Road and Rail Trips to Dream About Now

When we can travel again, we’ll likely be doing a lot more of it domestically, and by train and car. Our nomads reveal their most memorable overland trips, and the ones they’re longing to do.

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A young woman gazes out the window of a moving train in Poland. Photo © Getty Images / mapodile

Even before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, road and rail journeys were gaining in appeal. There’s a lot to be said for flying less, having more freedom and flexibility, and exploring all the out-of-the-way spots en route to your destination. The risk of COVID-19 has also highlighted the benefits of controlling your travel environment and limiting the number of people you’re exposed to.

We asked Eurail’s Maia Rezig to share why she thinks train travel is the way to go once things open back up. And, we collected some of the most epic train and road journeys our World Nomads community have done, or plan to do.

Rail travel vs. flying

“One of the great advantages of rail travel is the flexibility to visit several destinations along the way and change your travel itinerary as you go. You also enjoy amazing scenery which really defines the calmness of traveling by train, with no rush and stress.

European train stations are centrally located and well connected, so travelers don’t need to worry about costly transfers to get to the heart of the city. Trains are associated with adventure and freedom, and are a fast, comfortable, and sustainable alternative to cheap flights.

At Eurail, we are very conscious of the role the tourism industry plays in the harmful impacts of travel. We strive to make travelers aware that traveling by train is a responsible choice.” – Maia Rezig, Partnership Manager for Eurail

View from the train between Colombo and Kandy, Sri Lanka. Image credit: Getty Images / Photography by mahosha

Travelers share their favorite rail journeys

What is the best train trip you’ve taken?

“When we were traveling in Sri Lanka, we traveled to Kandy from Colombo by train. It was packed, but we were lucky enough to get a spot by a door and watch the countryside roll by. It’s one of my favorite moments from that trip.” – Isaac Entry, Social & Content Marketing Manager, World Nomads

“A few years ago, when my mom had breast cancer and it spread throughout her body, it became clear that her remaining time was limited. I asked her if there was anything left that she really wanted to do. She told me that she always wanted to take the Rocky Mountaineer train through the Canadian Rockies, so I arranged it for the both of us as an assignment. It was really wonderful, as we got first-class service all the way. She didn’t have a lot of energy at that point, so it was a relaxing way to take in the view. She passed away six weeks later, and I’m always so grateful that we had that last bonding experience together. About a year later, I picked up Hola magazine in Spain, and much to my surprise, there was the story and my mom in the photos. It was a good memory.” Alison Wright, photographer

Are you planning a train journey in the near future? If so, where, and why?

“I would really like to go to Montenegro, visit the Bay of Kotor, spend some time in Bar, discover the beautiful landscapes of Durmitor National Park, and enjoy the beautiful coast of Budva.” – Maia Rezig

“One day soon I will take my father on the Ghan across central Australia. He loves trains. His first major travel experience was in Australia in the early 1970s and some of my earliest memories of “travel” are his stories from that trip. He’s never been back to Oz. A trip with him through Australia on that train would make for the kind of travel experience I’d cling to until my days are done.” Tim Neville, travel writer and World Nomads Travel Writing Scholarship mentor

Travelers share their favorite road trips

What is the best road trip you’ve taken?

“When I was a kid, my dad took us on many road trips in NSW, Queensland, and Tasmania, always camping and trekking through beautiful national parks. My dad has since died, but those trips and the memories will stay with me forever.” – Emily Willis, Head of Content, World Nomads

“The best road trip has been traveling the Pamir Highway, along the border of Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The mountainous landscapes are some of the best in the world, with 23,000ft (7,000m) peaks and glaciers surrounding all sides, and wonderful and hospitable people welcoming you into their homes in every village.” – Alesha Bradford and Jarryd Salem, Directors, NOMADasaurus and Van Life Theory

Village along the Pamir highway. Image credit: Getty Images / Wu Swee Ong

“My favorite road trip is around Iceland, which I’ve done five times! I’ve slowly fallen in love with the petrol station hamburgers they have, and sleeping in the car under the Northern Lights. It’s just such a stunning country – probably the only near-Arctic region that’s so good for a roadtrip because of the infrastructure.” Kiliii Yüyan, photographer

“In 2011, my husband and I took two back-to-back, six-week road trips, one through the Northwestern US and one through Central and Western Europe. We had a few anchor points on each trip – three days kayaking in the San Juan Islands in Washington, a voluntourism project in Croatia, Oktoberfest in Munich – and made up the rest as we went along. We went paragliding in Slovenia, had a black bear in our campground in the Grand Tetons, stayed on a barge in Bruges. I’m usually more of a planner, but it was fun not knowing what was coming next.” – Ellen Hall, Editorial Producer, World Nomads

“One time three friends and I tried to drive from New Mexico to Alaska in my beat-up pickup truck that only had two seats, so we each took turns riding prone in the back wrapped up in a sleeping bag. It was autumn, and we never got anywhere close to Alaska because the beauty of British Columbia stopped us in our tracks. We spent the next month climbing and hiking and camping no more than 150 miles from the US-Canada border, but it was total freedom.” – Tim Neville

“The most adventurous road trip I've ever taken was on the most treacherous road in the world, located in the Spiti Valley of the Indian Himalayas. I was crammed in a Jeep with eight other people as we rode through mountains for 10 hours. I was in the front seat with the driver and one other passenger, and I had to wrap my legs around the gear stick. Every time the driver changed gears, he did so between my legs, so I was getting out of my comfort zone in more ways than one. But the views were extraordinary. I really felt like I was on another planet.” Jigar Ganatra, filmmaker and World Nomads Film Scholarship winner

“I drove across the US for three months, visiting 32 states. It was extraordinary in every way – the diversity of landscapes, experiences, food, music, and especially the people we met. It showed me the US is not one country – the different dialects, accents, sensibilities, and characteristics of the people were as different as those you would come across driving across Europe.” – Kate Duthie, Managing Editor, World Nomads

“Any road trip in the Himalaya is memorable, but my favorite is the Srinagar in Kashmir to Leh in Ladakh. I first made the trip in 1986, and even though parts of the road have been improved over the years, it still offers the same sense of adventure today as it did back then, thanks to the remote location and proximity to the line of control with Pakistan and China, dramatic scenery, blind corners, hairpin bends, crumbling edges and vertical drops, crazy drivers, entertaining road safety signs, and the opportunity to spend time in two completely different and wonderful cultures and landscapes at either end of the journey.” Richard I’Anson, photographer and World Nomads Travel Photography Scholarship mentor

Bumper cars at the Kununarra Rodeo, East Kimberly Region, Western Australia. Image credit: Brian Rapsey

“In the mid 1990s I traveled from Perth, Western Australia up the coast to the Kimberly Region. This is one of the most beautiful, yet devastating, regions of Australia: it has incredible landscapes, but the beauty is tempered by the knowledge of how it has transformed since colonization and the introduction of hard-hoofed animals on the landscape. Over time, diverse Indigenous groups have been exiled from their homelands and packed into communities that were never meant to be together.

It was an amazing and insightful trip. I stayed in many communities, and met some of the artists of Fitzroy Crossing, and even saw one of Australia’s most famous Indigenous artists, Rover Thomas, having a nap outside the arts centre in Kununarra. I’d run out of money by this point, so I worked out of a backpackers, baling hay one day, setting fence posts or picking rock melons the next.” Brian Rapsey, filmmaker and World Nomads Film Scholarship mentor

“A budget road trip across Canada with one of my besties. We’d set out before dawn each day to watch the sun come up – those sunrises were magnificent.” – Jo Tovia, Editorial Producer, World Nomads

Are you planning a road trip in the near future? If so, where, and why?

“Next on my list is a “dive and drive” on the south coast of Australia. I want to see the giant spider crabs in Melbourne, dive with the great white sharks and giant cuttlefish in South Australia, and find the leafy sea dragon.” – Ulrike Eulenfeldt, UX Designer, World Nomads

“I plan to take a road trip along the garden route of the Western Cape in South Africa, where I left off before I had to go home due to COVID-19. It’s a route full of much-needed adventure like bungee jumping and camping. And it's incredibly scenic, too.” – Jigar Ganatra

“Our next road trip will hopefully be a domestic one, across the Nullabor from Adelaide in South Australia to Perth in Western Australia, hugging the coast as much as possible. It’s a remote and empty place which should mean beaches free of people and stars full of skies.” – Kate Duthie

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