Rovos Rail is well-known for being the most luxurious train in the world. From the moment guests enter the headquarters, it’s as if they have travelled back in time to an opulent and elegant era.

With incredible attention to detail, lavish offerings, an incredibly warm atmosphere and enlightening guided tours along the way, it’s easy to see why rail journeys aboard the Rovos Rail is such a popular and highly sought after travel experience.

In the following post, we discuss Rovos Rail, sharing the brand’s fascinating history an overview of the experience on board.

The Most Luxurious Train in Africa

The History of Rovos Rail

The story of Africa’s finest vintage train begins at an auction in 1985.

Rovos Rail founder, Rohan Vos, a successful mechanical businessman together with his wife Anthea had attended an auction of old coaches. They had an intention if restoring four carriages and taking them to South African Railways (SAR) as a family caravan. Several coaches were purchased, one of them being, Private Saloon 15063 that is still in service today.

After the purchase of several coaches, Rohan took a big leap and purchased a 1938 locomotive from a scrap yard. This was rebuilt and named Bianca after one of his daughters. The idea of long-distance train travel as a business venture came to life, and Rohan was permitted to run his Rovos Rail train in December 1986.

With the business growing alongside the family, all of the engines have been named after Rohan and Anthea’s children; Brenda, Bianca, Tiffany and Shaun.

Cabins

Life on board the Rovos Rail is a grand affair with the most excellent finishings and exceptional attention to detail. There are three different cabin types:

The deep wood panelling, richly coloured carpets and beautifully restored carriages hint at the Victorian era of train travel. The cabins are equipped with a double or twin style bed with soft down duvets and plush pillows. There is a lounging area to read, relax and soak up the passing scenery.

Each cabin comes complete with a private bathroom and flushing toilet. The Royal Suites include a Victorian-inspired bathtub while the other cabins – Deluxe and Pullman Suites – include a shower.

Hot-water bottles and electric blankets are provided during the colder months. There is nothing quite as relaxing as being wrapped up in the best linen with a good cup of coffee while watching Southern Africa’s glorious scenery pass by.

Wining and Dining

A journey aboard Rovos Rail is a gastronomical utopia.

For international travellers, it’s an enchanting “first date” with South Africa’s most classic flavours and signature dishes.

Meal times are a ceremonious occasion on Rovos, set in an Edwardian style manner, with a warm and romantic atmosphere. Four-course menus boast world-class wine and delicious cheeses prepared with a modern twist.  

Guests are urged to dress up for the affair, adding to the celebratory feel of the evening. Tables are meticulously set with crisp white linen tablecloths, gleaming silver and sparkling crystal glasses add to the ambience of the celebration.

Meals on all the various rail journeys are served at set times:

  • Breakfast takes place between 07h00 and 10h00. Gests can choose from a selection of delicious breakfast options from the a la carte menu.
  • Lunch and dinner is a formal affair with a four-course menu, starters, mains, cheese platters and desserts, each course paired with a perfect South African wine.

Dietary requirements are attentively taken care of.

As well as the breakfast, lunch and dinner services, there is a daily High Tea served at  16h30. Here, scrumptious spreads of sweet and savoury snacks are served either in the Lounge Car or the Observation Cart. Afternoon tea is served with an array of cakes, fresh fruit, savoury snacks and a selection of teas, coffee, wine and cocktails.

Couple looking out of observation cart of Rovos Rail
Couple looking out of the Observation Cart

The Journeys   

The most luxurious train in the world, Rovos Rail offers a series of luxurious train journeys that last anywhere from 48 hours to 15 days.

Rovos Rail links some of Africa’s most fabulous destinations, from bustling cities, extraordinary game reserves, desert landscapes, quaint towns, historic sites and lush, scenic attractions into a grand long-distance voyage, reminiscent of the old days.

The private train service is an opulent extravaganza adorned with captivating art, vintage decor, exquisite vintage coaches, and incredible cuisine.

Depending on the journey route and itinerary, the train will stop at various points so that passengers can explore the surrounding environment. All of the off-train excursions are guided, promising guests a truly informative and engaging experience at each destination.

If travelling on the famous Cape Town – Pretoria journey, guests will have the opportunity to explore the local attractions such as the Victorian town of Matjiesfontein and the Big Hole of Kimberley. If guests are travelling outside of South Africa, excursions may include an extraordinary safari experience or a visit to one of the natural wonders of the world; The Victoria Falls.

Rovos Rail train crossing bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe at Victoria Falls
Rovos Rail crossing the Victoria Falls bridge

Rovos Rail Tours and Itineraries

Below are a selection of the popular itineraries:

  • Cape Town Journey (3 Days): The popular route between Cape Town and Pretoria is the perfect journey from the famous Mother City to the country’s Capital city, showcasing South Africa’s gems in between.
  • Victoria Falls Journey (4 Days): Embark on a magical trip through to Zimbabwe, with a visit to one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls.
  • Durban Safari (3 Days): Travel through the spectacular scenery of Natal Midlands and Drakensberg Mountains, into the heart of the African bushveld for a magical affair experience.
  • Golf Safari (9 Days): Play at a selection of the most beautiful golf courses in South Africa.
  • Namibian Safari (9 Days): An epic journey from the savannahs of the Highveld through historic Kimberley to the Fish River Canyon, Etosha Pan and the deserts of Namibia.
  • Dar es Salaam Journey (15 Days): This trans-African safari carries explorers between Cape Town and Dar es Salaam on one of the most memorable train rides in the world.
Couple looking at steam train in station

Why You Should Book a Rovos Rail Journey

A luxury rail journey is an excellent way to escape the fast-paced lifestyle of the 21st century and travel back in time to a nostalgic and elegant era.

Long-distance train travel is an opportunity to slow down and soak in the incredible natural beauty that surrounds us. Rovos Rail provides travellers with a ‘digital detox,’ and there are no televisions or radios on board. There is also no Wifi abroad the train, and guests are requested to only use screens in their cabins.

A trip aboard the Rovos Rail is the perfect opportunity to switch off from the internet and reconnect with the incredible surroundings and scenery of Southern Africa.

The train, the service, the food and wine are all proudly South African and run by the Vos family, who has a passion and love for what they do.

Rovos Rail is a luxurious and unforgettable experience that is sure to make you feel relaxed and rejuvenated.


We recently experienced the luxury of Rovos Rail and spent two nights aboard the train, travelling from Cape Town to Pretoria. If you’re curious about our experience, read about our luxury rail vacation on Rovos Rail.

The dining cart of Rovos Rail
Read about our adventure!

If you’d like to book an incredible rail journey on the world’s most luxurious train in the world, contact African Travel Canvas and we’ll create a unique itinerary for your unforgettable experience in Africa.


30th Anniversary Celebrations!

To commemorate their 30th anniversary, Rovos Rail released an incredible film that showcases the full story behind the brand. If you love locomotives and rail travel watch this fascinating film about Rovos Rail.

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