When someone says ‘luxury’ in India, then the scale of the luxury surpasses imagination of a man. It is the land of the Maharajas and Emperors and luxury here is synonymous with opulence. So the flagship luxury train in India is rightly called Palace on Wheels.
It leads a class of trains which are in reality nothing short of the royal coaches of the days of the Maharajas and in some cases they actually are the erstwhile royal carriages. Though luxury train travel in India started off in Rajasthan, the Land of the Kings, with the Palace on Wheels, now there are there are more circuits in different parts of India.
1. Palace on Wheels
Palace on Wheels is simply the other name of luxury. Rated among the top 10 luxury trains in the world, this train started its journey in 1982 and ever since it has never gone without a single empty seat. This was the first train in its class and was designed on lines with the royal trains that the erstwhile rulers of India used on their tours. Today the passengers get the same treatment as the Maharajas. So, one gets to relax in the lap of luxury as the train makes its way past the imposing forts, majestic palaces and national parks. One also gets to visit the Taj Mahal on the tour.
The 7 night tour starts from the Safdarjung Railway Station in New Delhi and takes one to the palaces of Jaipur which is also the capital of Rajasthan, then on a jungle safari in the Ranthambor National Park, before visiting the great fort at Chittorgarh and the city of Udaipur, the Lake City. The visitors get a thrilling ride on the ship pf the desert on a camel safari on the sand dunes at Jaisalmer. The train them moves on to the city of Jodhpur, Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary and finally to Agra where one gets to see the Taj Mahal before returning to Delhi in the early morning of the 8th day.
2. Royal Rajasthan on Wheels
This is the latest addition to the list of luxury trains in India. This train also takes the guests to different parts of Rajasthan and visits the same places that the Palace on Wheels visits except Jaisalmer. Instead of the sand dunes the train takes one to the beautifully sculpted temples at Khajuraho and the spiritual destination of Varanasi.
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Khajuraho, a World Heritage site, has long been associated with the most beautiful display of erotic art which is yet to be surpassed even in the modern world. Varanasi needs little introduction and the magnificent view of the ancient city from the Ganga in the morning light will always be a scene to remember.
3. Deccan Odyssey
This blue train is an experience of the life of the blue blooded princes of the Deccan region in south central region of India. The terrain is a mixture of various landforms right from hills and waterfalls to the sun kissed beaches and forests. The human contribution to this land is fortresses and palaces. The Deccan Odyssey includes them all for the royal experience of the Deccan. The train chugs out of the most happening city of India, Mumbai and reaches Sindhudurg, the imposing fortress overlooking the Arabian Sea.
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The beaches are lovely here. The next stop is Goa which is a land of beaches and celebrations. After a fun filled day at Goa, move on to Kolhapur, the erstwhile princely state, a treasure chest of finest works of art. Even the palace itself looks like a fine piece of lattice work. The next items on the itinerary are the famous Ajanta and Ellora caves, both World Heritage sites. Finally the train touches Nashik for a tryst with nature.
4. The Golden Chariot
Further down south of India runs another luxury on wheels, the Golden Chariot. Named after the most opulent mode of transport of the ancient India, this modern train signifies those glory days. There are two itineraries to choose from. The first, Southern Splendor, takes the visitors to the eastern and southern part of the peninsular India while the other, Pride of the South, visits the western and northern part. Both the itineraries cover a rich heritage of Indian architecture while giving a taste of the bountiful nature. Both the journeys originate from Bangalore and take 7 nights and 8 days.
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The Pride of South tour starts with a great wildlife experience at Kabini. Then it reaches Mysore, a city rich in art and architecture and moves on to Hampi, Belur and Badami, the places having some of the finest sculpted temples in the whole world. The final destination before returning to Bangalore is Goa, a land of beaches and Old Portuguese architectural examples in India.
The Southern Splendor moves to Chennai and Pondicherry for some taste of the colonial era in the south and then moves to Thanjavur, the seat of the finest art and sculpture of the ancient days. The art is still living and visitors can buy souvenirs at the Thanjavur paintings factories. The next stop is the temple city of Madurai which is often compared to the Vatican. After more visits of the temples one gets closer to nature at the beaches of Kanyakumari and the luxurious houseboat rides on the peaceful backwaters of Kerala.
5. Other Luxury Trains
The overwhelming response from the tourists to India has inspired the introduction of two more luxury trains, the Indian Maharaja and the Maharaja’s Express. These trains cover some of the areas not covered by the Palace on Wheels, the Deccan Odyssey, the Golden Chariot and the Royal Rajasthan on Wheels but have much in common to the trains covering Rajasthan.
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All of the luxury trains have beautifully decorated cabins while some have suites too. Most of the common modern amenities are all available on board. The trains have more than one restaurant carriages and well stocked bar and lounge. Spa facilities and gyms are common too. Some trains have their own specialties. The Palace on Wheels have personal valet for each of the cabins and the Royal Rajasthan has the largest windows among all the luxury trains for a grand vista of the Indian landscape.