View from the TranzAlpine train bound for Christchurch. © Pookarnpat

TranzAlpine: the rail journey considered one of the best in the world

The TranzAlpine is another one of those ‘thanks for being clear’ kinda titles: it’s a train trip that crosses the Southern Alps.

But that’s like describing the alps as ‘rocks and snow’. This rail journey is considered to be one of the best in the world.

Partly that’s because of, not just the scenery, but the range of scenery the journey encompasses.

The trip goes from sea to blinding sea, from the Pacific Ocean to the Tasman, and in four and a half hours you’ll see just about every great South Island landscape possible. One stunning scene after the other.

You flit across the vast Canterbury Plains, making your way along the massive, braided Waimakariri River; its broad swathe of rocks and silver water will keep you company for the majority of this part of the journey. From the plains, you make your way through gorges and steep hills via ‘The Staircase’, one of five towering viaducts that make the journey possible. The views are extraordinary, and that’s before you make the climb through the alps to Arthur’s Pass. You can’t get much more amongst the mountains than this.

tranzalpine

© [Genesis] - Korawee Ratchapakdee 

Tunnels help, too! There are heaps of those, the most spectacular the 8.5km Otira Tunnel which brings you out on the West Coast into suddenly sub-tropical scenery. Weave down through the beech forests, past lakes and more stunning, silvery rivers and widespread river valleys, and find yourself deposited, mind and hair blown, at Greymouth.

Stay awhile, have a look around, or jump back on board and do it all in reverse.

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