10 Best Destinations In Asia To Explore By Train
Trains are much more than just journey options. It is the best way to get closer to the culture, embrace nature and even make a few friends. Over the century, trains have upgraded a lot. The advancement in engineering has made it possible to build train tracks even in the most dangerous paths of the world, penetrating deep forests and even drilling through a mountain or two.
No landscape could stop a train route, with today’s engineering technologies. This is the main reason why many scenic routes are open for train enthusiasts, around the world.
When it comes to Asia, nature has been a little more than generous. The colorful diverse culture adds more contrast chaotic beauty to nature’s calm serenity. A train trip through elegant Asian destinations would be mind-blowing.
However, not all Asian destinations have scenic routes and exclusive train journeys. You need to choose the right one for a memorable train vacation. We are helping you take the first step toward such a vacation by listing the top ten iconic Asian destinations to explore by trains.
Destinations In Asia To Explore By Train
With the world’s third-largest railway network, it is not a surprise to see India in this list. Trains were introduced to India during the British Rule and today, it has become a cultural icon to the people. India is famous for its diverse landforms starting from tropical beaches to desert sand dunes. The trains have managed to penetrate through all the landforms including the desert regions.
For those who are looking for a little more than usual, there are heritage trains and luxury trains covering important tourist destinations. To add more to the lot, the government initiates many circuit trains during the tourism season.
Things to do in India
- Visit beaches to enjoy a tropical vacation. The best places to visit for a beach vacation are Goa, Andaman, Lakshadweep, and others.
- Explore heritage lands and museums of the destinations to get the glimpse of the culture.
- Take up adventure activities like hiking, trekking, caving, bungee jumping, snorkeling, scuba diving, dune dashing, hot air ballooning and so on.
- Visit the pilgrimage sites and also manage to cover unique pilgrimage sites like the temple of rats, temple for Mother India and so on.
- Try to taste the diverse cuisine of the land. India is the land of dessert. Try to taste as many dishes as possible.
- Visit the hill stations of the region to enjoy a romantic vacation. Tea tourism is getting popular in India, as we speak.
- India is a cultural center of the world. Catch any performance art like dance, music, puppet show, skit, and others.
- Do not forget to visit the World Wonder, Taj Mahal and the marble monuments around Agra.
- If you are adventurous enough, take a visit to the meteorite crater, the Lonar Lake.
- Experience Yoga, Ayurvedic massage and other spiritual and rejuvenating activities.
Best time to visit in India
The best time to visit India is when the climate is pleasing, less-humid and dry. India is a vast land and thus, the prime season for tourism varies. If you are choosing central, west or south India, winter is the best time to visit.
Winter starts in October and ends in March. When it comes to East India, the monsoon is the right time to visit. Monsoon starts in July and ends in September. North-West India is at prime beauty during the winter season.
If you are planning to explore the peak north regions of the Himalayan kingdom, stick with the summer season, which starts in March and ends in June. Avoid monsoon, if you are planning a beach vacation in India.
Best trains to take a ride in India
- Luxury trains like Palace on Wheels, Maharajas’ Express, Deccan Odyssey and others.
- Heritage trains
- Toy trains of mountain regions
- Konkan railway route
- Jammu Mail route
- Madurai – Rameshwaram sea link route
- Desert circuit train
- Ramayana circuit train
The Great Wall, Gobi Desert, and Silk Road are just a few of the emblems of attractions of China. This is a phenomenal destination to explore if you are up for some adventure time. The land is covered with monuments and is encapsulated with unmatched natural bliss. The best way to feel welcomed into Chinese culture is by taking the trains. Starting from luxury trains to budget routes, the land is interlinked with train tracks and each route is a wonder by itself.
When it comes to trains, China is always a step ahead. Chinese are on the verge of creating bullet train tracks that can increase the speed of bullet trains to more than double the current speed (estimated speed is 600-1000 km/hr from the current speed of just 350 km/hr) (source).
Things to do in China
- Visit exotic destinations like the Great Wall of China, Forbidden City, and others.
- Visit the army of Terracotta warriors.
- Rent a bicycle to explore the Xi’an Wall.
- Li River bamboo rafting, cruise on Yangtze river and other water activities.
- Enjoy the local cuisine including street food dishes.
- Visit Chengdu to spot giant pandas.
- Visit the gardens and parks in major cities like Garden of Suzhou and others.
- Visit Nanjing Niushou mountain for pilgrimage sightseeing.
- If you wish to relax, enjoy hot cupping in any traditional spa.
- For a Venice styled vacation, explore the Tong Li water city canals on a traditional boat.
Best time to visit in China
If you are choosing to explore China via trains, the best time to visit is between June and October. However, the demand for tickets would be higher during this season. Thus, book as soon as possible.
China is a very large country and choosing the best time to explore the entire country can be tricky. The best tourism time for China is between March and May and, September and November. Spring (March-May) is the time when almost all the regions of China would be pleasing. It would be mildly cold but, very beautiful.
Mid-summer is the right time to visit the northern part of China for a warmer climate. April to June is the right time for such a vacation. The southern part of China is best visited during the autumn season or spring season. If you are ready to manage the bitter cold of China, visit during December – February to take part in the Ice Festival.
Best trains to take a ride in China
- Geological museum route (Chengdu – Kunming)
- High-speed train from Beijing to Shanghai
- Xining – Lhasa
- Silk road journey route between Xi’an and Urumqi
- Dali – Lijiang
- Hefei – Fuzhou
- Trans-Mongolian Railway
Malaysia is famous for many interesting and unique tourist elements, including the marvelous train routes. It is much more nourishing to explore the changing landscape of Malaysia from inside a comfortable train. If you are up for some luxurious high-end experience, you can find luxury trains to keep your vacation full of pampering.
Malaysia holds one of the world’s greatest train routes and it covers the world’s third-largest island. Malaysia is the business hub for South-East Asia and from the tourism point of view, the land is filled with hill stations, beaches, exotic islands, and heritage sites, which would give you a holistic vacation no matter what type of traveler you are. If you are looking for a vacation with a mixture of Chinese and Indian culture, this is the right place to visit.
Things to do in Malaysia
- Sightseeing around major cities to spot many architectural marvels, pilgrimage sites, and others.
- Visit Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, Taman Negara National Park, and other lush natural spots.
- Walk on the bridge of Petronas Towers (world’s tallest twin towers).
- Visit beaches for water activities, beach picnic, and others. The top water-based activities are snorkeling, boating, surfing, and diving.
- Enjoy island hoping at Sibuan, Sipadan, Kapalai, Layang-Layang, Pom, Lankayan and other islands.
- Souvenir shopping in islands of Andaman Sea.
- Try all the exotic dishes of the land. Do not miss the street food dishes of the local cuisine.
- Enjoy outdoor activities like picnic, hiking, trekking, and others.
- Visit Orangutan rehabilitation center where you can watch small monkeys playing, bathing and feeding.
Best time to visit in Malaysia
If you are choosing to enjoy the west coast region of Malaysia, the perfect season is between November and March. This is the time for the dry climate and a pleasing environment. If you are choosing the east coast of Malaysia, the best time to visit is between the beginning of April and the end of September.
If you are planning a budget vacation, choose off-season months like August, March, and May. Avoid visiting the east coast during monsoon season (November to February) as all beach accommodations and water activities will be closed for safety reasons.
Best trains to take a ride in Malaysia
- Belmond Eastern and Oriental Express
- Rainforest Railway
- ETS Train
- Keretapi Tana Melayu train network
- North Borneo Railway
Japan is a land with exciting package of surprises at every turn. Japan is one of the very few countries, which clings to its heritage past and culture. Japan is not your average sightseeing destination. It is a land where everything is a beauty by itself.
You can create memorable vacations with just trains when it comes to Japan-oriented vacation. With rail passes, you can make a wonderful train vacation at a budget level.
On the other hand, the country has numerous luxury trains to enjoy a pampering vacation too. Japan is a timeless beauty of tradition interlinked with modernization. The land is a splendor beauty with enthralling culture, that you can least expect on a volcanic archipelago. With bullet trains from the northern tip to the southern tip, Japan is easily scaled on a train.
Things to do in Japan
- Visit Zao Fox village to play with baby foxes.
- Dine at the robot restaurant. The restaurant has a dinner theater, which is open for adults only.
- Take part in Mario-kart styled street racing or, at least watch one.
- Explore and enjoy the flavor-rich cuisine and comfort foods.
- Enjoy exotic activities like open-air hot springs, sea diving and much more.
- Explore the alleys for cheap souvenir shopping.
- Catch a sumo wrestling match.
- Visit Buddhist pilgrimage sites. Some temples will allow you to stay for a night in their dorm to explore the culture.
- Visit Mount Fuji for a serene time and outdoor activities.
- Explore the mountains on a bullet train.
Best time to visit in Japan
Japan has four unique climates and each climate brings out a different spectrum of beauty in Japan. If you are looking for clear skies and dry with a pleasing climate suitable for sightseeing, exploring and photography, March to May and, September to November are the best times. Most of the tourists prefer March to May as it is the time for the cherry blossom effect. This is also the time for many cultural celebrations in Japan.
December to February is very cold but, budget travelers prefer to choose this time. Peak monsoon is the worst time to visit Japan.
Best trains to take a ride in Japan
- TokaidoShinkansen – bullet train ride
- Hisatsu Line
- Sagano Scenic railway route
- Hanwa Line (Osaka – Wakayama)
- Takayama Main Line
- North Honshu line
- Sagano Scenic railway route
- Kurobe Gorge Railway Route
Thailand is an exclusive destination nestled within lush and fresh nature. Moreover, there are more than 300 islands rich with water activities, exploration sites and much more. Thailand is one of the best places to enjoy a luxury vacation or a unique honeymoon experience.
May it be a comfortable beach vacation or a nourishing countryside visit, Thailand can add a unique flavor to your vacation. If you are into budget traveling, it is one of the best Asian destinations for backpacking.
Things to do in Thailand
- Enjoy island hopping or even rent a private island for water activities, if your budget allows it.
- If you are brave enough, try to get SakYant tattoo, which is made with the help of a metal rod by authentic monks. These tattoos are said to have magical powers.
- Explore the culture of the land by taking a tuk-tuk ride through heritage regions. If you are a night-owl, choose to ride the night tuk-tuk.
- Catch a Muay Thai fight. Best fights take place in Bangkok but, you can always find fights in all major cities and regions of Thailand.
- Enjoy the cuisine of the land by exploring the street food options. Do not miss to taste scorpions on a stick.
- If you want to explore the hidden beauties of the land, choose to visit the floating markets of Thailand for a colorful time. The best of all is the Damnoen Saduak.
- Visit monuments, heritage lands, and pilgrimage sites to enjoy the history and architectural marvels of Thailand.
- The best relaxation technique is getting a Thai massage. Try to find an authentic massage center for a traditional Thai massage.
- There are many cultural performances you can find in Thailand to enjoy the art wealth of the land.
- Thailand is the place for nightlife. You ought to visit some party sites, enjoy ladyboy shows and much more.
Best time to visit in Thailand
Cool and dry season is the best time to visit Thailand. November to April is the right time to visit for such a climate. The west coast of Thailand will be more beautiful during winter times with lush nature and interesting water activities like scuba diving, snorkeling and beach vacation activities. The east coast of Thailand is a year-round vacation spot. The prime tourism season in Thailand is between the end of December and the beginning of March.
Best trains to take a ride in Thailand
- Bangkok to Chiang Mai (best during winter season)
- Bangkok to Maeklong (for cultural sightseeing)
- Bangkok – Kanchanaburi – River Kwai (countryside – view)
Indonesia is best explained as the tropical land filled with lush beaches bordered by the fascinating unique culture and a backdrop of misty inactive volcanoes. This is the largest archipelago of the world, recognized as a country. There are more than 17 thousand islands that makeup Indonesia.
Indonesia is not just about the beach, water activities and partying. The culture of the land is best explored by visiting the villages of the region. Try to enjoy the essence of the land while you are vacationing in this incredible paradise surrounded by nature.
Things to do in Indonesia
- Visit Buddhist monuments and pilgrimage sites like Borobudur and others.
- Enjoy the beach, water activities, and underwater activities.
- The best place to enjoy the culture of the land is Yogyakarta. Visit monuments and temples here along with shopping, catching a theatre act, museum visits and so on.
- Visit the archeological site of Prambanan.
- Hike up any of the mountains to watch sunrise or sunset. Best spot for such activities are Mount Bromo, Borobudur and others.
- Island hopping is the iconic tourist activity of Indonesia.
- Visit Komodo National Park to spot exotic animals and birds.
Best time to visit in Indonesia
The best time to trave Indonesia is from May to September. This is the dry and warm season of the land. The monsoon season is the worst to visit as the downpour would be heavy and many routes and attractions would be closed. Monsoon starts in October and ends in April.
If you are looking for prime tourism season, visit during July and August. This is the right time to enjoy a beach styled tropical vacation with water activities and sightseeing. This is also the right time for honeymoon activities.
Best trains to take a ride in Indonesia
- Jakarta to Surabaya (Argo BromoAnggrek train)
- Jakarta – Solo (Argo Dwipangga)
- Surabaya – Bandung (Argo Wilis)
- Probolinggo – Yogyakarta (Argo Ranggajati)
- Surabaya – Banyuwangi (MutiaraTimur as called Eastern Pearl)
7. Sri Lanka
Due to its proximity to the tourism giant, India; Sri Lanka has become a hidden beauty. This island country has a historic heritage beautified with soaring mountain folds, elegant quaint villages, ancient monuments, tea plantations and much more. The myriad charms of the land are best explored via trains, which penetrate through trodden regions of Sri Lanka, exploring the culture, history and the unparalleled alluring nature.
The region is quite small and thus, all the major destinations are connected via trains. You can find train routes that take you through wildflower fields, cultural villages, and even interesting monuments.
Things to do in Sri Lanka
- Hiking, trekking, picnic, tea plantation strolling and photography at Little Adams Peak, Riverston and other destinations.
- Stay in any tea plantation estates.
- Go on safari at Kudulla National Park.
- Enjoy adventure activities like rope swinging, rock climbing, surfing, snorkeling, diving, and others.
- Visit Diyaluma Falls and even trek to the top of the waterfalls.
- Explore the local ethnic market to buy exclusive souvenirs.
- Romantic sunset road trip along the southern coast of Sri Lanka.
- Experience the cultural essence of the land by exploring Colombo.
- Enjoy the rich creamy cuisine of the land.
- Visit pilgrimage sites and monuments to explore the history and architectural beauty of the land.
Read more: World’s Famous Scuba Diving Destinations
Best time to visit in Sri Lanka
Geographically speaking, Sri Lanka is a small country. Thus, there is a uniformity in climatic conditions throughout the country. The best time to visit the region is from December to March. If you are looking for a summer retreat at any hill station, visit between March and May.
If you are planning to stick with the beaches of the land, visit the eastern part of the country during August and September. September to November is the monsoon season and it is the worst time to visit Sri Lanka as the region is prone to erratic downpour and even flooding at many locations.
Best trains to take a ride in Sri Lanka
- Eastern train route (Kandy – NanuOya – Ella – Badulla)
- Demodra nine arch bridge route
- Anuradhapura – Jaffna route
- Colombo – Galle route
Exploring Taiwan is much more elegant with trains. Starting from the western seaboard trains to the bullet trains, the entire country is zigzagged with train routes. Thus, you can reach every nook and corner of Taiwan with train travels.
Taiwan has a luxurious tradition and a lively culture. This spiritual land is a spectrum of beauties like sea cliffs, gorges, trails, colonial structures, tropical forests and much more. There is a classic beauty in every corner you turn in this beautiful isle.
Things to do in Taiwan
- Visit architectural marvels like Taipei 101, Dragon and Tiger Pagoda and, others.
- Explore the heritage of the land by visiting museums like the National Palace Museum, Chimei Museum, Buddha Museum, and others.
- Visit Taroka National Park, Yushan National Park, purple butterfly valley and other wildlife beauties
- Cable car ride and boating on Sun Moon Lake
- Enjoy the culture of the land at Miramar Entertainment park, Rainbow Village, Shiling Night Market, and other lively places.
- Beach vacation at Penghu
- Visit spiritual pilgrimage destinations like Longshan Temple and others to watch exotic rituals.
Best time to visit in Taiwan
Spring is the peak tourism season in Taiwan. The season starts in March and ends in May. This is the right time to visit the land to watch plum and cherry blossoms at bloom. This is the right time for sightseeing, hiking, and other outdoor activities. Summer is very hot and humid in Taiwan.
Thus, this is the right time for water activities. Tourists usually visit the region during the summer for cultural activities as you can find a lot of festivals and events. However, typhoons are common during summer and thus, it is best to avoid the peak summer months (June to August).
During autumn, the place gets more attractive again for tourists to enjoy. Autumn runs between September and November. Winter is very harsh here and it is the lean tourism season. Winter starts in December and ends in March.
Best trains to take a ride in Taiwan
- Alishan Forest Railway route
- Jiji Line
- Pingzi Line
- West Coast Rail Route
- TRA Eastern Line
Geographically speaking Istanbul is located both in Asia and Europe. Thus, Istanbul is more than qualified to be on this list. Istanbul’s location gives more validation to the beauty of the land. This is the place where Eastern and Western cultures meet. Greeks, Venetians, and Romans have ruled this place in the past and the remnants of their culture, beauty, and traditions are still making the place, a dynamic tourist destination.
The local lifestyle is a manifold of beauties and attractions. These spectrums of spirit can be best engulfed with train journeys through iconic scenic and cultural routes.
Things to do in Istanbul
- Explore the country to spot many architectural marvels like AyaSofya, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern and others.
- Explore the heritage of the land by visiting the museums of the land like the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Carpet Museum, Pera Museum, Military Museum, and so on.
- Explore the markets of the region for enjoying unique souvenirs. Istanbul is famous for spices, handicraft items, perfumes and dried fruits.
- Visit the numerous mosques of the land. Each mosque is unique in terms of architectural beauty, carvings, paintings, and others.
- Visit any high tower or fortress to enjoy a panoramic view of the region
- Explore the culture and lifestyle of the land by taking tram or double-decker bus trips through the cities.
- Catch any cultural performance or ceremonial dances of the land. You can find many theaters in Istanbul.
- Enjoy cruise vacation for a few hours to enjoy a leisure sunset view, partying and traditional cuisine.
- Enjoy water-based activities like kitesurfing, windsurfing, surfing, and others.
Best time to visit in Istanbul
The prime tourism season is between March and May and between September and November. December to February is the worst time to visit Istanbul as the region would be tormented with snow, rain and icy breeze. During the spring and autumn, the temperature will be very pleasing and the climate will be calm.
Thus, you can enjoy water and land-based activities with ease. If you are looking to enjoy as many cultural activities as possible, visit during September, November and October months. Summer starts in June and ends in August. The summers are very hot and humid and not a prime time for tourism. However, if you are looking for a budget vacation, summer is a better option than winter.
Best trains to take a ride in Istanbul
- Venice Simplon Orient Express
- Taurus Express
- Van Lake Express
- Eastern Express
- Karabuk – Zonguldak Train
The historic region of Myanmar is an important off-beat destination in Asia for culture-enthusiasts. Starting from scenic natural beauty to spiritual elements, Myanmar is a living soul of holistic beauty. You cannot expect luxury or high-tech amenities when it comes to trains in Myanmar.
However, the entire land is more mesmerizing if you choose to cover the land via trains. Myanmar is the right place to enjoy the ancient Asian culture enriched with a traditional lifestyle. The landscape is scattered with pagodas and stupas adding more color to the culture of the land.
Things to do in Myanmar
- Enjoy a luxury cruise on Irrawaddy River.
- Trek through the Shan Hills to enjoy pine forests and watch the lifestyle and culture of secluded communities.
- Visit pagodas and other spiritual destinations to get rejuvenated and enjoy exotic ritualsand culture.
- Take a heritage walk and cover all important monuments, architectural marvels and much more.
- Enjoy outdoor activities like trekking, hiking, hot air ballooning and, others.
- If you love water activities, enjoy coral exploration, scuba diving, snorkeling, and others.
- Explore caves like Saddan Caves to enjoy carvings, sculptures and grand pagodas inside the caves.
Best time to visit in Myanmar
It is always best to visit Myanmar when it is dry and pleasing. October to March (winter season) is the right time to visit Myanmar. The climate will be pleasing for sightseeing and all land and water adventure activities will be open for tourists.
If you are planning to visit during summer, restrict your vacation to the hill stations and high altitude regions. Monsoon is moderately wet but, many outdoor activities will be banned during monsoon. Monsoon starts in June and ends in August.
Best trains to take a ride in Myanmar
- Mandalay – Hsipaw
- Circular Train Route of Yangon
- Mandalay – Myitkyina
- Yangon – Mandalay
- Yangon – Bagan
- Yangon – Taungoo
- Yangon – Mon State
- Thanzi – Shwenyaung
If you are planning to explore Asian tourism paradises, it is best to choose trains as your major mode of transportation. It is recommended to pre-book all the tickets as early as possible as many major route trains are always brimmed with passengers.
Source – orientrailjourneys.