station in Pretoria. Most other trains depart from Johannesburg’s Park Station.

Tours to do

On its journey to Cape Town, Rovos Rail offers a 5km walk from a siding outside of Matjiesfontein into the historic village. It’s good to stretch your legs on this fairly gentle walk.

What to pack

For Rovos Rail and the Blue Train, gentlemen should pack a jacket and tie; ladies a smart-casual evening outfit.

Where to stay

The gracious, century-old St James Guesthouse in Kalk Bay, Cape Town, is a perfect place from which to explore the surrounding areas. In season, you can watch the Southern Right whales only metres from the shoreline.

Article courtesy of SA Tourism

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