Train Journeys

The Best Sleeper Trains in the World

Veteran train traveler Monisha Rajesh breaks down the best carriers and routes, from India to Scotland.
The Belmond Royal Scotsman travelling through the landscape

There's something seriously special about train travel—particularly when the journey includes a sleeper carriage as good as these ones. There's only one problem: you'll be so mesmerized by the view whooshing past your window that sleep seems nigh impossible. Below, we take a look at some of the world's very best sleeper trains, where the sleep cabins are just as inviting as the views.

Duronto Express trainLalam / Getty Images

Hazrat-Nizamuddin Duronto Express: New Delhi to Ernakulam, India

No network in the world can rival the magic and dynamism of India’s railways. Starting in the capital, this two-night journey covers 1,650miles to Kerala, thundering south through the red dust of Rajasthan’s deserts, past Gujarat’s salt flats and Maharashtra’s villages. From the comfort of a second-class sleeper berth, passengers get an unfiltered view of everyday life as the train inches along the backs of huts where buffalo roam, kids play cricket, and the smell of fried cooking wafts through the open doors. And there’s plenty to see on board too: vendors call up the aisles with milky tea and sweet coffee, hawkers sell everything from pop socks to playing cards, and each stop brings freshly fried snacks from dosa and pakora to omelette sandwiches. On the second morning passengers wake to the sight of the Arabian sea sparkling in the light as the train hugs the Konkan Coast, coconut groves and bent-backed palms throwing shadows across the carriage.

The train departs on Saturdays from Delhi Hazrat Nizamuddin station at 9:40 p.m. arriving into Ernakulam Junction at 18:15 two days later. A one-way ticket in a second-class air-conditioned sleeper berth (2AC) costs from $85. Visit

Qinghai Tibet railwayJaris Ho / Getty Images

Qinghai railway, Xining to Lhasa

Few train journeys can literally take your breath away, but the Qinghai railway from Xining in China to Lhasa in Tibet, is the highest railway in the world—its beauty worth the struggle. A nightly departure from Xining takes passengers along the Qinghai plateau in the darkness, but pull up the blind in the morning and hot sunshine floods the compartment, electric-blue skies with not a cloud in sight. Over 22 hours the train barrels through sandy flats, cocoa-colored mountains rising in the distance and mirror-like lakes closing in against the carriages. As the train ascends, passengers will hear the hiss of purified oxygen pumping into the compartments while the Kunlun Mountains draw close, a cold blue glow filling the carriages from their jagged icy sides. Bedraggled yaks dot the landscape and colorful prayer flags flap in the wind before the train descends into the Lhasa Valley, and China’s red flags herald the arrival.

The train departs daily from Xining at 9:50 p.m., arriving into Lhasa at 7:56 p.m. A single ticket in a soft sleeper costs 781RMB ($100). Visit

Pekka Keskinen

The Santa Claus Express: Helsinki to Rovaniemi, Finland

As ice crunches under furry-booted feet pacing the platform, the Santa Claus Express curls into Helsinki station, its double-decker body coming to a standstill with a hiss. Departing year-round, the sleeper service is most popular in the days leading up to Christmas when families and tourists hop aboard to travel 500 miles to Rovaniemi—the capital of Finnish Lapland—on the edge of the Arctic Circle. Squeezing into the tinsel-strung dining car, its snow-sprayed windows misty from body heat, passengers tuck into reindeer stew, and meatballs and mash with lingonberry jam. Then it’s off to bed in private compartments as the train thunders north for 12 hours, through pine forests sagging with snow. Perched on the pulldown window seat, passengers can peek into the woods to spot houses trimmed with fairy lights, while lakes expand and recede, and on rare occasions, the soft spray of the Northern Lights glows against the darkness.

The train departs daily from Helsinki at 7:29 pm. arriving into Rovaniemi at 7:20 a.m. A single ticket starts from $60. Private compartments cost $340 for two people. Children under ten travel for free if sharing a berth with an adult. Visit

The Belmond Royal Scotsman

The Belmond Royal Scotsman

Over two nights, Belmond’s Taste of the Highlands itinerary takes passengers on a whistle-stop tour through Scotland’s most glorious landscapes with opportunities to disembark for clay-pigeon shooting, fishing and even a bit of whiskey-tasting. Boarding at Edinburgh Waverley, passengers are treated to a bagpiper pacing the platform before the train heads north towards Fife. Much like an old Edwardian house on wheels, this train gleams from polish, with soft herringbone throws on tweed upholstery along with the luxurious smell of Bamford products in the bathrooms. During the day passengers can brace against the wind on the open viewing platform as the tracks snake behind the train, rivers rushing alongside and walkers waving from the woods. Unlike other luxury services, this one parks at quiet stations for the entire night so passengers can sleep soundly before it sets off again in the morning during a breakfast of scrambled eggs, haggis, and sausages bursting their skins.

A cabin for one starts from $7,000. Visit

Eastern Express trainGetty Images

Ankara to Kars, Türkiye

The Dogu Express (Eastern Express) from Ankara to Kars in the northeast is Türkiye’s longest train journey, with snowscapes and icy gorges in winter, and teal-green lakes and meadows blooming in summer. Existing in various forms since the 1930s, the train now features in two guises: a regular commuter train and a tourist version that influencers have leapt on. However, the daily classic train is where there’s a true spirit of community and adventure. In the chatty warmth of the dining car, Turkish medical students, delivery drivers and large groups of friends share gooey boxes of baklava and sip tea, amid the scent of grilled lamb kebabs and soup. Outside, the Euphrates river winds alongside, curling around rock faces and farms, trees bending into its mint-green waters as it surges towards Syria.

A private compartment for two costs $130 one way. Visit for tickets which are released one month before departure.

Reunification Express Railway in VietnamIsmael Monfort Vialcanet / Alamy

The Reunification Express: Hanoi to Saigon, Vietnam

Running along the spine of Vietnam, the Reunification Express takes two nights to travel from Hanoi down to the city of Saigon, showcasing the country in all its glory. As it sets off from the capital after dark, the train crawls through the guts of the city so tightly at times that passengers can watch families wind down for the night, cooks spraying pots in alleys and cyclists giving side-eye from wobbly bikes. The following morning, with waxy leaves slapping at the open windows, the train speeds past waterlogged paddy and palm trees, crawling around cliffs until the South China sea blazes between the loveliest stretch from Hué to Da Nang. Food carts pass through, and depending on the service that day, passengers can sometimes order food to the compartment as the train worms down the country.

The SE1 train departs Hanoi at 19:20 and arrives into Saigon at 6:30am two days later. A one-way ticket in a second-class air-conditioned sleeper costs from $58. Visit

Monisha Rajesh is the author of Around the World in 80 Trains. A version of this article originally appeared in Condé Nast Traveller.