Trains, Rickshaws, and Camels: On the Ground on an Odysseys Tour

Trains, Rickshaws, and Camels: On the Ground on an Odysseys Tour

Posted March 16, 2017

This is the first in a series of posts covering the different types of transportation we use on Odysseys Unlimited tours. Check back soon for more. 

When visiting another country, one of the best ways to experience the local culture is through transportation. You can learn a lot about a foreign city by walking its streets, but to truly learn about another region, it's best to travel like a local. Whether that means boarding a bullet train in Japan, riding a camel in the desert of Morocco, or taking a rickshaw through the streets of Thailand, our small group tours offer a wealth of diverse experiences designed to highlight the uniqueness of each destination.

Read on to learn about some of the fascinating means of ground-based transport that we utilize on our small group tours.

Europe

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We ride an open-air underground train beneath the surface of Slovenia on Pearls of Dalmatia. Over half of this small Adriatic nation is built on limestone karst, an easily eroded type of rock that has left Slovenia riddled with caves. While visiting Postojna, the largest and most well-known, we climb aboard the world’s only two-track underground train for a journey into the heart of this system.  

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On Norwegian Adventure, we enjoy a thrilling ride on the incredibly scenic Flåm Railway, an excursion that ascends nearly 2,900 feet through the steep and narrow Flåm Valley. A masterpiece of engineering along precipitous mountainsides, the railway took nearly 20 years to construct.  During the 50-minute ride, we speed through 20 tunnels (18 of which were excavated by hand), curve around 21 hairpin bends, marvel at the mighty Kjosfossen Waterfall as it plunges from ledge to ledge, and enjoy truly breathtaking views.  Though the ride is less than an hour, it provides memories to last a lifetime.  

Central & South America

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When thinking about horse-drawn carriage rides, Colombia probably isn’t the first country that comes to mind. But on our Colombia Rediscovered tour, we enjoy a relaxing carriage ride through the coastal Caribbean city of Cartagena en route to our farewell dinner.  It’s a fitting end to our touring of this nearly 500-year-old city, whose walled old city center has been dubbed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

North America

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On Canadian Rockies Explorer, we enjoy two unique modes of transportation. First, we travel as passengers aboard Glacier National Park’s famous sightseeing buses: the Red Jammers. Taking their name from the way the drivers “jammed” the buses into low gear to negotiate steep mountain passes, the fire-engine red Jammers have been in service at GNP since the 1930s. Our trip along Going-to-the-Sun Road provides unmatched photo opportunities and a true sense of Canadian adventure.

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Later, we take a ride on a specially made vehicle called an Ice Explorer. These giant machines allow us to drive up onto Athabasca Glacier, where we disembark and walk on this living river of ice.

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In Sedona, Arizona, we get up close and personal with the region’s signature red rocks on National Parks of the Southwest. We take a Pink Jeep tour of these stunning natural formations, driving around and through the rocks and marveling at the surrounding desert landscape.

Australia & the South Pacific

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We embark on one of the world’s great rail journeys on New Zealand Adventure, as we board the famed TranzAlpine Train. This journey through the heart of New Zealand’s South Island takes us along the open farmland of the Canterbury Plain, through the foothills of the Southern Alps, then into the snow-capped peaks themselves.  We travel across steel girder bridges above deep gorges and through mountain tunnels on our trip through this breathtaking landscape. 

Asia & the Far East

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When you think of Japanese transportation, your mind likely goes instantly to the famed bullet train. High-speed train lines link most major cities in Japan, and can reach speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. On our Insider’s Japan small group tour, we enjoy a thrilling ride from Hakone to Takayama aboard one of these bullet trains, from which we may be able to see the iconic cone of Mount Fuji.

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The streets are the lifeblood of many Asian cities and towns. Crowded with cars, bicycles, pedestrians, pedicabs, animals, produce carts, and vendors, these thoroughfares offer a fascinating up-close encounter with the sights, smells, and sounds of Asia. On our Treasures of Thailand tour, we discover the northern city of Chiang Mai from the back of a traditional rickshaw, as we wind through the ancient city’s streets and absorb its culture. And on our Journey Through Vietnam, we enjoy a similarly unique experience as we ride “cyclos,” or cycle rickshaws, through the Imperial City of Hue.

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In Kalakho, India, on our Mystical India tour, we travel via camel cart to meet the local Meena tribespeople. Camels have been used for millennia in this part of the world to convey people and goods, and our ride on this traditional transport gives us a taste of life in India.

Africa & the Middle East

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Africa is an unsurpassed destination for adventure. With vast savannahs and landscapes unchanged for thousands of years, it’s the perfect place to take a walk – or more accurately, a ride – on the wild side. On many of our small group tours in Africa, we enjoy several game drives – boarding open-top safari vehicles for immersive journeys across the wilds of Africa, and close encounters with some of its famous big game animals.

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Further north in Africa, on our Moroccan Discovery tour, we go a step further than we do in India. At the mighty sand dunes of Merzouga along the edge of the Sahara, we mount up on camels for a relaxing ride along the erg. Travel doesn’t get much better than watching the sun set over the Sahara from the back of a camel.