South Africa’s most luxurious train journeys

South Africa has three prominent luxury rail tours, two of which are ranked among the top 25 rail tours in the world.

The Society of International Railway Travellers has ranked South Africa’s Blue Train and Rovos Railway among some international heavyweights in luxury rail, including the Prestige Continental Express in Europe, and the Orient Express of Asia.

South Africa is home to another luxury rail service in the form of the Shongololo Express, which has been operating since 1995, offering tours in South Africa as well as the rest of Africa.

Here’s a breakdown of the local railways’ offering, as well as the price you’d pay for their most luxurious journey.

The Blue Train

  • Price: R21,170 per person sharing
  • Days: 2
  • PP/PD: R10,585

The Blue Train is the country’s oldest luxury rail journey, running eight times a month between Pretoria and Cape Town.

The train’s origins date back to the Union Limited and Union Express trains which began in 1923. The tour follows a 1,600km line to the Mother City,  and takes 27 hours to complete.

En route to Cape Town there is a stopover and excursion in Kimberley, and On the northbound journey, there is a stop at Matjiesfontein for an off-the-train excursion.

The costliest fare, R21,170 per person in a luxury cabin for two (2016 prices), includes all meals, high tea, drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and off-the train excursions.

The Blue Train
The Blue Train
The Blue Train Dining
The Blue Train Dining
The Blue Train Luxury suite bed
The Blue Train Luxury suite bed
The Blue Train Luxury suite
The Blue Train Luxury suite
The Blue Train Luxury suite bath
The Blue Train Luxury suite bath

Rovos Rail

  • Price: R30,500 per person sharing
  • Days: 3
  • PP/PD: R10,166

Rovos Rail was founded in 1986 when Rohan Vos received the first letter of permission to run a train on the national rail network.

In 1987 the first loco 2702 BIANCA was rebuilt along with the first seven carriages that were to depart on the first journey on 29 April 1989.

Rovos Rail follows a similar route to the Blue train, taking a 1,600 kilometre meander through the Highveld, the Great Karoo, through mountain ranges and the winelands of the Cape, ending the Mother City.

Highlights of the north- and southbound routes once again include a visit to the historic village of Matjiesfontein, and another stop in Kimberley.

Rovos Rail
Rovos Rail
Rovos Rail Lounge
Rovos Rail Lounge
Rovos Rail Dining Cabin
Rovos Rail Dining Cabin
Rovos Rail Cabin
Rovos Rail Cabin
Rovos Rail Bathroom
Rovos Rail Bathroom

Shongologo Express – Good Hope Tour

  • Price: R57,145 per person sharing
  • Days: 13
  • PP/PD: R4,395

Shongololo Express began operations in 1995 with  train journeys traversing seven countries: South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania and Namibia.

The rail’s most expensive tour – The Dr Livingston Tour – is an 11 day journey to Dar es Salaam and Bagamoyo at a price of R74,000 (including return airfare) – but the costliest local tour is the Good Hope Tour at R57,145 per person.

The Good Hope Tour is a 13-day journey offering an amazingly comprehensive view of South Africa, incorporating virtually every internationally regarded ‘must see’ sights and highlights.

As the train travels the length and breadth of the country, guests can enjoy the great variety of landscapes, shorelines, cultures, lifestyles and cuisine that the “Rainbow Nation” has to offer.

Shongololo Express
Shongololo Express [by Simon Pielow via Flickr]
Shongololo dining cabin
Shongololo dining cabin [by Simon Pielow via Flickr]
Shongololo Express bar
Shongololo Express bar [by Simon Pielow via Flickr]
Shongololo Express bedroom
Shongololo Express bedroom [by Simon Pielow via Flickr]

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South Africa’s most luxurious train journeys