Glamour Gone By
African trains offering a sense of vintage charm.
—Several options across southern Africa
Journey to the past with Rovos Rail, setting the continental standard for luxe locomotion. Based in a once-bustling rail station in Pretoria, South Africa, the company offers a host of options for traversing southern Africa in style — from a 3-day safari to Durban to a 15-day odyssey through South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania. Each trip is studded with visits to historic villages, diamond towns and game reserves, as well as multicourse fine dining in lovingly refinished dining carriages. For golf-lovers, Rovos also offers 9-day adventures to play on some of Africa’s best greens. Prices begin at US$1,400 for the shorter journeys.
Jambo Kenya Deluxe
—Nairobi to Mombasa
Travel from Kenya’s capital to its coast aboard this classic sleeper train, taking in the sights of the savanna from your window. Without many frills or even modern updates, the train provides guests with a true vintage experience, including riding in the original 1950s carriages and dining on the now faded and chipped china. And though its retro vibe may be perceived as less than quaint by some, the train more than makes up for any lack with its views; waking up to morning rays alighting over the Kenyan plain, for example, is worth the roughly US$65 price tag alone.
—Pretoria to Cape Town
With marble-and-gold-studded suites, expertly prepared meals and even on-call butler service, the Blue Train has rightly been referred to as a five-star hotel on wheels. The 27-hour, 1,600-kilometer journey it offers from Pretoria to Cape Town spans the gamut of South Africa’s scenery, includes an off-train sightseeing excursion and — as an added dose of refined relaxation — serves afternoon high tea with petit fours. At night, the refurbished train gently rocks along the tracks and lulls guests into a dreamy slumber. Prices start at US$1,400 during the low season (roughly mid-November–September).