INDIA  :   Getaways

Relive the lives of the Maharajas

Saturday , 13 February 2016

Besides unravelling the historical secrets of India, these trains offer a taste of royalty

These royal trains enable you to experience sheer luxury, which was enjoyed by the erstwhile princes and princesses of India, mainly in the first half of the twentieth century

Luxury train tourism aims to highlight the historical and spiritual aspects of a particular region. Here, the aim of the tourist is to not just to travel in luxury, but to arrive in style. There are a handful of Indian trains that offer this facility and today, we will focus on, only a few of them.

Palace on Wheels

The tour on-board this luxurious train starts at New Delhi. Passengers get a chance to feast their eyes on historical monuments such as India Gate, Red Fort, Jama Masjid, Qutub Minar and Humayun’s Tomb – the monument that inspired the Taj. After a day’s sightseeing, the passengers embark on a journey into Rajasthan, which hosted a number of princely states.

Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, is the first stop. Also known as the Pink City, it has many a marvel to be explored. The five-storeyed Hawa Mahal, the Amber Fort, City Palace, Jantar Mantar (an astronomical observatory) and Jal Mahal are all must-sees. Tourists can also indulge in jewellery, handicraft, blue pottery and textile shopping.

The next stop, Sawai Madhopur, named after its founder Maharaja – Sawai Madho Singh I. Tourists get a taste of wildlife in Ranthambhore National Park, which covers 392 sq km and is home to the tigers, jackals, foxes, hyenas and more than 300 species of birds. Shop for toys and ethnic jewellery, before proceeding to Chittaurgarh to dwell on the tales of battles, lost and won. The Chittaurgarh Fort bears many a scar!

Udaipur is also famous as the Lake City in this desert state. The most noteworthy of sights are those of the Jag Niwas (Lake Palace) and Jag Mandir, which appear to emerge majestically, from the still waters of Lake Pichola.

Jaisalmer lies in the midst of the Thar Desert. The Jaisalmer Fort, made of yellow sandstone, is an imposing structure with a grand facade. Other attractions include Nathmalji ki Haveli, Patwon ki Haveli and Salim Singh ki Haveli, and display fine craftsmanship in terms of latticework.

In Jodhpur, the architectural prowess of a bygone era is showcased by the Mehrangarh Fort and the monuments within: Moti Mahal, Phool Mahal, Sheesh Mahal and Daulat Khana. Tourists of the Palace-on-Wheels also get to visit the Jaswant Thada, besides royal cenotaphs built of white marble.

Bharatpur is the next stop. It is home to the bird sanctuary, Keoladeo Ghana National Park. The sanctuary is a nesting place for Siberian cranes, egrets and migratory waterfowl, among others.

Once in Agra, passengers can tour the city and take in the grandeur of Fatehpur Sikri. The monument built in red sandstone, hosts a mosque that Emperor Akbar built in honour of Shaikh Salim Chishti, a Sufi saint, who blessed him with an heir. One of the wonders of the world, Taj Mahal is the next stop, which is considered the symbol of eternal love.

At a glance: Palace on Wheels

Coaches: 14

Facilities: Each coach has four cabins, also known as saloons. There are two restaurants, namely The Maharaja and The Maharani, a lounge and spa saloon.

Duration of Journey: 7 nights and 8 days

Route: Departs from New Delhi moves to Jaipur then proceeds to Sawai Madhopur and Chittaurgarh, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bharatpur and Agra and finally returns to New Delhi.


Deccan Odyssey

The Deccan Odyssey is a luxury train that aims to boost tourism on the Maharashtra route of the Indian Railways. This luxury train, not only travels to tourist spots, but also doubles
as a five-star hotel in the process.

From the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai, passengers are ready to board the train and embark on a journey filled with nuggets from history.

In Aurangabad, tourists gear up to explore the Ellora Caves. Deemed a World Heritage Site, with its temples dedicated to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, it is a fine example of religious tolerance permeating from ancient India. Another fine example of Mughal architecture, Bibi ka Maqbara, is also located here. In many ways, it is a replica of the Taj Mahal and this monument, further adds to the rich heritage of the city.

The Tadoba Tiger Reserve promises adventure and a rush of adrenalin, as tourists go on safaris to spot the big cats.

The next stop is Jalgaon, from where tourists can drive to the Ajanta Caves – another World Heritage Site. They can marvel at the life of Buddha, depicted in the form of cave murals and fine sculptures that have stood the test of time.

The next stop is Nashik, where passengers can walk through vineyards. Then comes Kolhapur, which offers great photo options in terms of New Palace and the Town Hall Museum. Tourists can also witness Mardani Khel – a traditional martial arts performance.

Goa, famous for its beaches, is the next stop on the journey. Besides dusting off the sand between their toes, tourists can visit the Saint Augustine Church and the Basilica of Bom Jesus. They can also expect to be transported back in time, as they stroll through Fontanhas – the old Latin Quarters.

At a glance: Deccan Odyssey

Coaches: 21

Facilities: Intercom, CD/MP3 players and plasma TVs. There are two restaurants, namely Peshwa I and Peshwa II. Besides, there are coaches for sauna, spa, gymnasium, beauty parlour, lounge and a conference car that can be converted into a dancefloor.

Duration of journey: 7 nights and 8 days

Route: Mumbai, Aurangabad, Tadoba, Ajanta, Nashik, Kolhapur, Goa, back to Mumbai.