Rovos Rail from Pretoria to Victoria Falls, a travel with elegance and romance
Updated: Jan 14
A travel with Rovos Rail is a unique, world-class, experience for life. The moment you enter the private Rovos Rail station in Pretoria you are transformed to the atmosphere of a bygone area when travel was done in slow motion, elegance, and with romance, when you had time to talk to fellow passengers, read a book, enjoy superb food and wines, or simply relax looking at the wonderful sceneries passing by.
I have long dreamt to travel to the Victoria Falls on the mighty Zambezi in style and now, September 2022, the time had come. Exactly 50 years after I first saw these magnificent Falls, we travelled from Pretoria to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe with Rovos Rail, the world´s most luxurious train.
Rovos Rail station - the journey begins
One of the many highlights traveling with Rovos Rail is visiting their private railway station in Pretoria. Make sure you arrive early, at least two hours before departure, to enjoy it fully.
The station has an interesting railway museum and a fantastic lounge where you can enjoy tea and champagne. Mr Vos himself will show you the workshop where the old carriages he buys around the world is transformed into the beautiful 1920 Edwardian style carriages you will travel in.
When the train is ready to leave, Mr Vos welcomes on-board each passenger by name, a very special touch.
Rovos Rail – the travel experience
At Rovos Rail you always feel at home and welcomed, the service is so excellent. When you board the train, you are immediately shown to you cabin where your luggage already is in place. Our hostess for the journey goes through the room features and even asked if I need my clothes pressed, how considerate as they were rather crumpled. If in need, they can also wash your clothes.
Well installed in our cozy suite we looked around the rest of the train. There are two comfortable lounges on board, ideal if you want to relax and read a book. During the day the lounges was more the quiet zones.
My preference, though, was the open-air observation car at the back of the train. This is the place you come to socialize with the other travelers. We met so many interesting people from all over the world.
The observation car is also a great place to observe the nature and if you are lucky wildlife. When the train travels through Hwange National Park there is a good chance.
Rovos Rail – the dining experience, food and wine
Entering the elegant Edwardian style dining car with its soft lightning and beautiful set tables is a dream.
The dining experience onboard is a lavish affair with crisp linen, fine china, silverware, and crystals. Of course, you dress accordingly. For once you can dress in your finest attire, how often do you get this chance? This is one of the things I love when traveling with Rovos Rail, I can dress up.
The food and wine are fabulous, only the best is served, and each dish is accompanied with a selection of the best South African wines. I must admit I love sparkling wine and the South African Cape Classic can compare to the best of Champagnes, produced by the same method. A glass of good bubbles is always at hand whenever you wish.
The wine list is impressive and if you like another wine that what is recommended talk to one of the very knowledgeable sommeliers.
We had a bottle of Meerlust Rubicon, probably South Africas best red wine, here served by Mara.
Lunch and dinner are both a 4-course event, with a starter, main, cheese and dessert. You can choose both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. I am impressed with the quality and variation of the food served thinking of the motion and the small kitchen they cook in. The meals served onboard is truly something to look forward to.
Dress code at Rovos Rail
The dress code on Rovos Rail is smart casual during day and formal at dinner. In respect of your fellow passengers, you should try to comply with this. That said, you do not need to buy a new wardrobe to travel on Rovos Rail. A smart summer dress for the ladies and white shirt and tie for men can do nor do you need a new dress for each evening. For those of us loving to dress up, just go for you finest and most gorgeous dresses!
If you would like some more advice on how to pack and dress on safari, check out my article HERE.
Excursions to Matobo and Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
One of the good things about traveling with Rovos Rail is that they do great excursions. On the 4-night journey from Pretoria to Victoria Falls there are two stops. One is a cultural event at Matobo National Park, a World Heritage Site outside Bulawayo, where we could see rock art and the dramatic granite hills where Cecil Rhodes is buried.
The other excursion is an afternoon safari in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, just south of Victoria Falls. Hwange is the largest and most famous national reserve in Zimbabwe, a place well worth to visit if you want to go on safari.
Matobo National Park is one of the oldest parks in Zimbabwe and in the caves in this hilly environment has a human history of 500.000 years.
The area has the largest concentration of prehistoric rock paintings in Southern Africa, maybe in all of Africa, dating back 13,000 years. This cultural landscape is one of the most important in Zimbabwe and these hills are still a focus for local community shrines and sacred places.
The park is breath-taking with its hills and massive granite boulders and rock formation which gives the place a mystical atmosphere. It is on top of one of these hills among big boulders you can find Cecil Rhodes grave, the founder of the colony Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, founder of the diamond company De Beers and Prime Minister of the Cape Colony 1890-1896.
The park has also one of the highest density of leopards in Africa, but due to the landscape with cave and rocks they can be difficult to spot. We did not see any, but we were here for the cultural heritage rather than on a safari.
Our final stop, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe
As we are approaching the train station outside the Victoria Falls hotel, we can see the spray of the great waterfalls welcoming us, Mosi-oa-Tunya – “the smoke that thunders”. We have arrived at our final stop and what a memorial journey this has been.
A great thanks to all the wonderful staff on the train! Hope to be back soon!
If, you are interested in our travel with Rovos Rail from Pretoria to Cape Town, read HERE.
The Zambezi River and the Victoria Falls are shared between Zimbabwe and Zambia. I recommend you try to see them from both sides as you get a bit of a different perspective.
Where to stay in Pretoria and Victoria Falls, before and after your Rovos Rail journey?
Of course, you want to start and end your Rovos Rail adventure in style. I suggest two wonderful hotels that will accommodate this.
Pretoria - Castello di Monte Pretoria
After a twelve-hour flight from Europe to Johannesburg it is good to have an extra day and a good night sleep to get rested before the Rovos Rail journey. We chose the elegant, small boutique hotel Castello di Monte in Pretoria to do so. This Italian like castle with an enormous view over Pretoria was an ideal place to relax.
The hotel has a garden with swimming pool, restaurant, and lounges.
The drive to Johannesburg airport and Rovos Rail train station is about 30 minutes.
Victoria Falls hotel – the grand old lady of the Falls
Victoria Falls hotel in Zimbabwe is a grand Edwardian period hotel from 1904 with lots of history. It was originally set up to accommodate railway workers building the Victoria Falls bridge.
The hotel is set in a large tropical garden, has a big swimming pool, three restaurants and gorgeous rooms. It is an excellent choice to stay at this Grand Old Lady of the Falls after or before going on the Rovos Rail and if you want to visit the Zimbabwean side of the falls. It is about a 15 min walk to the entrance to the Falls and the entrance fee is 30USD, can be paid by credit card.
Our African adventures continue to Livingstone in Zambia, Chobe National Park in Botswana and back to Zambia, Lower Zambezi National Park.
Disclaimer: Our travel with Rovers Rail is paid by ourself. However, we were given a suite upgrade in exchange for posting pictures on social media and writing a blog post. The view in this blog post is my own and was given no restrictions on what to write.