Indian Train Journeys
Memories for a lifetime
The 4th most extensive railway system in the world, the Indian Railways carries over 30 million people every day. And there’s nothing like it in the world!
Without a shadow of a doubt, the best way to see India is not on a plane at 35,000 feet, but at ground level on the incredible Indian railway system. In fact, no visit to India is complete without experiencing the bustle of Indian railway stations and a safe & comfortable journey on an Indian express train with the tea seller’s welcome cry of ‘Chai, chai, garam chai’ coming down the aisle. You can safely forget media images of overcrowded suburban trains with people sitting on the roof. On a long distance express in an AC Chair car or an AC1 or AC2 sleeper, all seats and berths are reserved and it’s a safe, civilised, cheap & comfortable way to get around India. Even long distances such as Bombay to Delhi, Delhi to Varanasi or Delhi to Udaipur can be covered more time-effectively than flying, using overnight AC Sleeper trains, straight into the city center.
A journey in the 2nd class of a train is sure to offer you the perfect kaleidoscope of the varied cultures from across the country. People of all hues and color use the train for everyday travel and are more than happy to strike an innocent conversation with complete strangers. It has played host to everything from Bollywood songs to entire Hollywood movies.
There are some great resources to dip into for more information on Indian Railway routes and experiences. Seat61 is your all inclusive guide to every detail you need to know about the Indian railway system. There are also those who have listed the best Indian train journeys. Here is a list from The Guardian of UK and another fantastic one from Lonely Planet blogger, Arnab Maity.
Copper Sky Journeys can create a great train led journey for you and your group, whether it is luxury trains or a cross-country jaunt in the one of the hundreds of other trains.
the guide for the man in a hurry
Starting with the Palace on Wheels, there is a whole range of luxury train experiences on offer in India. With royal furnishings and great service, these trains have limited, high end accommodation, customized food options and an on-board bar. Stopovers include visits to important sights along the route.
The railway network in India consists of the Rajdhani Express to state capitals, the superfast Shatabdi Express and the rest. The air conditioned compartments offer very comfortable journeys in relative comfort while the sleeper 2nd class offers little comfort but a lot more exposure to the variety of people using the trains everyday.
Tickets can be booked upto 4 months in advance. Make sure you get in early. Tickets tend to become incredibly hard to get the closer you get to the travel date. There is a special quota for foreigners which can be accessed on the larger train stations.
Do not wait till the last week to book your tickets. In all likelihood you will be disappointed. Do not depend on touts. Avoid taking food and drinks from strangers. Keep your baggage close to you. Wear loose, comfortable clothes and avoid showing too much skin.
the best luxury trains
Palace On Wheels
Delhi / Jaipur / Jaisalmer / Agra
This 7 day journey takes you through the most popular tourist circuit in the country – Delhi, Rajasthan and Agra. There are plush living rooms to be slept in and well decorated dining car for a great dining experience. Once you step off the train, there will be luxury coaches to take you to the forts and palaces of Rajasthan for truly royal experiences, sometimes with special guests. The train also takes you to the jungles at Ranthambhore for some tiger sighting. There is also the desert of Jaisalmer on the route where you will get to have authentic Rajasthani experiences.
The Palace on Wheels is among the top 10 luxury train journeys in the world. The price for this piece of heaven ranges from US$500 and US$700 a day in the high season (October – March) and drops by about 25% in the low season.
Royal Rajasthan On Wheels
Delhi / Udaipur / Varanasi
The luxurious Royal Rajasthan on Wheels takes you through a 7 day exploration of Rajasthan. The magic of the splendid journey begins at New Delhi and prepares you to weave the fabric of delightful imagination becoming reality over the next seven days. Your royal journey takes you through various erstwhile princely states of Rajasthan like Jodhpur, Udaipur, Chittor, Sawai Madhopur and Jaipur. After experiencing multifaceted Rajasthan, you will visit Khajuraho temples, India’s unique gift to the world and Varanasi, the holy city. In the end, the Taj Mahal at Agra is the perfect culmination of a great ride.
The entire expedition has been thoroughly planned to take you back into the history. Most enjoyable journeys are short lived but long remembered. This journey will come to an end at New Delhi and will be the onset of your reliving these cherished memories for a life time.
Mumbai / Goa / Ajanta Caves
Deccan Odyssey India covers host of precisely chosen destinations that include Mumbai, Sindhudurg, Goa, Kolhapur, Daulatabad, Chandrapur, Ajanta Caves and Nasik. All these places are unique in the sense that each of them has a specialty of their own and thus every new day comes in a form of fresh surprise for the guests. By understanding the travel requirements of the guests, the destinations are chosen so that a complete picture of Maratha lifestyle, heritage and history can be presented to the travelers.
Inspired by the imperial carts used by the Maharajas of the yore for traveling, each of the coaches is theme based that reflect different royal eras of Maharashtra ruled by diverse dynasties. The forgotten art of elegant travelling is certainly revived by this luxury train in India. Without disturbing the theme of the carts, the modern high-tech amenities are placed in a way that bears witness to the graceful creativity of the designer.
Delhi to Alwar
The majestic Fairy Queen rolled out for the erstwhile East Indian Railway first in 1855. After being decommissioned, it rolled again in 1997 as the oldest working steam engine in the world. The Queen, with the privileged ones aboard reaches the picturesque town of Alwar in Rajasthan the same day, from where the guests are taken to Sariska Tiger Reserve for an overnight stay.
The Fairy Queen has a 60-seater air-conditioned chair car specially designed with a large glass window from where you can have a frontal view of the Locomotive, besides there is a well maintained pantry car for on board catering. As an added attraction, the coach has a beautiful lounge in the front, which provides a scenic view of the countryside. The 60 select guests will certainly go back with fond memories of a once-in-a lifetime experience.
Bangalore / Hampi / Goa
Welcome aboard a fascinating journey through the many worlds of Karnataka. Embark on a luxurious voyage of discovery through the cradle of stone architecture. The Golden Chariot, pride of The south, named after the famous stone chariot in Hampi. The train will travel through timeless historical heritage sites, resplendent palaces, wildlife and golden beaches. The 8 day colorful journey begins every Monday from Bangalore and traverses through Mysore, visiting Srirangapatna, Mysore Palace, the Nagarhole National Park (Kabini) and continues to the historical sites of Hampi. It then enters into the triangular heritage site of Badami, Pattadakal, Aihole eventually emerging into the golden beaches of Goa before ending back in Bangalore.
All of north India
Suffused with nostalgia and drenched in luxury, Maharajas Express rail tours transport you back into an era of elegant traveling reminiscent of the romance of Indian Maharajas. The latest luxury offering in India, Maharajas Express is considered to be the India’s answer to the Orient Express of the West. Flagged off in 2010, Maharajas Express offers 5 pan-Indian itineraries crisscrossing across some of the most fascinating terrains in India and covering some of the most prominent tourist destinations across country.
When it comes to luxury train traveling, Maharajas Express has set the new benchmarks. Equipped with state of the art amenities such as Wi-Fi internet, individual climate control, restaurant and bars, attached bathrooms and electronic safe in each cabin, the opulence of this train’s interior is previously unheard of.
the nicest regular train routes
Kalka to Shimla
Built in 1903 and holder of the Guinness record for the steepest rise in altitude, the Kalka – Shimla train passes through over 800 British era viaducts and 100 tunnels. The morning ride on the train is one of the definitive experiences of the hills.
Siliguri to Darjeeling
A UNESCO World Heritage property in the eastern Himalayas, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway snakes it up through the hills from Siliguri to the British era hill station of Darjeeling. The most popular spot on the route is the Batasia Loop offering panoramic views of Darjeeling and Mt Kanchenjunga.
Kanyakumari to Trivandrum
Starting at the southernmost point of India, Kanyakumari, this train makes its way through dense foliage of tropical forests of Kerala for a 2 hour long journey. Giant creepers hang down from the jungle-like expanse and if you look carefully in between, you’ll see little churches and houses painted like sugared-almonds, ladies banging washing and men squatting in circles playing cards.
Madgaon to Mumbai
Abandoned by the British because of its difficult terrain, the Mandovi Express passes through the scenic Konkan Railway sector. Passing over 2000 bridges and incredible greenery, the train is the best taken during the monsoon season. The train doors are usually left open on this breathtaking journey that takes you through sunlit paddy fields lined with coconut and mango trees, small villages bursting with wild flowers and over endless stretches of water leading out to sea.
Vasco da Gama to Londa
This train ride from Vasco will take you through the lovely curves of the Western Ghats with an incredible view of Dudhsagar Falls, one of India’s highest falls. Exploring a rather unknown and beautiful part of Goa, the train will pass through some of the greenest portions of India.
The Kashmir Railway
Jammu to Srinagar
The gorgeous Kashmir Valley has been finally connected to the plains with the Kashmir Railway. Weaving through snow capped peaks, green valleys and pine tree forests, the train makes its way to the aesthetically designed Srinagar train station. With over 20 tunnels and 160 bridges, the route is not only scenic but also a technological marvel.