Slow train coming from the States to the steppes

The 12 best rail journeys
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The Independent Travel

1 Blue train A 19-day luxury-train tour of South Africa along the famous Garden Route, visiting Cape Town, Pretoria and Pilanesberg Game Park. Experience the comfort of the world-renowned Blue Train and the steam-hauled Union Limited as the African landscape unfolds around you. Great Rail Journeys (tel: 01904 521900; net: www.greatrail.com) offers an all-inclusive package leaving London on 23 March 2001 for £2,450 per person, based on two sharing.

1 Blue train A 19-day luxury-train tour of South Africa along the famous Garden Route, visiting Cape Town, Pretoria and Pilanesberg Game Park. Experience the comfort of the world-renowned Blue Train and the steam-hauled Union Limited as the African landscape unfolds around you. Great Rail Journeys (tel: 01904 521900; net: www.greatrail.com) offers an all-inclusive package leaving London on 23 March 2001 for £2,450 per person, based on two sharing.

2 Great South Pacific A five-star hotel on wheels through Queensland and along Australia's east coast. Orient Express Trains and Cruises (tel: 020-7805 5100; net: www.orient-express.com) organises 16-day all-inclusive trips from the UK for £2,600 per person, based on two sharing. The price includes return flights from Britain, two nights aboard the train, four nights' accommodation in the Sanctuary Cove resort near Brisbane and two nights in the Blue Mountain resort.

3 Desert Express A two-day trip across the world's oldest desert in the air-conditioned comfort of the Namibian Desert Express. The train makes two return overnight journeys each week between the capital Windhoek and Swakopmund on the coast. Tickets on the Desert Express (tel: 00 264 61 29 82 600 net: www.transnamib.com.na/dx) cost N$1,330 (£160) one way and include everything except alcohol. Travelbag (tel: 020-7287 5556) offers daily flights with South African Airways to Windhoek via Johannesburg for £672 per person.

4 Reunification express So called after the reunification of Vietnam in 1975, this train journey stretches from Hanoi in the north to Saigon in the south. There are frequent cultural stops and accommodation is often in interesting towns en route. Guerba (tel: 01373 826611; net: www.guerba.co.uk) offers 15-day trips from £630 per person. The price includes accommodation and most meals. Flights cost extra.

5 Eastern and Oriental Journey through South-East Asia aboard this famously stylish luxury train. Kuoni (tel: 01306 741111; email: worldclass@kuoni.com) offers a nine-day tour from Singapore to Bangkok via Kuala Lumpur, including a trip on a floating barge down the river Kwai. The price is from £1,743 per person, based on two sharing, including all flights and accommodation.

6 Trans-Siberian Express The Trans-Siberian Express travels across the vast expanse of the Russian steppes from Europe to Asia on a seven-day journey. Trains depart regularly from Moscow and there are several routes available via Russia and Mongolia and Siberia to Peking. Steppes East (tel: 01285 651010) offers tailor-made all-inclusive trips, with regular departures, from £1,800 per person, based on two sharing.

7 Trans-Canadian Rail From Toronto in the east to Vancouver on the west coast. The first half of the journey is aboard the Canadian through Saskatchewan and Manitoba and into the Rockies to Alberta. Here you transfer to the Rocky Mountaineer to continue to Vancouver through the most dramatic scenery. The journey includes stop-overs for shopping or touring. Kuoni (tel: 01306 742888, net: www.kuoni.co.uk) offers a 12-day tour with prices from £1,498 per person.

8 Orient Express The classic five-day, 1920s-style rail journey from Paris to Istanbul. Orient Express Trains and Cruises (tel: 020-7805 5100, net: www.orient-express.com) runs the original route from Paris once a year departing 31 August 2001 for £3,860 per person, based on two sharing. The price includes travel, all transfers and accommodation with overnight stays in Bucharest and Budapest and three nights in Istanbul. Shorter all-inclusive itineraries are available from London to Venice for £1,200 per person.

9 Arctic Circle Great Rail Journeys (tel: 01904 521900; net: www.greatrail.com) offers a 14-day trip from Stockholm across the Arctic Circle and the fjords of western Norway. Prices from £1,690 per person, based on two sharing, departing 18 May.

10 Pride of Africa The Pride of Africa travels from Cape Town through South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania on a 12-day luxury safari. The carriages are restored Edwardian originals and are still steam-run for part of the journey. Southern Africa Travel (tel: 01904 692269; net: www.southafricatravel.co.uk) offers the trip for £5,995 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights and three nights' accommodation in Cape Town before embarkation. Departs London 25 June.

11 Copper Canyon Mexico's Copper Canyon Railway winds and twists its way from the desert city of Chihuahua to Los Mochis on the coast above one of the deepest canyons in the world. The journey takes 14 hours with breaks to explore the canyon. The trip costs £1,360 per person, based on two sharing, with Mundi Color (tel: 020-7828 6021), including return flights from Chihuahua via Mexico City, transfers, the rail journey and accommodation in Mexico City and Los Mochis.

12 Palace on Wheels Travel through Rajasthan aboard the Palace on Wheels. The train visits the fortress at Jodhpur and stops for tiger spotting in the Ranthambore National Park. British Airways Holidays (tel: 01293 723212) offers a seven-day all-inclusive tour from £2,505 per person, based on two sharing, from 9-22 December.

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