1. Himalayan Queen
The Himalayan Queen, otherwise known as the Kalka – Shimla Toy Train, was constructed by the British in 1903, to make the summer capital of the British Raj more accessible to those who fled the plains during the sweltering summer months. It is one of India’s most picturesque train journeys. It travels the 96 kms from Kalka to Shimla, in Himachal Pradesh, passing through beautiful pine forests along the narrow gauge track, winding its way slowly through 103 tunnels, across 800 bridges and 900 bends in the track. The longest tunnel is more than a kilometre long! The journey in all takes around 5 hours. The Himalayan Queen has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.
2. Jewels of the Deccan on Board the Deccan Odyssey
The Deccan Odyssey is a luxury train that offers travellers to India a way to discover the country in style and comfort, sleeping on board the train which has private butlers, on board spa and sumptuous food. A experience which transports guests to a by-gone era of train travel. Our favourite route is the Jewels of the Deccan Journey, which starts in the bustling capital of Mumbai, before travelling through the highlights of Maharahstra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Explore the astonishing cave temples of Ajanta & Ellora. The opulence of India is characterised at the forts, temples and palaces of Bijapur and the staggering UNESCO site of Hampi. Experience spirituality of the religious in Aihole & Pattadakal. The city of Nawabs, Hyderabad, is the final stop and a place to try the exotic spices, herbs and delicious Awadhi cuisine.
3. The Darjeeling Himalayan Toy Train
Darjeeling, like Shimla, developed as a summer retreat for the British wanting to escape the summer heat of Calcutta, and who came to enjoy the mountain air and the lush greenery of the tea estates. Completed in 1881 the railway is a narrow gauge line, and a few of the original steam trains still run from Darjeeling to Ghoom, the later being the highest train station in India at an altitude of 7400 feet. One of the moist scenic is the Batasia Loop, which has a series of switchbacks, as well as crossing over 450 bridges, as it climes steeply towards Ghoom. It was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1999.
4. Indian Panorama Aboard the Maharaja Express
Enjoy luxury train travel in India aboard the Maharaja Express, and see the beautiful Indian landscape passing by as you enjoy the comfort of your private cabin, on board fine dining and impeccable service. The Indian Panorama tour offers you a rich glimpse of India’s most renowned architecture, culture & spirituality. Your journey starts in Delhi Safdarjung railway station with a traditional welcome of garlands. The train stops at Jaipur to the visit Amber Fort followed by Ranthambore National Park, one of India’s foremost tiger reserves. Visit the ultimate symbol of love, the Taj Mahal and visit Orchha with its beautiful riverside mausoleums and the erotic temples of Khajuraho. In Varanasi enjoy a boat ride for the evening ‘on the banks of River Ganges.
5. Kangra Valley Railway
Possibly one of the loveliest and most charming train journeys in India is the 165km long Kangra Valley Railway, which starts at Pathankot, a town with little appeal in the Punjab, and ends up in Joginder Nagar, a tiny town in the shadow of the Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh. It’s a local train for locals, with no reserved seating and travelling the entire length of the line will set you back less than INR50! Stopping at 33 stations, and a journey that takes around 10 hours, grab a seat on the left side of the train so that you can stare in awe as the snow capped Dhauladhar Mountain Range slowly comes into view around Kangra, and continue to play peek-a-boo for the remaining journey to the end of the line.
The train is slow enough to get a good look at the passing countryside, with its fields of verdant wheat and paddy depending on the season, the beautiful apple blossoms in Spring, mud walled farm houses and haystacks piled high. Expect to meet friendly locals, hop off at the longer stops for hot samosas and chai, and just revel in the epitome of “slow travel.” The best time to travel is October through November, and again March through April, when the temperatures are pleasant, but for the best mountain views don a warm jacket and travel between December through February.