Taking a journey through South Africa by rail could not be easier. There’s a wide range of options available depending on what type of journey you wish to take. Many of the trains in South Africa can be combined to create a unique itinerary taking in some of South Africa’s finest locations. The Independent Traveller can plan the perfect holiday incorporating some of these beautiful trains, please ask for further details.
Ever since the early development of South Africa rail has been important. In 1932 a deluxe rail service was inaugurated between Johannesburg and Cape Town. Originally called Union Limited, the train soon became known as the Blue Train” due to its colour. The legend continues today with some of the finest service and accommodation levels to be found on a train anywhere in the world.
The Blue Train is kept deliberately to a small size to ensure that the highest standards of service can be replicated on each and every journey. Your on board accommodation comprises of a maximum of six luxury suites per train and a maximum of 36 deluxe suites per train.
The deluxe suites feature either twin beds with a shower or a double bed with a bath and hand held shower. Please note that there is a limited number of double bedded suites available per train. The interiors are birch veneer and the bathrooms fitted out with Italian marble.
The luxury suites are slightly larger and all have full baths to allow perhaps the ultimate luxury of a bath on a train whilst you cross the spectacular South African scenery. Each carriage contains four deluxe suites or three luxury suites and each has its own personal butler, whose sole job is to look after the guests within the particular carriage. Within the suites, whichever you choose, the fittings are of the very highest standard and would not be amiss in a 5 star hotel.
The Blue Train has always been a showcase of the very best of gourmet cooking in South Africa and of South African wines. On your journey you will be served two lunches in casual elegance, one breakfast and one dinner, although dinner is more formal. The menu contains such South African delicacies as Karoo lamb, ostrich fillet, Knysna oysters and award winning wines.
Linking the private suites of the Blue Train are two wooden panelled Lounge and Club cars. The Lounge Car is non-smoking and is where high tea is served, whilst the Club Car allows cigar smoking and is a favourite venue for after dinner drinks and cocktails.
Whichever route you choose and whichever type of suite you book, your journey on the Blue Train will be an experience of a lifetime.
The ‘Pride of Africa’ as Rovos Rail is known, is one of the most luxurious train services in the world. Established in 1989, the company founded by Rohan and Anthea Vos, has painstakingly restored and refurbished historic rolling stock found across South Africa and they now operate an extensive premium rail service to some of the most spectacular destinations in South Africa.
Each train comprises of a maximum of 32 suites, which have been retro-fitted into historic rolling stock, restored to an exceptionally high standard with wood panelling and true Edwardian style.
Each Rovos train has two fully equipped dining rooms featuring fine china, cutlery and crystal, and perhaps, uniquely, is able to provide full dining experience for the whole train at one sitting. The menus represent all the best of South Africa, utilising premium quality produce, cooked and presented to the very highest international standards. With lunch and dinner, premium quality South African wines, selected to compliment the menu, are served with each and every course.
Rovos offer three types of onboard suite: The Royal Suite, approximately half the size of a normal railway carriage, features a full bedroom, lounge and a full bathroom complete with Victorian bathtub, perhaps the ultimate in onboard rail experience. The Deluxe Suite, smaller in size than the Royal Suite, but still with its own individual lounge area and full bathroom. The Pullman Suite can be set up with either twin or double beds and has the same bathroom as the Deluxe Suite, but does not have its own separate lounge area. Whichever suite you choose, the standards are the same, nothing better than absolute First Class will do.
The Premier Classe Train provides an overnight train service at an affordable price along some of the finest routes in South Africa. The service and cuisine can be compared with a good quality 4 star hotel. The Premier Classe train accommodates up to 126 passengers with service that has a personal touch.
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Pretoria – Cape Town and reverse
From Pretoria to Cape Town and reverse, a 27 hour journey covering some 1600 km. The scenery is some of the very best that South Africa has to offer.
Cape Town – Port Elizabeth and reverse
The Blue Train no longer runs on this route, however the new 4*Premier Classe train does operate a weekly service year round.
Pretoria - Cape Town
Rovos Rail takes 48 hours to complete the 1600km journey following the old Karoo pioneering trail. Included in the cost are two dinners, two lunches and two breakfasts, together with visits to the Kimberley Mine and the historic town.
Pretoria - Victoria Falls
This journey takes approximately 54 hours and departs from Pretoria, normally on a Thursday northbound and a Sunday southbound. The journey traverses the Soutpansberg Mountains towards Messina, where you cross the border and continues to Bulawayo before arriving into Victoria Falls on Saturday evening.
Cape Town to George
This 24-hour route along the spectacular Garden Route from Cape Town to George includes a Winelands excursion and covers some of South Africa’s stunning coastal scenery.
Johannesburg to Cape Town
This route connects the country’s two major cities and crosses some of South Africa’s most beautiful terrain incuding the winelands.
Johannesburg to Hoedspruit
This route provides alternate access to the Kruger for those who do not wish to drive.
Johannesburg to Durban
This route connects Johannesburg with the Indian Ocean.
Cape Town to Port Elizabeth This route travels North via Oudtshoorn and crosses the winelands and the Great Karoo.