5 up-and-coming rail travel destinations for 2017
Traveling Europe by train is usually the best way to get around. Unless you’re covering vast distances, trains will get you where you want to go quicker, in greater comfort, and with impressive views to boot. The likes of Switzerland, France, Spain, Germany, and Italy are firm fixtures for rail travelers. However, many countries fly below the radar. Here are five up-and-coming rail travel destinations for 2017.
2017 rail travel destinations
Slovenia may just be Europe’s most underrated (or at least, underexplored) country. This small, beautiful destination settles idyllically beneath the Julian Alps and is packed full of stunning unspoilt natural beauty. The proud and friendly population only adds to the charm of this unique corner of Europe.
Slovenia is also poised to become one of Europe’s best rail travel destinations next year. It’s within easy reach of Italy, Austria, Croatia, and the Balkan states by train. It also has a comprehensive rail network that will get you close to most of the country’s top attractions. Most trains run through the capital Ljubljana, which should get the lion’s share of your attention. But hidden gems are seldom more than a scenic hour or two away by train.
Ultimate itinerary: Ljubljana, Lake Bled, Lake Bohinj, Piran.
One rail route to include: The train ride between Villach (Austria) and Ljubljana is a short but beautiful ride.
2 and 3. Serbia and Montenegro
As provinces of the former Yugoslavia, Serbia and Montenegro share close historical ties – and an inextricably linked railway network. The two countries showcase everything that exciting rail travel in the Balkans should be. You’ll get rugged natural beauty, no-frills carriages, warm conversational locals, fascinating history, and a unique interpretation of time and schedules. But, more than anything, you’ll get a true sense of adventure.
Serbia is a well-connected rail hub in Eastern Europe. There are regular long-distance trains from Budapest, Vienna, and Sofia. Montenegro has fewer lines, with most fanning out from the capital Podgorica and down to Bar on the coast. Fortunately, good bus links will get you to the cities the trains don’t reach. When you consider the good value, scenic beauty, and truly unique experience that awaits you, you’ll wonder why more tourists haven’t hopped aboard.
Ultimate itinerary: Kotor (Montenegro) and Belgrade (Serbia) are key rail highlights in this region. They’re the perfect start or end points of your rail journey. Take a bus from Kotor to Bar, then can connect on the epic Montenegro Express. You can go all the way to Belgrade, with an optional stop in Podgorica.
One rail route to include: The Bar to Belgrade train ride (or the other way around) is what you really came here for.
4. Czech Republic
Many tourists in the Czech Republic jet into the capital Prague and then wave the country goodbye. But this fascinating country deserves more time. It’s perfectly poised to become one of 2017’s major rail travel destinations.
Prague is a major rail hub in Central Europe. There are easy connections from Vienna, Berlin, Budapest, and several overnight trains from further afield. From Prague you can easily reach a handful of stunning smaller towns. They may not have the same tourist numbers as capital, but they’re equally charming and beautiful in their own right.
Clean and efficient trains will get you to the likes of Plzeň, Český Krumlov, and several rejuvenating spa towns. You’ll also reach Central and Southern Moravia, and what many consider to be a mini (and as yet undiscovered) Prague in Olomouc.
Ultimate itinerary: Pilsen, Český Krumlov, Prague, Olomouc, Southern Moravia.
One rail route to include: If you’re looking for scenery, the route running from České Budějovice – Český Krumlov – Nové Údolí – Haidmühle – Waldkirchen – Passau is particularly worthwhile.
It may seem unusual to include a country as established in the tourism trade as Austria as an up-and-coming rail travel destination. But when you consider just how few tourists venture off the well-worn Salzburg to Vienna route, you’ll understand why, in many ways, this is an undiscovered rail gem. If you take trains down into the more remote corners of the country, you’ll be rewarded.
The trains in Austria are slick, efficient, and in some cases, more high-tech than their wealthy European neighbors. Access into the major centres from across Europe is hassle-free, and connections to smaller towns and villages are easy. There’s so much to explore in this large and diverse country, from the stately buildings of Vienna and Salzburg, to the remote lakes and mountains of Salzkammergut region, through to the picturesque alps near Zillertal. You’ll wonder why you didn’t save more time to explore Austria by train.
Ultimate itinerary: Focus your journey around the main attractions of Innsbruck, Salzburg, Hallstatt, and Vienna. However, don’t forget that the regions surrounding them are equally impressive. Take a regional train into the Alps, or to a nearby lake, and you’ll get to experience another beautiful side of Austria all to yourself.
One rail route to include: The Semmering Line, between Gloggnitz and Semmering, is one of the most beautiful routes in Austria.
It’s tempting to stick to the same tried and tested countries when venturing to Europe on a rail trip. But with a Eurail Global Pass it’s easy to broaden your itinerary. With a bit of planning, and a sense of adventure, you may well find greater rewards waiting for you in one of these less explored rail travel destinations.
Looking for more rail travel inspiration?
Why travel by train? 6 reasons to get a Eurail Pass
Paris to Belgrade by train – 10 highlights with Eurail
Beautiful train stations in Europe that you have to see