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 €108 one way. Visit ambertravel.com for tickets which are released one month before departure.
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 12go.asia
Monisha Rajesh is the author of Around the World in 80 Trainspublished by Bloomsbury at £10.99