Photo: Gerrit Rautenbach/Shutterstock

Ride This Train for 994 Miles Across South Africa's Mountains, Deserts, and Biggest Cities

Cape Town Train Travel
by Morgane Croissant Mar 30, 2023

Long-distance trains, like the train between Toronto and Vancouver in Canada, or the Caledonian Sleeper between London and Edinburgh in the UK, are not for those who want to get anywhere fast — they are for travelers for whom the journey is as much an essential part of a trip as the destination. And South Africa’s Blue Train is meant just for those people. The nearly 1,000-mile, luxurious train trip between Cape Town and Pretoria (and sometime even all the way to Kruger National Park) is one that wows its passengers by going through four South African provinces and some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes, from mountains to vineyards, deserts, and the country’s biggest cities.

Does the Blue Train still exist in South Africa?

The Blue Train has been in operation since 1946 and is still running. Bookings are open on their website. The train has been awarded the title of “World’s Leading Luxury Train” eight times in the past 25 years.

What are the routes for the Blue Train in South Africa?

The main route of the Blue Train is between Cape Town and Pretoria, a journey of 994 miles. A few times per year, the train also runs from Pretoria to Kruger National Park.

The Blue Train can also be chartered from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, George, and Mossel Bay, and from Pretoria to Durban, Kruger National Park, Sun City, and Bloemfontein.

How long is the journey of the Blue Train?

The route between Cape Town and Pretoria, which is the train’s standard journey, takes around 31 hours. It leaves the station at 10 AM in Cape Town/Pretoria and arrives the next day at 6 PM at its destination.

When it is running, the trip between Pretoria to Kruger National Park takes 19 hours.

What is special about the Blue Train?

Lounge on the Blue Train. Double Bed on the Blue train. Photo: Blue Train
De Luxe Suite on board the Blue train. Double Bed on the Blue train. Photo: Blue Train
Dining car on the Blue train. Double Bed on the Blue train. Photo: Blue Train
Twin beds in the De Luxe Suite. Double Bed on the Blue train. Photo: Blue Train
Double Bed on the Blue train. Photo: Blue Train

The Blue Train is a luxury train that resembles a four-star hotel on wheels that can accommodate between 54 and 82 guests (54 guests on the charter train and 82 guests on the standard train).

The guest suites are all exceptional, with detailed wood paneling, elegant wooden furniture, plush carpets, comfy beds, quality textiles, air conditioning, underfloor heating, and private bathrooms. Guests have the choice of twin beds or a double bed, and can opt for a suite with a shower or one with a full-size bathtub. The bathrooms are fitted with Italian marble and gold-plated fixtures. Each coach has a 24-hour butler to help with any requests.

Similarly, the lounges (for aperitif, afternoon tea, after-dinner cognac, and cigar) and the dining car are beautifully decorated in a classic and elegant style. The dining car, where the dress code is formal, serves fine cuisine and South African wines. The chef caters to every diet, including Kosher, Halal, gluten-free, or vegan, as long as your preferences are mentioned at the time of booking.

The best hotels in Cape Town and Pretoria to be near the train stations

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The best hotel near the Cape Town railway station: Taj Cape Town

Photo: Expedia
Photo: Expedia
Photo: Expedia

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A quick taxi ride to the train station and the center of the city, the Taj Cape Town is a five-start hotel with 176 luxury rooms and suites. All the rooms and suites are beautifully decorated in an elegant and classic style but their best asset is the views of the city and Table Mountain that they offer. There are three restaurants and bar on site for guest to enjoy: Bombay Brasserie, The Mint Restaurant and Grilland, and The Taj Lobby Bar and Lounge. The property also has a spa offering a range of treatments, a fully-equipped fitness centre, and a large indoor heated pool, sauna, and steam rooms.

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If you’d rather stay in a rental, check out Matador‘s selection of the best Airbnbs in Cape Town.

The best hotel near Gautrain Pretoria Station: Sheraton Pretoria Hotel

Photo: Expedia
Photo: Expedia
Photo: Expedia
Photo: Expedia

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The Sheraton Pretoria Hotel is a 10-minute taxi trip from the Gautrain Pretoria Station. This property has 175 elegant and comfortable rooms and suites, some of which even have views on the beautiful Union Buildings, the official seat of South Africa’s government. The hotel has a health club with a gym and saunas, an outdoor swimming pool, and massage rooms. The on-site Magnolia Restaurant is open for all day, and the Tiffins Bar & Lounge is the perfect place for afternoon tea. The hotel’s terrace and outdoor pool also provide views of the Union Buildings.

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