It is almost uncanny to think most of us have been locked inside our homes for over seven months since the beginning of the nation’s COVID-19 induced lockdown. Apart from its colossal damages, the sense of desolation has also taken over people who love being on the road. India already boasts of its big tourism industry and delivers plenty to explore. One of the key attractions and a familiar spectacle in movies portrayed worldwide is its famous railways.
Growing up in India, most of our fondest travel stories include a mystical train ride unless you’re taking the infamous metros to get to work. From ancient toy trains to fancy Maharaja trains, nothing in the world compares to the Indian Railways’ overwhelming experience.
About 17,000 trains are running in India, covering a distance of 64,000 kilometres on track, and we have hand-picked some of our favourite train routes that you have to explore before you die!
Himalayan Queen – Kalka to Shimla
The summer capital from the colonial era, Shimla offers one of the most exciting train routes in its famous “toy train.” Started back in 1903 by Britishers, the train cuts through 102 tunnels and 82 bridges. From Kalka to Shimla, you can smell the aroma of Pine needles, Oak valleys, Deodar, and Rhododendron forests that infuse the air around you. One can take a window seat along with a Jane Austen paperback and feel themselves travelling back in time.
You can always get down to loiter in-between stations located amidst the hills, with a hot cup of tea, as the temperature drops.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway – Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling
If one hasn’t been to Darjeeling, they’re missing out on the magic of steam trains rushing across mountains. For those who have watched Wes Anderson’s critically acclaimed American film, ‘Darjeeling Limited’ know precisely how convincing it can be. Then there is the toy train trail from Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling, which provides you with a changing landscape. Darjeeling is renowned for serving one of the finest tea in the world, and rightly so; as the hill station approaches, you will be mystified by the sweet aroma of the tea leaves. In case you are lucky enough, you might even spot the Kanchenjunga, which is the third highest mountain in the world!
Island Express – Kanyakumari to Trivandrum
Moving south, you reach the very tip of the nation – Kanyakumari, to witness the tri-coloured ocean. The island express offers a brief journey of two hours two reach Trivandrum, but these two hours will leave you captivated by the two states’ scenic beauty. It is the closest you can get to the core of the south Indian lifestyle.
The ride cuts through a vast expanse of palm trees standing over a lush green landscape with a tinge of lime-green hue spread across the locomotive. As you find yourself peeking out of the window, you’ll observe fruity huts with men and women in their traditional garments carrying out everyday chores. Several temples also mark the distance between Kanyakumari and Trivandrum.
Mandapam to Rameswaram
While talking about train routes to take in the south, one cannot miss the iconic or often termed as the most dangerous train ride from Mandapam, Tamil Nadu to the island of Rameswaram. The journey sets on the longest bridge in India and throughout features a striking blue seascape as you’re set to be surrounded by the expansive ocean on both sides. The train fare is also quite economical for such an action-packed journey.
Mumbai to Goa
As you step from Mumbai’s busy 9-5 life to our favourite getaway destination Goa, this train route sets the perfect tone for a relaxing holiday. With a stunning view on both sides with Sahyadri hills on one and the Arabian Sea on the other, you feel your body easing out the tensions. The mere beauty of the rural lifestyle and the cherry-coloured huts structured under high coconut trees fill the serene landscape between the two destinations.
Jammu Mail – Jammu to Udhampur
This northernmost railway stretches over 53kms from Jammu to Udhampur and falls under the canopy of the Himalayas. The gurgling rivers splashing across the rocky mountains are sure to leave you exhilarated. Apart from that, the wide tunnels and bridges offer food for the soul to all the adventure freaks.
- Indian Maharaja Deccan Odyssey – Mumbai to Delhi
The closest alternative to travelling like a Maharaja is the chic Indian Maharaja Deccan Odyssey Palace on Wheels, covering a magnitude of destinations between Mumbai and Delhi via Rajasthan. This luxury travel allows you to fancy the magnificent Ellora and Ajanta caves with an afternoon at the Taj Mahal. The sheer catalogue of the destinations this train ride covers gives you the experience of nothing less than a character straight out of medieval India. In the daytime, you can go tiger-spotting in Ranthambore or enjoy the sunset while watching movies or reading magazines in the posh lounges, as you feast on the delectable royal cuisine. That’s what travelling in style is all about!