Earth Day 2020 will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the day 20 million Americans, 10% of the U.S. population, took to the streets to protest government inaction on environmental issues like smog, oil spills, and water pollution. In celebration of that first citizen-led movement for change, this year’s Earth Day theme is climate action. Most scientists agree that one of the most important things that individuals can do to help fight climate change is focus on ways to reduce their personal carbon emissions, and for most people, transportation is their largest source of carbon emissions. Train travel is far and away the most sustainable way to get where you’re going, so what better way to celebrate Earth Day than with one of these train trips across Europe?
Guilt-free perks of traveling by train across Europe
Traveling by train is not only environmentally friendly, it’s romantic, relaxing, and offers the perfect opportunity to slow down and appreciate the view. Given its superb rail infrastructure and the relatively compact size of the continent, Europe is an ideal destination for a train tour. There are an array of European train trips of varying lengths that have been designed to allow you time to take in the landscape. On these train trips, the journey is at least as important as the destination. You can also design your own train trip across Europe thanks to Eurostar, the world famous high-speed rail that connects some of the continent’s biggest cities and most popular tourist destinations. Whether you’ve got a day, a week, or a month, there is train trip in Europe for you.
Earth Day 2020 | Train Trips Across Europe – Glacier Express, Switzerland
Covering 180 miles in eight hours, the Glacier Express offers passengers a leisurely ride through the Swiss Alps from Zermatt at the base of the Matterhorn to St. Moritz. The Glacier Express prides itself on its status as the slowest express train in the world because the slow pace means that passengers have plenty of time to enjoy the region’s breathtaking beauty through the train’s massive panoramic windows. During your journey, you’ll cross 291 bridges and pass through 91 tunnels as you marvel at imposing mountains, idyllic villages, and two UNESCO World Heritage sites. The trip will also take you through the stunning Rhine Gorge, which is often referred to as the Grand Canyon of Switzerland. The train’s pace allows for all meals to be made fresh, so you’ll be treated to gourmet dining made with seasonal, local ingredients.
- If you opt to extend your vacation at either end of your rail travel with a few days in Zermatt, you’ll find plenty to do in the shadow of the Matterhorn. In addition to hiking and biking, you can visit the Matterhorn Museum or take a cable car to the Dossen Glacier Garden.
Even though the ski season will likely have ended by Earth Day, the charming resort town of St. Moritz is still well worth a visit. There you can admire the works of painter Peter Robert Berry at the Berry Museum St. Moritz, enjoy high tea at the luxe Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, or take a hike to the eternal ice of the Morteratsch glacier.
Check In to Chalet Ulysse, Step Out to Zermatt
Earth Day 2020 | Train Trips Across Europe – Jacobite Train, Scotland
Anyone who has ever gotten lost in a Harry Potter book will love the chance to take a ride on Scotland’s Jacobite Steam Train, which served as the inspiration for the Hogwart’s Express. The 84-mile round trip takes passengers through an array of beautiful British landscapes and has been described as the greatest railway journey in the world. The train departs from Fort William, Scotland, which sits at the base of Britain’s tallest mountain, Ben Nevis.
- The trip will take you over the 21 arches of the Glenfinnan viaduct, which was made famous by the Harry Potter films. If time allows, the train may pause here to allow passengers to savor the view. Next, you’ll stop at the station in Glenfinnan where you’ll have time to stretch your legs and visit the small rail museum in the historic train station. The journey then continues on to the town of Arisaig where on a clear day, you can see the Isle of Skye. Finally, you’ll arrive in the fishing port of Mallaig where the train will stop for an hour and a half to allow passengers to explore the town, visit the shops, and grab lunch.
Check In to Lochview House, Step Out to Jacobite Steam Train
Earth Day 2020 | Train Trips Across Europe – Belmond Grand Hiberian, Ireland & Northern Ireland
One of the newest and most luxurious train trips in Europe is found aboard the Belmond Grand Hiberian, which offers passengers luxury transportation to some of Ireland’s most famous landmarks. Travelers can choose between two-, four-, and six-night trips, many of which are themed around gourmet dining or whiskey tasting. Whichever itinerary you choose, you’ll love touring the Irish countryside in the Grand Hiberian’s luxurious coaches.
- The Taste of Ireland itinerary is a two-night round trip that will take you from Dublin to Belfast on the first day, to Kilkenny on the second before returning you to Dublin on day three. Throughout the trip, you’ll be treated to luxurious amenities, impeccable service, and world class dining. You’ll want to make time in your vacation itinerary to explore all that Dublin has to offer before or after your train trip. Dublin’s‘s can’t-miss attractions include Dublin Castle, Trinity College, and of course, the Guinness Storehouse.
Check In to Hotel Riu Plaza the Gresham, Step Out to Dublin
Earth Day 2020 | Train Trips Across Europe – Bergen and Flåm Railways, Norway
The highest mainline railway line in Northern Europe, the Bergen Railway connects Norway’s two largest cities, Bergen on the west coast and Oslo in the southeast. The journey takes you through the beautiful scenery of the Hallingdal Valley and offers views of mountain peaks that are covered in snow for much of the year. You’ll also catch a glimpse of the Hardangerjokulen glacier at Finse, the highest station on the journey. To ride the whole line from Bergen to Oslo or vice versa, you’ll need about seven hours. Alternatively, you can pick up the train at a number of coastal villages along the route.
- The Bergen line is beloved by visitors to Norway not only for the beautiful scenery along the main route but also because of the access the line provides to the Flåm Railway, which is one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions and one of the most beautiful train rides in the world. In just over an hour, the Flåm Railway, one of the steepest in the world, takes you from sea level to the Myrdal Station, which sits at 867 meters above sea level. The journey begins at the Flåm Station, which is the only rail station along the Sognefjord, Norway’s longest and deepest fjord. Along the 20-kilometer trip from Flåm Station to Mydal, you’ll see tumbling waterfalls and towering mountains and pass through 20 tunnels.
Check In to Flåm Ferdaminne, Step Out to Flåm
Earth Day 2020 | Train Trips Across Europe – Train des Pignes – France
The famous Train des Pignes, or Pinecone Train, offers a leisurely journey from Nice to Digne-les-Bains, a spa town known for its hot springs. In addition to the 15 station stops on the 3.5-hour route between the two cities, the train often pauses briefly, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, to allow hikers to hop off and continue their journeys on foot. The train goes back and forth four times a day, making it possible to alight at one of the stops, explore the surrounding area, and reboard a later train. It’s even possible to stop overnight in one of the villages along the way and pick up the train the following day.
Stopping points along a Train des Pignes trip
- Puget-Théniers is a classic provincial village with many narrow Medieval streets to explore and a 13th century church that is worth a visit.
- Annot is an ideal spot for those who want to explore the region’s natural beauty on foot as its location at the base of steep, wooded hills offers plenty of hiking opportunities.
- Saint-André-les-Alpes is another ideal spot for exploring nature, and Castillon Lake offers lots of fun for lovers of watersports.
- Le Fugeret is a quiet little village where you can still see traces of the Roman presence in Provence.
- Touet-sur-Var is a 12th century village that seems to be built into the side of a cliff. Note that many of the colorfully-painted houses have flat roofs that are used to dry figs in the sun.
5 can’t-miss attractions in Nice
Whether you begin or end your trip in Nice, you’ll want to spend a few days exploring this beautiful city and reveling in the beauty and glamor of the French Riviera. Here are five things to keep you busy during a holiday in Nice.
- Enjoy the view of the Mediterranean as you stroll along Promenade des Anglais
- Sample the offerings at the numerous crêperies in Vieille Ville, the city’s old town.
- Admire the world famous works of art at Musée Marc Chagall
- Buy fresh produce at Cours Saleya Market and plan a beach picnic
- Admire the Gothic architecture of Monastère de Cimiez