Romantic rail journeys in South Africa
Did you know?
The first laird of Matjiesfontein Village, Jimmy Logan, used to sponsor visiting English cricket teams.
It's been raining at Matjiesfontein Station in the Great Karoo and the laird is looking out of his window at the driving summer showers, with a celebratory glass of bubbly to hand.
The Blue Train has just been. Rovos Rail is expected to pass by. Even the Shongololo Express is scheduled to pass through here at some stage. Matjiesfontein Station is alive and working.
Every day, travellers alight from one romantic rail tour after another and wander around the museum, the Lord Milner Hotel and the coffee shops of this quaint little Victorian railway village in the desert. One of the the many romantic rail journeys of South Africa, it's a must-see.
In general, the romance of a South African rail journey never disappoints, wherever you travel in this beautiful country. Whether you're chugging off on safari through the bushveld or traversing the Karoo desert, the luxury train journeys all deliver scenic beauty, dining car pampering and the kind of exceptional service normally reserved for royalty.
Each train − and their range of routes − is different. Rovos Rail, for instance, is pure nostalgic elegance harking back to the 1930s. Royal Suites take up half the carriages, and are named after famous money-men of the British Colonial era. Tuck yourself away in your small but comfortable apartment, or sit in the observation car at the back of the train and take high tea or sip a glass of bubbly as lovely scenery unfolds outside the big windows.
The Shongololo Express is marketed as a ‘fully serviced travelling hotel' and their Safari Trains offerings range from battlefield tours to hot air ballooning − with a score of other adventures in exotic places in-between.
The Blue Train is undoubtedly one of the most luxurious trains in the world, and when you meet your personal on-board butler, experience the fine dining and superb service, you'll know you've died and gone to Romantic Holiday Heaven.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27(0)12 315 8242
Email: marielle @rovos.co.za
The Blue Train
Tel: +27 (0)12 334 8459
How to get here
Rovos Rail departs from Arcadia station in Pretoria. Most other trains depart from Johannesburg's Park station.
Tours to do
On its journey to Cape Town, Rovos Rail offers a 5km walk from a siding outside of Matjiesfontein into the historic village. it's good to stretch your legs and is a fairly gentle walk.
What to pack
For Rovos Rail and the Blue Train, gentlemen should pack a jacket and tie; ladies a smart/casual evening outfit
Where to stay
The gracious, century-old St James Guesthouse in Kalk Bay, Cape Town, is a perfect place from which to explore the surrounding areas. In season, you can watch the southern right whales only metres from the shoreline.