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Set out on some of the most extraordinary trips on the planet: on trundling trains, galloping horses and epic drives – as well as journeys you can make on your own two feet


Where? From Christchurch to Greymouth, New Zealand

Distance travelled: 139 miles

Best bit: Crossing a mountain river on Staircase Viaduct – the highest span on the railway line

Time taken: 4 hours 25 mins each direction

Be sure to pack: An anorak – New Zealand’s west coast is notoriously rainy

Christchurch and Greymouth have something of a chalk and cheese dynamic – the former a stately city presiding over the serene farmland of New Zealand’s eastern shore, the latter a wind-lashed outpost on the Tasman Sea, lost amid the forested wilderness of the west coast. Just as extraordinary is the journey between the two spots on the TranzAlpine, a train service which sacrifces basic spelling skills for the sake of a patriotic ‘NZ’ in the mix, but more than makes up for it as it trundles through some of the most epic scenery in the southern hemisphere. Departing Christchurch, the train follows the course of the Waimakariri River (pictured) along mountain passes to its source deep in the Southern Alps, the current becoming faster and wilder with every mile, and snow-capped summits rearing into view through the extra-high carriage windows. From here, the train halts at remote Arthur’s Pass (population 28), before rolling past braided rivers, mirror-clear lakes and thick forest on the fnal stretch to Greymouth. Here, a few passengers disembark to stomp the region’s hiking trails, but a great many twiddle their thumbs for an hour, until such time as they can do the whole journey again (but in reverse).

● The TranzAlpine has daily departures from Christchurch to Greymouth (from £80 one-way;

Bandit Trail


Where? From the village of Sant Joan de les Abadesses to Santa Pau, both in the mountains of Catalonia, Spain

Distance travelled: 110 miles

Best bit: Crossing the high plateau of Collsacabra – with views of the Mediterranean in the distance

Time taken: Eight days

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Lonely Planet - September 2015
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