Rovos Rail – the height of luxury train travel

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There has always been something quite special about train journeys and it seems to have retained its place as a unique mode of travel, even in today’s fast paced world, where it provides a time-warp getaway. And most importantly: there is nothing do, except kick back, read your book, soak up the passing scenery and enjoy. Read our this glowing report back for Rovos Rail, who continue to provide heady height’s of luxury on train trips through Africa. This is a bucket list experience is once in a lifetime for most of us. Thanks Jonty for relating your story…

Rovos Rail Journey – Pretoria to Cape Town
Words and photos by Jonty Fisher 

My wife Caro and I were really lucky recently to get a spot on Rovos Rail for the Pretoria to Cape Town trip. It’s something we’ve both wanted to do for many, many years but never had the chance.

From arriving at Rovos Rail’s own station in Northern Pretoria, you’re immediately struck by the fact that this is going to be unlike any travelling you’ve ever done before. With champagne and snacks served as you get out of your car, and your bags whisked away by attentive staff, you settle in to luxury very quickly.

After a farewell speech by Rohan Vos, we boarded the train with a concierge who took us to our suite and explained the finer details. The suites are fantastic – much bigger than I would have expected for a train – with a large bed, writing table and chairs, and a very generous bathroom. Outside the suite, there is an observation car at the back of the train, where drinks and snacks are on tap and you can while away time reading or chatting to the other guests. There is also another lounge car further toward the front of the train, and surprisingly for having 70-odd guests, all of the ‘public areas’ are generally very quiet.

And then there are the dining cars. As far as I can remember from Rohan’s speech, the cars are from the early Thirties, and they are as ornate and beautiful as you can imagine. The service is impeccable and the food is stellar, and I can’t fault the wine list – being able to quaff Meerlust Rubicon every night is something I could get very used to. There’s is such a feeling of experiencing the best of the bygone eras on this train, especially in the evenings. All in all, it’s incredibly difficult not to think you’re sitting beside Don Draper having discussions about that young Kennedy fella.

The days are so chilled it’s impossible not to spend much of it reading and sleeping (or sneaking off for a few cheeky whiskeys in the bar car as soon as you can say it’s afternoon). There’s nothing quite as relaxing as reading on your bed in your suite, with the Northern Cape or Karoo flying past the windows. It seems this country is best travelled by train; being able to mindlessly lose yourself in it’s vast expanses is something everyone should experience.

We spent most of Friday chilling in the suite before heading into the observation car for a few sundowners and then getting suited up for dinner – it’s strictly formal in the dining cars. Saturday we breezed into Kimberley and took a trip to the Big Hole – something I had never done. It was surprisingly interesting (I didn’t think there’d be too much to see at the ‘Big Hole’), probably due mostly to a brilliant guide in Scotsman ‘Scotty (naturally)’. After that it was back on the train for a lazy afternoon of drinks and a bottomless snack feast of biltong, nuts and chips. We ended up meeting a few younger and some other young-at-heart guests on Saturday evening and ended having a snorter, with the staff patiently waiting for us to finish up.

Sadly, we woke up on Sunday to the news that flash floods had washed away the line on the other side of Beaufort West, and we would have to travel to Maitjiesfontein by bus rather than lying on our bed! Although we missed what must be a phenomenal trip through the Hex River Valley and the winelands, nothing could put a dampener on our weekend, and we arrived back in Cape Town relaxed, happy and feeling very, very spoilt.

Rovos Rail truly is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I can only wish for the time I’ll be able to travel like that again. Maybe next time it’s the epic Cape to Cairo adventure. One can only dream…

If you would like to book this or one of Rovos Rail’s other Journey’s, Contact us.

There are in fact quite a few to choose journeys to choose from:
Pretoria to Victoria Falls (3 days via Botswana and Zimbabwe)
Namibia (9 days Pretoria to Swakopmund including Kimberley, Upington, Fish River Canyon, Sossusvlei and Etosha)
African Collage (9 days Cape Town to Pretoria, including Garden Route, Klein Karoo, Addo, KZN battlefields and safari)

To check the Pretoria to Cape Town route, have a look at our Rovos Rail Virtual itinerary


  1. South Africa Tours

    February 15, 2012

    I had the opportunity to travel Rovos a couple of years ago with an American Family. Luckily I was sponsored which was great, as most South Africa will not be able to afford Rovos. Although I did not get much sleep on the train, it was a memorable experience. A visit to Kimberley and the food was a highlight. Unfortunately I was with clients and could not make use of the bar services. The stops in Kimberley and Matjiesfontein are excellent additions and provide some insight in place one will normally not include in your itinerary.

  2. Luke Powers

    March 20, 2012

    Hi Gary. Thanks for your feedback. Thanks for sharing your review too. Rovos is just classy isn’t it.

  3. Luke Powers

    March 20, 2012

    Hi Carel. Indeed, Rovos is a bit of a bucket list trip due to the expense. Lucky you to get a freebie! Pity you missed out on the wine list. Red hot! Cheers. Luke

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