creativecommons.org/Germán Saavedra Rojas
During the festive season, many train operators decorate their cabins with evergreen garlands and Christmas lights and take their passengers on an unforgettable journey through snow-covered wilderness and illuminated towns. Here are a few of our favourite festive train journeys...
1. Polar Express Train Tour, North Carolina, USA
Every year, thousands of passengers flock to the Great Smokey Mountains Railroad to get a seat on the Polar Express tour. The ride itself lasts just a little over an hour on a round trip from the Bryson City depot.
Passengers are taken through the wilderness where they pay a special visit to Santa at the North Pole. On board, guests are treated to hot cocoa as the story of the Polar Express. It’s a real treat for parents when their children's faces light up as the train pulls up at the North Pole, and each child is greeted by Santa Claus himself. The train operates until December 29.
2. Stanley Park Christmas Train, Vancouver, British Columbia
Every other month of the year, the Stanley Park train is just an average miniature train ride. However, every December the park’s miniature railroad transforms into a Christmas train. The train is adorned with seasonal decorations and winds its way through the woods before arriving at Santa's living room at the train station. Of course, the entire train station is aflame with millions of Christmas lights.
3. German Christmas Market Train Tour, Germany
Germany is prized during Christmas for its historic Christmas markets, a trend that has caught on throughout the rest of Europe. However, the originals are always the best. Experiencing all of the famous Christmas markets is near impossible, but the German Christmas Market Train Tour aims to give travellers the very best Christmas market experience possible.
This seven-day train tour showcases five different Christmas markets. The first stop on this tour is Dresden, which is home to one of the most well known Christmas markets in the world, as well as a renowned cultural and educational centre.
Travellers are then taken to Weimar, which served as the intellectual inspiration to scholars such as Goethe, Schiller and Herder. During December the City Hall in Weimar is transformed to a giant advent calendar.
The next stop on the tour is Erfurt, where they are welcomed with the smell of gingerbread and the songs of carolers. After a stop at Eisenach to see one of the best kept medieval castles in Germany, the tour ends in Frankfurt. There more than 200 stalls serve up traditional German cuisine, arts and crafts.
4. Winter Wonderland Train Tour, Europe
This 20-day-long train tour is perhaps the most epic Christmas tour in the world. Guests are welcomed in Paris with dinner and drinks, and the first four days consists of sightseeing in the city. However, on the fifth day, the train tour really kicks off by heading to the Swiss Alps. Travelers then spend four days in Interlaken where they can ski, explore the quaint alpine villages or ride cable cars for panoramic views of the magnificent Swiss Alps.
The next stop is Venice, Italy, where guests take tours of the historic Doge's Palace and the Byzantine St Mark's Church. After three days in Venice, the train starts to head back towards the Alps – this time to Innsbruck in the Austrian Alps. There travellers can spend their time here exploring the Alps or taking an optional day trip to the historic city of Salzburg – the birthplace of Mozart.
Finally the train chugs out of the Alps to spend three days in Prague to soak up some of the Gothic architecture. There’s also a day trip to Dresden before the train rounds out the trip back in Paris again.
5. Glacier Express, Switzerland
The Glacier Express provides a seven-and-a-half-hour journey through the western Swiss Alps. It takes passengers from Interlaken to Lucerne for the most stunning views of the snow-capped peaks. At Interlaken train station, guests board the narrow-gauge Brunig Pass train that glides along the beautiful shores of Lake Brienz to Meiringen. The train then reverses and heads up and over the Brunig Pass in a steep line.
This train is a great attraction for both families spending Christmas in Switzerland and adventurers who really want to get an in depth view of the Swiss Alps. When the train ride ends in Lucerne, guest should really take a good look around the city. Lucerne really goes all-out with its decorations and festivities during Christmas time. Be sure to see the amazing mechanical nativity scene outside the Museum and History or visit one of the many traditional Christmas Markets for some hot mulled wine and sweet cakes.
6. UK Christmas Train, England and Scotland
The UK Christmas Train runs from London, England to Edinburgh, Scotland – a four-and-a-half-hour festive ride. In the warmer months, this train ride would showcase green rolling hills and fog covered moors, but during the winter everything freezes. Guests are treated to pristine fields of white and glittering cities that are covered in Christmas lights. And as the passengers progress north, they will get to see the rugged North Sea coastline.