The world’s longest train route isn’t the famous Trans-Siberian Express or “The Canadian” east-to-west long-hauler: it’s a little-known route from Singapore to Lagos, Portugal. It crosses the entirety of two continents, covers 11,653 miles, and costs around $1,300 to travel the entire route.
The route is completely doable, but it’s not an official route operated by a single train service. It was first shared on a page for map aficionados on Reddit, where a user shared a map of the route only available as of mid-December 2021. The original poster has since made a few changes to the recommended route, but the overall journey is completely possible (though a few trains are currently on hold due to COVID closures). The proposed route includes a stint on the Tran-Siberian Express before taking the northern route through Europe, passing through Belarus and Poland before hitting Berlin, Paris, northern Spain, and, eventually, Lagos.
It may be the best sightseeing trip in the world.
Though it’d take roughly 21 days without any stops, you’ll definitely want to make as many stops as possible. The route goes through the jungles of Malaysia, passes the Great Wall of China, crosses the Mongolian Desert to Lake Baikal, runs the length of Russia to Moscow, and passes castles and wine regions in Europe. The final leg is a stunning ride with coastal views in western Portugal. If you’ve got time to make quite a few stops, you’ll be able to see some of the world’s most beautiful natural, historical, and famous sights. If you’re ready to hop aboard the world’s longest train trip, here are the sights you absolutely cannot miss.
Perhentian Islands, Malaysia
After spending as much time as possible in Singapore, hop aboard and make plans to stop near Narathiwat, in central Malaysia. From there, you’ll want to get to the Perhentian Islands. They’re the picture-perfect definition of a Southeast Asian island, with everything from luxury resorts to backpacker hostels. Activities on offer range from hiking to snorkeling with sea turtles and cycling around the islands to try Nasi lemak, a tasty dish best served by local food carts on the side of the road.
The Terracotta Army, China
The discovery of the Terracotta Army in 1974 took the archaeological world by storm. Under the orders of the first emperor of China, workers built more than 8,000 warrior sculptures and 500 horses and chariots. The warriors have unique faces, suggesting that it wasn’t an assembly-line process, but rather, a decades-long effort to recreate the military might needed to protect Emperor Qin Shi Huang after death.
The Great Wall of China, China
The Great Wall of China is more than13,000 miles long and the biggest human-made building in the world. Jump off for a few days in Beijing to see it, as well as the Forbidden City. It was home to 24 emperors across 500 years. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and potentially the most culturally and politically significant structure in all of mainland Asia.
Break out the puffy jacket and de-board in Ulaanbaatar, one of the most unexpected places to stop on the world’s longest train trip. Plan to spend a few days with nomadic peoples in the desert around the capital city, where activities like falconry, sleeping in gers (cold-weather nomadic tents), horseback riding, and visiting the Gobi Desert are on the agenda.
Lake Baikal, Russia
Lake Baikal is the world’s deepest lake at 5,700 feet. According to UNESCO, it’s the “Galapagos of Russia” owing to its fantastic diversity and landscapes. Stay in Irkutsk and spend a few days on wildlife tours, hiking, or hitting hot springs and frozen lakes before continuing your trip.
Plenty of Moscow‘s famous buildings are among the most gorgeous and unique in the world, but you’ll want to be sure there are some specific buildings you don’t miss. Jump off for a few days to visit Red Square and the Kremlin, the physical and symbolic heart of the city. St. Basil’s Cathedral looks like it belongs at Disney World, and the Bolshoi Theatre is possibly the world’s most famous opera house. Catch a show even if you have no idea what they’re saying.
Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park, Belarus
Take a northern European safari in Belarus. Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park is home to wild bison, boars, elk, lynx, wolves, beavers, and hundreds of other rare species that thrive in the densely forested park. It’s west of Minsk, on the border with Poland.
Warsaw’s WWII Sites, Poland
Give yourself a break from the world’s longest train rides for a few days in Poland, where you can spend a few days experiencing the tragedy and beauty of the country. Though somber, sights like Oskar Schindler’s factory and the Auschwitz WWII Concentration Camp (near Krakow) are must-visits, telling the often untold stories of the horrors of World War II. But Warsaw is full of beauty and color, too. Walk the grounds of the fairytale-like Lazienki Park, trek to Tatra National Park (equally as beautiful as Glacier National Park), stroll the markets at the colorful Old Town Market Place, or frolic in the magical “crooked forest.”
Germany doesn’t skimp on museums, shopping, or fantastic bars and late-night clubs (including some very unique options), but Berlin especially has fantastic traditional food. Visit beer halls, take a food tour, search for the best German pretzel, or wander through one of dozens of food markets and outdoor fairs. Head out on a day trip to Dresden (about two hours away) for fantastic architecture and amazing parks and museums.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
If you have time to make the roughly four-hour drive from Frankfurt for an overnight trip, visit the beautiful Neuschwanstein Castle. It’s one of the most famous in Europe (perhaps the most famous) and is said to have inspired Walt Disney’s designs for castles at his theme parks. Other good day trips include the colorful medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber and hiking trips to the Black Forest — the setting for many a Grimm Brothers fairytale.
Aside from the obvious sights and museums in Paris, which need not even be listed, sights to see near Paris include Versailles and Chantilly Castle. High-speed trains from Paris can connect you with other cute towns in France like Lyon or Dijon, and you’ll find plenty of cycle or drive tours leaving from Paris to explore the French countryside for a night or two.
Bordeaux Wine Country, France
If you like wine, the best stop off the world’s longest train trip will certainly be Bordeaux, famous for its wines of the same name. There are more than 6,000 wineries in and around Bordeaux, so options range from day trips to pairing dinners to stays at wineries and even wine-and-hike tours. The towns in the region have all manner of hotels and inns, fantastic restaurants, charming stores and museums, and even fantastic beaches such as those Lac de Chalain, which look straight out of the Caribbean.
The Guggenheim Museum, Spain
You can’t make a wrong choice for what to see in Bilbao, though the Guggenheim Museum is a great place to start. You’ll also want to stroll through Casco Viejo and the famous La Ribiera Market. You can rock climb or surf just north of the city or head to the Pyrenees for hiking, mountain biking, or skiing outside of town. You’ll also be fairly close to Pamplona, so visit in mid-July if you’re dreaming of running with the bulls.
Lisbon is close to the final stop for the world’s longest train trip, so it’s one of your last opportunities to get out and explore. While you may want to head north to the seaside town of Porto, Cascais is the place to go for a few days of old-school European glamour. The beachside town is colorful and full of fresh seafood restaurants and historic, if expensive, hotels. It’s not quite as popular (yet) as other seaside towns in Portugal, so go before it starts feeling like the latest Instagram hot-spot.
The world’s longest train route ends in Lagos, which is a small and beautiful beach town. Give yourself at least a few days here to relax before wrapping up your epic trip. You can’t go wrong with any beach in town, but the blue water, sea caves, and rock formations at Ponta da Piedade make it probably the most famous.