South Africa’s Luxury Train Journeys

October 26th 2015  |  South Africa, Travel  |  by  Richard Smith
Blue Train exterior and Cape Town

The South African ‘Grand Tour’ by luxury train

One of the best ways to view this vast country is to take a luxury train journey. It’s just one country on a map, but South Africa arguably has greater diversity than many continents. You can sunbathe on the beach alongside penguins at Boulders Bay, you can view the wildlife Big 5 in Kruger and many other reserves, or visit a former diamond mine at Kimberley.

Rovos Rail Landscape, luxury train

Scenic views on a Rovos Rail journey

South Africa’s luxury train journeys make the most of the country’s incredible scenery travelling with ease through huge expanses of bush. They are somehow less frantic than flying; you get on at one end with your luggage and off at the other end still with your luggage – no bag drop, security, or waiting in an airport departure area, and with private suites on board they’re also more efficient than driving the long distances of this ‘World In One Country’.

Blue Train luxury train pulling out of Cape Town

Blue Train in Cape Town

Most passengers on the Blue Train and Rovos Rail opt for the journey between cosmopolitan Cape Town and the city of Pretoria in one direction or the other, though other tours are possible within South Africa, and longer trips can be taken into Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls, through Namibia’s deserts or further north via Zambia to Tanzania. While meals and nights are taken on board, stops are made along the way to visit points of interest.

Rovos Rail South Africa, luxury train

Rovos Rail journeying through South Africa

These luxury trains do vary in what they offer, so read through the differences below and decide which will suit you:

Rovos Rail – luxury train

1. Rovos Rail is thought to offer the only luxury train experience with opening windows. Anyone who has slept in a hotel room, or spent time in a conference room, with air conditioning and fixed windows, will appreciate the advantages of this. It’s not basic though as there is heating/cooling in the suites to ensure guests are comfortable.

Rovos rail camera couple, luxury train

Windows that open are essential for the keen photographer

2. The suites on Rovos Rail are at least 7m². Each sleeper carriage has five of the Pullman suites of this size, along with three Deluxe suites at 11m² or two Royal Suites at 16m². These are the largest suites available for passengers on any luxury train in the world.

Rovos Rail Bedroom, luxury train

One of the largest suites on a luxury train, Rovos Rail suite

3. The Royal suites on Rovos Rail have a full bathtub as well as a separate shower – decadent luxury.

Rovos Rail bath, luxury train

Relax en-route in a bath, Rovos Rail, Royal Suite bathroom

4. The rail journeys on Rovos Rail are at a maximum 40 mph, designed to allow relaxed comfort while enjoying the scenery. To aid in the feeling of being at one with your surroundings, the observation car at the rear of the train has an open deck.

Rovos Rail observation car with antelope on tracks, luxury train

Rovos Rail observation car at the train rear

5. Meals are at one sitting, allowing guests to linger as long as they choose.

Rovos Rail dining car luxury train

Rovos Rail dining car

Nick Hewitt in the Daily Telegraph wrote of a journey on Rovos Rail

“Waking up on a train and lying there watching the sun climb as the African bush slides by takes a lot of beating.”

The Blue Train – luxury train

1. The Blue Train is fully stabilised and on the Cape Town to Pretoria route travels through the Karoo overnight; the shorter journey time leaving time for safari or other holiday experiences.

Blue Train Karoo luxury train

Blue train travelling through Karoo

2. The bedrooms on the Blue Train are made up as private lounges during day and the bed is made up when guests are having dinner.

Suites are transformed into luxury bedrooms whilst you dine, Blue Train suite luxury train

Suites are transformed into luxury bedrooms whilst you dine, Blue Train suite

3. Lunch and dinner on the Blue Train is served in two sittings to cater for older guests who prefer to eat earlier and younger guests who like to linger over pre-dinner drinks.

Blue Train bar luxury train

Blue Train Club bar

4. Butlers serve guests’ cabins, ensuring drinks are served in style.

Fine dining - dining car Blue Train luxury train

Delicious food and superb service, Blue Train

5. The Blue Train’s decor is contemporary with light panelling and large windows all round. Underfloor heating or air conditioning, depending on the season, are independently controlled in each suite.

Elegant observation car, Blue Train luxury train

Elegant observation car, Blue Train

Mark Smith comments in the Telegraph on the all inclusive nature of a Blue Train journey

“You probably won’t be able to drink your fare’s worth of fine wine before you reach Pretoria, but you can have a damn good try”

Our experts know South Africa well and can advise on the routes, rates and dates for the schedules of both the Blue Train and Rovos Rail. Please give us a call or send an email and we will ensure the planning of your luxury train journey runs smoothly.

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