When it comes to iconic overland train journeys the Trans-Siberian must be the most renowned as it's the longest continual service in the world. If you're looking for scenery then the Glacier Express from Zermatt to St Moritz in Switzerland is hard to beat, as for a cultural experience the Trans-Mongolian is second to none.
All these routes can be booked through travel agents who specialise in overland tours but you can easily book these routes and others on your own often saving yourself a lot of money. You can search the plan a journey database on our site to see what other people thought of certain routes and how much their trip cost them.
If you're going to book train tickets yourself substantial savings can often be made by booking in advance, we have provided a brief list of English speaking sites which provide on-line booking systems for different parts of the world.
If you are looking to book European train tickets you can do this via the RailEurope inter-active booking system on the right. This is the most comprehensive central European train booking system for cross border trains covering over 30,000 destinations.
It is also worth noting that there are some advertising links on the right hand side of this page which feature some of the best European train deals currently available.
The Trans-Siberian train services transport passengers from Moscow to the Pacific city of Vladivostok covering over 6,000km and passing through 7 time zones in 7 days. From Moscow you can continue onto St.Petersburg by train. This journey is the ultimate meet-the-people experience, often over a shot of Vodka. How much you meet other passengers often depends on which class you travel in. For first class passengers you can get a spacious two birth private cabin, second class cabins are the same size but accommodate 4 people, while 3rd class is often an open carriage shared with about 30 other people. All the trains have a buffet cart but the standard of trains varies greatly, the general rule is to go for trains with single digit numbers, trains with three digit numbers are of a poorer standard and are notoriously slow.
The Trans-Mongolian train covers the same ground as the Trans-Siberian train from Moscow until you get to Ulan Ude in central Russia where the train heads off South to Mongolia and China. This adds a whole new set of experiences not just the massive change in cultures but also the immigration check points and the changing of the wheels on the train as you enter China! This route not only takes you through Siberia but also the Mongolian Stepps, the Gobi desert and you may even get a glimpse of the Great Wall of China before arriving in Beijing.
Step back in time and travel in classic British style from London Euston to Fort William on the Caledonian Sleeper. Make sure to wake early to see the spectacular scenery in the highlands. From Fort William you can get another train to Mallaig and then a Boat to the Isle of Skye. To get a good deal on the Caledonian Sleeper book early, with prices for a birth starting from 60 pounds one way. There are a number of trains and routes which come under "The Caledonian Sleeper" title, other destinations from London include, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness. Click here to book tickets.
The Glacier Express is all about the stunning alpine scenery and the staggering engineering which allows you to travel 180 miles by rail from Zermatt to St Moritz. During the 8 hour journey the train passes through 91 tunnels and over 291 bridges reaching a height of 2,000m at the Oberalp Pass. When it comes to food there is no need to pack your own as you can enjoy lunch and a glass of wine in the lavish buffet cart. Ticket prices start at about 20 euros one way however, trains can often be booked out months in advance so you need to book early. Click here to book tickets.
Unless you're a train buff you have probably not heard of this route before! We just had to include it in our list of "iconic routes" as the Wuhan to Guangzhou train is currently the fastest passenger service in the world covering a distance of 1,068 kilometres (663 miles) at the average speed of 217mph (350kph). The distance between Wuhan in central China and Guangzhou in the country's south was covered by the high-speed train in two hours forty five minutes with the train reaching a maximum speed of 394 kph (245 mph) during trail runs in December 9 2009. The Chinese government has recently announced its plans to build 42 high-speed lines by 2012. To see footage from the BBC of the Wuhan to Guangzhou train follow this link - www.news.bbc.co.uk
The Tokaido Shinkansen was the world's first high speed train service reaching speeds of 200 km/h (124 mph) on its inauguration in 1964. This service connects the largest of Japan's cities of Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka on the main island of Honshu as well as connecting to Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu. Today ten trains an hour, with a capacity of over 1,000 seats run in each direction reaching speeds of 300 kph (186 mph). There are three train categories, the Nazomi which only stop at the main stations, the Hikari which stop more frequently and the Kodama which are the slowest category, stopping at all stations.