Making tracks: The best luxury trains in Africa

There are few things more romantic than coasting through the African plains on a luxury train. Not only is it such an easy, relaxed way to travel, it also slows you down and allows you to absorb the landscape, its variations and to enjoy the actual act of travelling. From epic cross-continent journeys to short transfers from one place to another, these are some of the best luxury trains in Africa.

Rovos Rail
The lounge on the Rovos Rail.

Rovos Rail

South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania

For those who value luxury above all else, Rovos Rail is considered by most to be the best luxury train in Africa. The cabins are all en-suite and air-conditioned, and rates include all food and drinks. There are a variety of itineraries available, from short three-day trips to 15-day journeys from South Africa to Tanzania, passing through Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia en route. You can also journey to Namibia and Victoria Falls, though most people will use Rovos as an elegant way to cross South Africa, from Cape Town to Pretoria.

Hot tip: From 2019, Rovos will launch a brand-new route from Tanzania to Angola, passing through Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Slow travel on the luxurious Rovos Rail.

The Blue Train

South Africa

Based on the old South African trains from the 1920s, the Blue Train is a luxury train that runs between Cape Town and Pretoria. In 2019, the journey time will be lengthened to a two-night trip. From Pretoria, it’s also possible to take the train to Hoedspruit, gateway to Kruger National Park. There are en-suite cabins, dining and lounge cars, and an observation deck.

Blue Train
Scenic journeys on board the Blue Train.

The Stimela Star & Elephant Express


Launched in 2018, the Stimela Star is a private sleeper train that departs Victoria Falls for Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, attached to the regular Bulawayo-Victoria Falls train. Upon arrival in Hwange in the morning, you’ll transfer onto the Elephant Express, an open-sided game-viewing train that can deliver guests to Camelthorn and Bomani camps on a two-hour scenic transfer.

Elephant Express
Surrounded by wildlife on the Elephant Express.

Royal Livingstone Express


The Royal Livingstone Express is made up of five dining carriages, all restored by Rovos Rail, and pulled by a steam locomotive. Passengers can enjoy the views from Bushtracks Siding, just outside Livingstone, to the Victoria Falls Bridge, where the train stops for 20 minutes. The train then continues to Palm Grove, where a six-course dinner is served, after which it chugs back to Bucktracks Siding.

Royal Livingstone Express
The steam train that pulls the Royal Livingstone Express.

Shongolo Express

South Africa, Namibia, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe

Another Rovos train as of 2016, the Shongolo Express is not the most luxurious option, but one that allows passengers to easily travel through much of southern Africa, stopping at key sites throughout the journey. There are three itineraries, from 12 to 15 days, including an option to base your trip around golfing. The en-suite cabins are divided into two categories, Emerald, which has a lounge area, and Gold, which has no lounge. There are dining cars, plus a bar and an observation car.

The Shongolo Express crossing the Victoria Falls Bridge.

How about adding a train journey to your next trip? Send us a message for more information.

Share this post