12 Best Winter Train Rides Around the World, From Switzerland to Japan

12 Stunning Winter Train Rides Around the World

There’s “snow” other rides like these.

What better way to enjoy winter’s raw beauty than boarding a winter train ride across snow-capped mountains and ice-crusted trees? What makes it more exciting is knowing that you can actually enjoy this privilege from the comfort of your cosy train cabin! From traversing the heavenly Swiss Alps to taking a round-trip by South Korea’s eastern coast, these winter train rides will never disappoint. Read on to learn more about the coolest train services worldwide for the frosty season.

Also read: 10 Best Winter Destinations in Asia for Your Next Holiday

Best winter train rides you should try at least once in your lifetime

1. Aurora Winter Train – Alaska, United States

Offering more than just snow-covered paths and frosty tree views is the famous Aurora Winter Train in Alaska. The train operates between late September and mid-May, welcoming travellers on a northbound 12-hour journey from Anchorage to Fairbanks

Here is where you get to immerse in the quiet serenity of snow while enjoying a fine dining experience by the cabin’s large picture windows. The unbeatable sights to look forward to, include a spectacular view of DenaliNorth America’s tallest peak — and the pristine Susitna River between Talkeetna mountain ranges. 

Heads up, you might spot some moose or eagles along the route, too! Definitely one of the unmissable winter train rides you shouldn’t be sleeping on.

TripZilla Tip: Time your ride between February and March to bless your eyes with the otherworldly sight of the northern lights via its midweek departures. 

2. Glacier Express – Zermatt, Switzerland

Welcome aboard the iconic Glacier Express in Switzerland! This legendary express takes travellers on an eight-hour journey from St. Moritz resort town to Zermatt. The winter train, being one of the most popular train rides in winter, is also known as “the window to the Alps,” offering passengers the best panoramic views of the majestic mountain ranges in white. 

Aside from the snow-covered peaks, expect a glimpse of the Rhine Gorge (the Upper Middle Rhine Valley) to greet you before you pass through more than 90 tunnels and over 291 bridges during the scenic train journey!

Also read: 15 Best Airbnbs in Switzerland With the Most Amazing Views

3. Andean Explorer, A Belmond Train – Cusco, Peru

Andean Explorer, the first luxury sleeper train in South America, offers one of the highest train journeys in the world. This ultimate escape will take you on a two-night journey between Cusco and Arequipa as you traverse through the snow-capped Peruvian Andes.

Make sure to keep your eyes on the breathtaking Lake Titicaca at sunrise along with the floating island of Uros above its waters. For the best experience, hop off in Saracocha, a small village in Puno. The place offers the best stargazing opportunity for fellow astrophiles!

Did we mention the train also provides Andean-inspired spa treatments and world-class Peruvian cuisine? All the more reason to add this to your list of winter train vacations this instant.

4. Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad – Colorado, United States

If you ever wish to board a Durango & Silverton winter train, now’s the best time to embark on its Cascade Canyon Excursion. The round trip will take you on a five-hour journey from Durango Depot to Cascade Canyon. Along the journey, your eyes will be blessed by the incredible vistas of the Rocky Mountains and San Juan National Forest from the comfort of your heated coaches.

Know what’s even better? You’ll get to stroll along the quaint Animas River during a one-hour layover! And if you’re tummy rumbling for a quick snack, rest assured that you can always get them from the train’s concession car. So, be sure to add this beautiful ride to your December train trips today!

5. Tsugaru Railway’s “Stove Train” – Tohoku, Japan

One of the best ways to enjoy the frosty season in Japan is to board the Tsugaru Railway’s “Stove Train,” famous for its “daruma stove” service. The nostalgic stoves from ancient Japan rely on the burning of coal to heat up the surroundings. Taking passengers on a 20-kilometre journey, the train runs between the Tsugaru Goshogawara Station and Tsugaru Nakasato Station

Take a seat and enjoy the best snowfall scenery from the windows as you keep yourself warm with the old-school stoves installed in each train car. Apart from that, you’ll get to witness an unobstructed view of the vast snowfield and the majestic Mt. Iwaki (aka Tsugaru Fuji) along the way! Hands down one of the unique winter train rides that offer an unforgettable snowy experience.

Also read: 15 Best Winter Illuminations in Japan You Have to See IRL

6. Venice Simplon-Orient-Express – Multiple countries in Europe

Your search for luxury winter train trips will end better with this exceptional ride by Venice Simplon-Orient-Express! Being the epitome of glamorous trains, this luxurious locomotive takes pride in offering the best snow-capped views of Europe in wintertime. Its LondonVenice route comprises beguiling pit stops such as Florence, Paris, and Vienna. Expect a journey taking you back to the golden age of train travel! Alternatively, you can also kick off your tour from London straight to Venice if you prefer it that way. 

Accompanying your scenic adventure is Chef Jean Imbert’s seasonal menu, alongside unforgettable cocktails and midnight brunch in the form of tasty lobster rolls. As the night falls, retreat to your lavish suite, lovingly restored to full 1920s aesthetic. If this doesn’t make it into your list of most-wished winter train rides, we don’t know what would.

Also read: Europe by Rail: 10 Scenic Train Rides You Should Take

7. Eastern Express – Ankara, Turkey

Make way for this gentle rail that’ll take you from Ankara to Kars — the Eastern Express in Turkey. Being one of the most beautiful winter train rides in the world, the overnight express offers passengers a wealth of wintertime landscape, especially between January and February. 

You may choose any of its three wagons: bedded, seated, or comfortable seats, which can be easily transformed into a bed. Did we mention they also provide a wagon restaurant? Terrific! If you’re wondering about the train’s pit stops, they’re Kirikkale, Kayseri, Sivas, Erzincan, and Erzurum. As you reach the final point (Kars), you may take a sleigh ride at the frozen Lake Cildir or pose for the ’Gram to your heart’s content!

Also read: 7D6N Turkey Itinerary: Istanbul, Cappadocia, and Ankara

8. Royal Gorge Route Railroad – Colorado, United States

Hop on the Royal Gorge Route Railroad’s most loved winter locomotive, Holiday Train, which lets you experience the different sides of the Royal Gorge. The one-and-a-half-hour journey offers passengers unparalleled wintertime vistas of Colorado’s grandest canyon. 

Don’t fancy taking in the views from your seat? Walk towards the train’s open observation car and witness the 360° views of the rushing Arkansas River with the majestic backdrop of the Royal Gorge! 

What’s more, boarding the Royal Gorge train in winter equals filling your appetite with the best meals. Who would’ve resisted having some pancakes, burritos, or omelettes for breakfast? Meanwhile, your lunch will be served in the form of Basil Chicken Panini or Grass-fed Angus & Buffalo Burgers. We’re not drooling; you are! 

9. Nordland Railway – Trondheim, Norway

Nordland Railway’s The Arctic Circle is another of the best winter train rides, offering a stunning glimpse of northern lights in winter. This longest train service in Norway is so magical that even Netflix made a documentary about it. Yup, we’re talking about The Northern Line

Hop aboard, and you’re in for a 729-kilometre journey that crosses over 293 bridges, stunning fjords, snow-clad mountains, and even the incredible Arctic Circle. FYI, this locomotive that takes you between Trondheim and Bodo is equipped with five main carriages, one dining car, and two sleeper cars. While on board, don’t forget to drop by the VY Kafé in the restaurant car, serving the tastiest selection of Norwegian hot and cold dishes. 

10. Kurobe Gorge Railway – Kurobe, Japan

Among Japan’s best train rides in winter is the iconic Kurobe Gorge Railway with its tangerine-hued cabins. Though its peak season is in summer and autumn, a ride in winter is just as spectacular. 

Think swathes of white turning the hillsides into a giant tapestry of winter wonderland and scenic Kurobe River flowing under the bridge among the majestic peaks — phenomenal! The main highlight of this winter train ride would be Atobiki, the highest elevation on your journey that offers the best views of the Sarutobi Gorge

On top of these magnificent vistas, you may visit the onsens and other observation points for the best photo ops along the way!

11. Amtrak Winter Park Express – Colorado, United States

Still looking for the best winter train rides in the United States? Amtrak Winter Park Express should definitely be at the top of your list! Yup, the “ski train” is back and ready to take you from Denver to the base of Winter Park Resort. Ski enthusiasts will be delighted knowing they can finally hit the slopes the cheaper and more convenient way. 

FYI, the Winter Park train will operate every weekend from 12 Jan 2024 through 31 Mar 2024. A one-way trip will take approximately two hours. And passengers should expect to depart from Denver at 7.00am and leave the ski resort by 4.30pm. In other words, travellers will get to maximise their skiing adventure with this trip! What more could you possibly ask?

12. Sea Train – Gangwon-do, South Korea

Hopping on South Korea’s iconic Sea Train is the best option if scenic winter train rides across mountains and above gushing rivers are too mainstream for you. This specially designed tourist train takes travellers on a three-hour round trip from Jeongdongjin Station in Gangneung to Samcheok Station

Take a front-row seat on this four-carriage train, and you’ll be blessed with an unobstructed view of the East Sea in winter. P.S. — Don’t be surprised at the train’s theatre-style seating arrangements, with both rows facing East!

Also read: 5 Destinations in Europe With the Best Winter Markets for Christmas!

And that concludes our list of the best winter express worldwide. So, stop Googling “winter train rides near me” and start booking any of these unbeatable rides for the best taste of winter yet! First time taking a trip by rail in winter? Check out the best fits to wear and the best ways to pack for a long train ride.

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About Author

Izzati Haron
Izzati Haron

Izzati is an author to two poem anthologies, a slam poet wannabe, and a full-time nanny to her kitties. She loves dreaming about traveling the world just like most protagonists in the movies, but more often than not, her bank account only permits her to travel to her backyard.