Thirty years ago, the family-run Rovos Rail began operating luxurious train journeys through South Africa and beyond. Riding on the opulent Rovos service from Cape Town to Pretoria is a fine way to witness the transformation of South Africa’s landscapes; from the semi-desert of the Karoo, to green winelands, to sweeping mountain ranges. The three-day journey covers 1,600km, with sightseeing stops in the attractive village of Matijesfontein and the diamond mining town of Kimberley.
So, what exactly can you expect when spending a night on the Rovos Rail?
On board, guests are pampered with silver-service meals, served in the pre-1940s dining cars alongside fine South African wines. The train has two dining cars, in addition to an elegant lounge, smoking lounge and observation car, from where you can appreciate the passing scenery and wildlife.
"My highlight from the Rovos Rail was watching the scenery go by from the observation deck at the rear of the train with a glass of champagne. The four-course meals with wine pairings highlight the cuisine of South Africa; ostrich steak, snook (a type of fish native to South African waters), milk tart and more!"
- Graham, Llama Travel
At the end of a long day and a delicious three-course evening meal, followed by time spent socialising by the bar with other guests, passengers can simply retire to their private suite for the night. A total of 72 guests can be carried aboard the train, staying in one of three cabin types, all accommodating up to two people. All cabins are wood panelled and have en-suite bathrooms, pairing early twentieth century charm and nostalgia with modern comforts and conveniences, such as hot showers, air conditioning and hair dryers. Passengers can even request room service 24 hours a day.
The Pullman Suites have a sofa for use during the day, which is converted at night to either a double bed or twin bunks. The en-suite bathroom has a shower and other amenities include a tea drawer, bath robe and slippers, a safe and writing desk.
Deluxe Suites have either a twin or double bed configuration and a separate sitting area with a mini-bar. As such, they are more spacious than Pullman Suites, with all of the same amenities and more. The en-suite bathroom has a shower.
Royal Suites are the most spacious cabin type, each of which take up half a carriage. The bed configuration can either be a large double or side-by-side twin beds, beside a separate lounge area with a mini-bar that can be filled with beverages of the passengers’ choice. The bathroom has a bath tub and a separate shower.
Many of the furnishings and fittings in the suites, and throughout the train, are original pieces that have been salvaged, repaired and restored, allowing guests to step back into a bygone era. All suites are very comfortable, and as the train usually stops travelling overnight, you have the best chance of getting a restful night’s sleep.
There is no doubt that Rovos Rail is one of the world’s great train services, bringing together wonderful landscapes, elegant style, beautiful train carriages, outstanding cuisine and service to create a captivating atmosphere and a truly memorable journey.
All photos are by Rovos Rail ©