If you follow me on social media you will have surely heard that I’m heading back to India to catch a ride on one of India’s most famous trains, the Palace on Wheels. Living in India for years I had heard many tales of the gloriousness of the Palace on Wheels train, but never had the opportunity to check it out. Therefore, you can imagine how excited I was to be chosen to participate in the Great India Blog Train and to get a room on one of the best luxury trains in India, the Palace on Wheels.
As part of India’s promotion of luxury train travel in India, the Great India Blog Train includes several other luxury trains that I had never heard of, but sound pretty spectacular. Since I hadn’t heard of these other trains even after years of living in the country, I thought it would be nice to share more information on each of these trains with you guys.
Travel by train in India has and continues to be one of the main methods of transportation in this vast country, so it’s no surprise the rise in popularity of special luxury trains crisscrossing the country.
The concept of traveling by luxury trains in India is that you will travel from one town to another mostly overnight in the comfort of private sleeping quarters, while enjoying prepaid organized group excursions in each town on the itinerary. Think a cruise on wheels essentially! The luxury train is a perfect way for tourists to get their feet wet in India without having to deal with the hassle of moving accomodation every day, figuring out where to eat or sorting their own tours or English speaking guides.
For the adventure traveler, an all inclusive guided tour may not be their cup of tea, but for families or adults who do not feel so confident traveling to India on a first adventure, this is a wonderful option in the travel market.
Palace on Wheels
The Palace on Wheels is one of the most well known and oldest luxury train journeys in India. The train has been operating in some capacity from the 1980s. The train has recently had a total overhaul for the 2017-2018 season including new train carriages that are more spacious in size and luxuriousness.
The claim to fame for luxurious Palace on Wheels is it’s excellent itinerary taking in the Golden Triangle and some of the most popular forts, palaces and natural landscapes in Rajasthan. With only 1 itinerary, the Palace on Wheels makes sure to do it well providing sites and activities that most visitors come to India hoping to experience.
Within 8 days visitors will see the Taj Mahal, the blue city of Jodhpur, ride a camel in the desert sands outside of Jaisalmer, explore the pink city of Jaipur and cruise around the lake of Udaipur. The quick itinerary provides more than enough time to get your feet wet so you will know where to return to later.
As with the other trains described below, the Palace on Wheels is an all inclusive package including your room, daily excursions (as mentioned in the itinerary), meals as well as a private butler service during your stay.
The Maharajas’ Express is a newer luxury train that won the “World’s Leading Luxury Train” award five consecutive years from 2012 to 2016. The Maharajas’ Express offers guests the opportunity to explore popular cultural destinations, while also adding in a few less well known sites on 8 different itineraries.
The train comes in at almost half a mile long, it is the most like a cruise ship on wheels. Inclusive in the price of your journey you will get all meals, planned excursions as well as a butler who can assist you as you need on your trip.
The Maharajas’ Express covers a variety of destinations from the Golden Triangle in North India to journeys departing from Mumbai in the south bringing visitors to the north for their final stop. Of the various luxury train offerings, the Maharajas’ Express provides the most varied itineraries including open jaw packages leaving from one destination and arriving to another. This makes travel in India super convenient as you do not lose time backtracking to your starting point and can continue your travels from the arrival city.
Some of the locations in the north that visitors will get to explore on the Maharajas’ Express are the Taj Mahal in Agra, the pink city of Jaipur, the holy city of Varanasi, the kama sutra temples in Khajuraho and tigers in Ranthambore. For those on southern itineraries, you will get to visit the bustling city of Mumbai, the beautiful palace in Mysore, historic buildings in Hampi and the golden beaches of Goa.
The Deccan Odyssey
The Deccan Odyssey was first introduced in 2005 to promote the state of Maharashtra and now has expanded to different regions around Maharashtra to include Rajasthan, Gujarat and Goa. The train is managed by the world famous Taj Group which has some of India’s most luxurious hotels under its roof. The Deccan Odyssey, resembling Mumbai’s local trains with it’s blue exterior, currently operates 6 different itineraries showing guests the beauty of the south while wrapped in luxury with state of the art amenities.
All but one itinerary begins in Mumbai, with most also ending there. For the most part, the different itineraries do not focus on the major sites of India, rather it gives a glimpse into the cultural and religious past of the country with a visit to the Ajanta & Ellora Caves and the holy town of Ratnagiri, while also dipping into modern day India with visits to a local wine region Nashik.
The Golden Chariot
South India isn’t know for its rail connections if I’m being honest, so I was surprised to see such a great itinerary by rail for the south. The Golden Chariot, operates two 7 night itineraries to well known and off the beaten path destinations mainly in the state of Karnataka, departing/arriving in Bangalore.
With colorful temples, historic palaces, golden sand beaches and backwater cruises on the itinerary, the Golden Chariot provides a great overview into the magical world of South India in cities like Mysore, Hampi and Goa. The difficulty comes in choosing which itinerary you will book as they both offer great destinations with little overlap.
As with the other trains, the Golden Chariot offers luxuriously furnished air conditioned sleeping quarters, dining cars, a bar as well as a mini gym and ayurvedic spa, providing everything a luxury traveler requires on their journey.
Luxury Trains in India Cost
As these are all inclusive luxury journeys, you can guess that the price tag might be prohibitive. However, overall, prices begin around $4,000 per person during off season, climbing higher for larger and grander rooms or during the peak seasons of travel. Considering this includes all of your accommodation, meals, excursions and even most of your drinks, with only the need to spend money on shopping and tipping, it works out to be a decent package. Some train journey’s are cheaper, so check each train’s tariff schedules to find out more information.
What do you think? Would you want to see India from the luxury of a train? Which route would be your pick?
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