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4 Of The Most Beautiful And Affordable Train Journeys In Europe This Summer

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I'm not sure about you, but I'm growing increasingly chary of flying: unless it's some remote Greek island you can only get to flying, you can count on me to avoid airports like the plague:

Not only is going through security and potentially emptying out my carefully packed bag one of my biggest pet peeves, but those strict luggage policies, long wait times and constant delays drive me 'round the bend.

No, sir, thank you very much.

Flamsbana Train In Norway, Scandinavia, Northern Europe

It's no wonder more and more travelers are turning to trains to cover short—to medium-distance routes, particularly in Europe.

With the rail, you can get pretty much anywhere, typically with more comfort, lowering your carbon footprint, and being rewarded with spectacular views.

If, like me, you've finally come to the logical conclusion that the Old Continent is best experienced by rail, and most importantly, you're a slow traveler, then you don't want to miss out on these 4 beautiful (and affordable) train journeys this summer:

Belgrade to Bar

Railroad In Montenegro, Balkan Peninsula, Southeastern Europe

In keeping with tradition, I'll start with a couple of lesser-known destinations to challenge your knowledge of Europe a bit.

Belgrade is the vibrant capital of Serbia, a landlocked country in the Balkan peninsula, while Bar is a beach town on the coast of Montenegro.

Other than sharing the same South Slavic culture, being part of a dialect continuum, and having belonged to same country once, they don't have much in common: while Belgrade is a sprawling city with a riotous nightlife to rival Berlin's, Bar is a resort town with a casual social scene.

Aerial View Of Belgrade, The Capital Of Serbia At Night, South Eastern Europe

I love adding a bit of diversity to a vacation, however. Upon learning a heritage Yugoslav-era train continues to operate between both destinations, I knew it was a journey worth embarking on.

If you have 11 hours to spare (at best), I encourage you to do the same.

Other than linking two of Europe's most underrated gems, the train traverses the rolling green hills and historic tunnels of Serbia before crossing into the mountainous territory of Montenegro, rattling around towering peaks and deep valleys.

Old Town Kotor Montenegro with Forest and Mountains in the background

There are sleeper and daytime travel options.

Needless to say, if you're taking this rather long journey for the views, you want to do it in broad daylight, so get comfortable in your seat, bring a portable charging station, and download all your favorite podcasts.

Trust me, you'll be rewarded with some of the most impressive jagged mountains in Europe, especially after crossing into the Montenegrin side.

It is in the country's literal name, after all: etymologically, Montenegro means ‘Black Mountain'.

Aerial View Of Bar, Montenegro, Adriatic Coast Of The Mediterranean Sea, Southern Europe

Daytime trains leave from Belgrade at 9:31 a.m., calling in Bar at 8:37 p.m.

If you're simply looking for the most comfortable way to commute and you're not concerned with views, you can book a berth in a six-person compartment on the night train departing from Belgrade at 8:30 p.m.

You're still in luck, as it completes the most postcard-worthy section between 6:17 and 7:23, during sunrise, when it travels from Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, to the Adriatic Coast, but make sure you wake up early enough to catch those sights.

Stari Bar, A Stone-Built Old Town Near The Coastal Resort Town Of Bar, Montenegrin Coast, Montenegro, Southern Europe

Tickets for the ‘Montenegro Express' start from only $23, or the equivalent in Serbian dinar or euro. Booking it online can be tricky, as Serbian and Montenegrin operators do not yet have an integrated ticketing system, but tickets can always be purchased at Zemun Station in Belgrade.

Rome to Palermo

My second pick is the historic Rome to Palermo train.

Rome is Italy's cultural heart and a historically charged city dating back two millennia, while Palermo is the bustling capital of Sicily, an island with its own unique culture, cuisine, and even distinct dialect.

Train At The Station In Italy, Europe

Home to the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Vatican Museums and countless more historical landmarks, the Eternal City is perfect for sightseeing in the shoulder months, when the weather isn't brutally hot and you can walk around at leisure without risking a heatstroke.

Sicily, on the other hand, is one of the warmest destinations in the Mediterranean South, boasting balmy temperatures and warmer seas. Between April and May, it is an average 70°F in coastal parts of the island, and it's of course a lot hotter even in summer.

colorful streets of palermo italy

Now, you may be wondering how exactly you'd be able to take a train to an island not linked to the mainland by a bridge, and if you're a curious soul like me, the answer will make you book those tickets like a shot:

The carriages are actually loaded onto a ferry that crosses the strait separating Sicily from the rest of Italy. Once in the boat, the train splits in two, with one-half proceeding towards Palermo in the west and the other traveling eastward to Catania.

View of the Levanzo island, smallest of the Aegadian Islands in the Mediterranean Sea in Sicily, province of Trapany, Italy

Let's rewind it a bit as I'm getting ahead of myself: as impressive a feat of engineering this may be, the trump card is the scenery along the way.

Traveling on this route, you'll see glimpses not of one but two of the most picturesque coastlines in Italy:

The pastel-town-dotted stretch of coast between Naples and Reggio Calabria comprises the world-famous Amalfi Coast and the turquoise-lapped north coast of Sicily, an area of outstanding natural beauty interspersed with powder-white beaches and ancient cities.

Coastal View Of The City Of Syracuse In Sicily, Italy

Similarly to the Belgrade-Bar line, trains between Rome and Palermo take just over 11 hours to arrive at their destination both ways, and though there is a night train available, it is, of course, not the best alternative if you've come all the way for the views.

‘InterCity' trains between Rome and Palermo depart four times per day. I would strongly encourage you to take the first one in the morning at 7:24 a.m. for the most daylight hours, as it reaches Palermo at 7:02, when it's still not pitch black.

castle at sunset in palermo italy

Pricing can vary based on seating category and how early you book, and the average ticket for this route is currently set an acceptable $79, and unlike our first entry, Trenitalia does not make it harder for tourists to make a reservation online.


We know what you're thinking: how could train journeys in what's one of the world's most expensive countries be affordable, exactly?

Norway is not really known for its cheap prices, particularly pertaining to transportation, but there's one famous exception to the rule.

The Flamsbana is a designated scenic railway, traveling from the small fjord town of Flam to the quaint, hilltop settlement of Myrdal, with tracks that wind around the towering peaks of the Western Fjords, with views of the famous inlets of water themselves and narrow valleys.

Unlike other trains on this list, the Flamsbana is not typically used for commuting.

It serves instead as a traditional scenic route, taking roughly two hours to complete, including the outbound and return journeys: it's really meant for sitting back and appreciating the scenery.

View Of The Aurlandsfjord In Flam Seen From The Flamsbana, Norway, Scandinavia, Northern Europe

The fjord it's in is called Aurlandsfjord, a branch of Sognefjord, Norway's largest and deepest, and if you're staying overnight, the best equipped town out of the two is Flam, where the landmark Freithem Hotel is located, with room rates starting from only $165.

It's located a three-minute walk to the Flamsbana station, as well as the Flamsbana Museum, which chronicles the history of the railway.

It's also within short walking distance to Ægir BrewPub, a Viking-style mess hall where they serve Norwegian food with a high-end twist and the fjord saunas.

In the warmer months, when all the ice has melted, you can also attempt the 13-mile hike from Flam to Myrdal, reaching the highest point of 866 meters, with stops in majestic waterfalls and gorgeous lookouts, before taking the Flamsbana back down.

Believe it or not, Flamsbana tickets cost only $65 return, or half the price one-way, and while it's essentially become a tourist attraction, you can travel to Myrdal and then connect to the Bergen Line, which runs towards Bergen, Norway's second-largest city, though that will cost you more.

Sarajevo to Mostar

sarajevo, bosnia and herzegovina

Back to the Balkan Peninsula, apparently one of the most underrated spots for rail travel in Europe, you will find the seriously-overlooked Sarajevo to Mostar Line, in the equally unheard-of country of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

For those of you who do know something of Bosnia, you may more easily associate it with the warfare of the 90s, but thankfully, that's all water under Mostar's beautiful ancient Stari Most bridge, and the country is perfectly safe to visit.

Mostar bridge

One bucket list activity you should definitely not miss out on is taking the train from the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, to Mostar, a quaint historic town with preserved Ottoman architecture, best known for its already-mentioned arched bridge and its multicultural character.

The 80-mile journey takes you through some of Bosnia's most stunning natural wonders, including crystal-clear, fast-flowing rivers, picture-perfect valleys, and stone-built, hilltop towns with origins lost to time.

The Medieval Bazaar In Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Balkans, Eastern Europe

Bosnia is not among Europe's wealthiest countries, per se, so you'd expect local trains to offer minimal comfort.

In reality, the ‘Talgo' trains running between Sarajevo and Mostar are air-conditioned, making traveling in the summer months far less grueling, and seats are pretty decent.

There's meant to be WiFi onboard, too, but it rarely ever works.

Still, it's not like you need it when you can toggle on/off your mobile data when needed, and I was quite pleased myself to find there are foldable tray tables and charging sockets for electronics.

In all fairness, though, just keep looking out the window not to miss a thing. Regarding fares, this train is the cheapest out of the four scenic routes, with 2nd class reservations costing only $7.24, or the equivalent in the local Bosnian currency.

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