The golden age of railroad travel was a time of luxury carriages, fine dining and uniformed waiters – it was the era of the steam engine, and rail travel bywords were elegance, refinement, sophistication. With today’s 24/7 lifestyle, hectic work schedules and non-stop technological communication, it can be easy to think of this as a thing of the past; a relic made inaccessible by its incompatibility with our fast-paced world. Thankfully, things have changed. Rail Tours are back in fashion, and what’s more, many rail tour operators have redesigned their service to offer all the luxury elements of that golden age, but with a laid-back, modern-day feel to make sure you feel right at home. It’s a greener way to travel, too, and you may be surprised at how different the world looks from a train carriage.
Two of the world’s most famous sights – the Grand Canyon and Canada’s Rocky Mountains – are featured on rail tours by several rail tour operators. The Grand Canyon can be reached either from Williams, Arizona, with 60 miles of pristine forest and mountain lands, or from the glittering city of Las Vegas, across the Nevada desert. Some tours offer the chance of an overnight stop-off inside the Grand Canyon National Park, whilst others offer a day’s leisure time at the Grand Canyon itself. While you’re there, why not try the Skywalk, 4,000 feet over the Colorado River. This glass-bottomed cantilever observation deck spans 70 feet over the canyon’s rim. From here, you can enjoy the beauty of the canyon’s intricate network of mesas, cliffs and gorges and the gorgeous colours of the rock, that seem to change as the light does. Take your time and enjoy the view, or, if you want to get more in, why not take a guided coach tour of the South Rim?
Easy travel by rail means that even travel destinations that might seem tricky or inaccessible are now easy to visit. A holiday in the Rocky Mountains doesn’t necessarily mean days on end hiking. With tours designed around particular themes, you can get the best out of this beautiful corner of the world without the extra legwork (and of course, if you do feel more adventurous, there’s always down time to spend however you would like, whether that be bird-watching or flightseeing). You can go on a leaf tour in autumn, with a focus on the flora and fauna of the eco-rich woodland of the Rockies, or choose a highlights tour, with stop-offs in popular hotspots including historic Vancouver, the ranchlands of Banff, and picture-perfect Lake Louise.
With an all-inclusive rail tour package, you don’t have to worry about any of the details. Meals are available on board, with the option of wandering into the city stop-offs to find the best restaurants and sights yourself. With a number of carriages to choose from, you have the option of going for the full first-class experience, with fine dining and champagne, and even (if you manage to nab one) views out of the spectacular glass domes offered by some rail tour operators, or you can choose simply to sit back in a quiet carriage, drink in hand, and enjoy the view. It’s your choice, and your holiday.
Copyright © 2011 Iain Miller