Rail journeys in India are extremely fascinating. They showcase the country’s variety & color, and geographic diversity, particularly over long journeys. India is home to one of the largest networks with more than 115,000 km of railway track. It covers the length and breadth of the country. Covers the west coast of Maharashtra and Gujarat to North East India, and from the Himalayas in the north to the tea plantations of the south.
Indians love to hop on a train and indulge in smiles, chit-chat, great views, and adventures along the way. We all have those beautiful memories of reaching the railway station, buying a dozen magazines and comics. Memories of hoarding packets of snacks and munchies, and most importantly, fighting for the window seat.
It wasn’t easy curating this list of our recommended rail journeys in India. Well, for the simple reason that there are so many worthy contenders. However, we’ve covered some of the best ones which you could consider for your next travel. Besides the regular trains, we have also included toy trains, and luxury trains from the corners of the country to lighten up your rail travel wanderlust.
1. Mumbai To Goa
The two places are always in the talks for two things – One for its glamorous and busy life, and the other for its vacation and party vibe! The train route from Mumbai to Goa is famous as the Konkan railway. It is actually one of India’s most recent railways. This journey winds through the western ghats in southern Maharashtra before entering Goa. The trains offers you views of rivers and backwaters with glimpses of the ocean. Cruising through 92 tunnels and 2000 bridges, this journey gives you unforgettable moments every five seconds with magnificent stretches of paddy hues and coconut trees.
Many trains cover the route from Mumbai to Madgaon (south-central Goa), Thivim (North Goa), and further south to Canacona. However, traveling overnight, you miss the best part of this journey, that is the view. So we recommend taking one of the day trains, the best one being Jan Shatabdi.
2. Delhi to Kota
The train leaves from the chaotic stations of Delhi and enters a range of terrains towards Kota, Rajasthan. The houses perching on the roadside seem to shake when the train rambles along the sides. The children in the streets, greet you with waves and smiles while you pass by. When at Mathura junction, get off the train to grab some ‘peda’ and don’t forget to savor some early taste of the lemony ‘poha’ at Bharatpur, which is typical of Rajasthan.
The deeper the train enters into Rajasthan, the landscape keeps getting drier, and vegetation, sparse. You can feel the dry winds blowing, but to experience this transition you need to be in a non-AC coach. There are multiple trains from the two stations of Delhi, NDLS and Hazrat Nizamuddin station. For both these stations, the journey lasts for about 6-7 hours. For a reliable non-AC option, you can opt for the Jan Shatabdi train #12060, which departs from the Hazrat Nizamuddin station daily at 13:15.
3. Delhi to Agra
Like the Shatabdi express, The Gatimaan Express is also one of the first high-speed trains in India. It is currently the second-fastest train in operation. It’s a completely air-conditioned train that runs between Delhi and Jhansi, halting at Agra along the way. One of the main reasons to prefer this train is because it covers a distance of 188 km in 100 minutes. The train is clean, and serves delicious meals. There is an array of attentive staff always present. The train operates every day, except Fridays, as the Taj is not open on Fridays.
The Gatimaan Express (12050) departs from Hazrat Nizamuddin in Delhi daily except Fridays at 08.10 and arrives at Agra Cantonment at 09.55. In the reverse direction (12049), it departs from Agra Cantonment at 17.50 and arrives back at Hazrat Nizamuddin at 19.30.
4. Kalka to Shimla
One of the most fascinating train journeys in India happens to be the toy train ride from Kalka to Shimla. The Kalka Shimla Railways, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is quite an engineering feat. It was accessible by the public as early as 1903. This mountain railway runs on narrow gauge tracks passing through 988 bridges,102 tunnels, and 919 curves in its run of 96 kilometers.
The train journey is definitely an experience of a lifetime. As the slow train chugs through the mountains and bridges maneuvering the curves, it fills you with thrill and excitement. There are 16 quaint stations between Shimla and Kalka. Each station is picture perfect, the best of which is Barog. The six-hour train journey surrounded by pine and forest trees. The railways’ stations giving a feel of the old colonial days. It is definitely one of the most pleasant rail journeys in India.
5. Siliguri to Darjeeling
A pleasant up slope journey from the foothills of Siliguri through the loops, turns and bends. An experience when you ride towards Darjeeling in the toy train. Remember Rajesh Khanna driving and following Sharmila Tagore who’s in the toy train, while singing, “Mere sapno ki Rani”? Yes, that’s the one! The 78 kilometer long quaint journey takes almost 8 hours. It starts from Siliguri Junction, and passes through small hill stations like Sukna, Rongtong, Tindharia, Mahananda, Kurseong, Sonada, Ghum, Jorebunglow, Rongbul, and Batasia Loop.
This toy train is also consider a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and besides being slightly sluggish, it is certainly leisurely. The surrounding hill valley topography, especially from Ghum, which is the highest narrow gauge railway station in India, and Batasia Loop, add the extra flavours of delight to the ride.
6. Nilgiri Railways
Even the Nilgiri mountain railway is a UNESCO world heritage site which runs on steam locomotive engines at a speed ranging from 15 to 30 Km. It has the steepest track in Asia with a maximum gradient of 8.33 with the rack and pinion system to climb this gradient. This journey operates between Mettupalayam and Udhagamandalam, Ooty.
The initial 7 Km journey is through the plains, with Paddy fields on both sides. Then, the train enters the Nilgiri Mountain range and is filled with scenic beauty. The journey is surrounded with lush green mountains, deep valleys, 250 bridges and 16 tunnels covering 46 kilometers. While crossing Conoor, you will see beautiful tea gardens alongside the tracks giving you an extremely joyous experience.
7. The Golden Chariot
The Golden Chariot stands only luxury train of India that operates in the south of the country. The perfectly named ‘Pride of the South’ and ‘Southern Splendor’ routes are majestic 8 days of journey that pass through some of the most beautiful places of South India. They both start and end in Bangalore with the former passing through Mysore, Belur, Halebidu, Shravanabelagola, Pattadakal, Hampi, Badami caves and Goa, while the latter cover Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Kerala, Pondicherry and many more. The well decorated rooms are named after the different dynasties that ruled Karnataka, like Ganga, Sangama, etc. The rooms have spacious bathrooms with enclosed showers. The beds are extremely comfortable.
There are two kitchens serving delicious Indian, Western, and authentic Karnataka cuisine for the guests. The best part of the Golden Chariot is that it treats the passengers like royalty. While locals can pick the length or days of the journey they want to be a part of, foreigners need to book the entire 8-day journey. This royal ride in South India is a once in a lifetime experience, and that’s what makes it one of the best rail journeys in India.
8. The Palace on the Wheels
Just like the name suggests this train journey literally makes you feel like you’re at a palace. It’s a 7 day trip between Rajasthan and Agra, with the experience of royalty and grandeur. There are draped curtains, silver cutlery, and butlers to take care of your every need during this luxurious adventure. The journey starts from Delhi and every day you wake up to a new place. Most of the traveling is overnight, so that you can explore a new destination during the day. At every destination, there are guides and transport to take you to the main attractions, including the magnificent forts in Rajasthan. You also get to learn about the culture and food of this beautiful part of India.
All the activities and formalities at the visiting spots are arranged by the train crew, so that you can focus on making the most of it. Your train cost includes all meals of the day; that is breakfast, lunch, and dinner served either onboard or in a restaurant in the destination you are visiting. Besides, you go back to your train only to see your butler waiting for you with fresh tea or coffee, and munchies. Your assigned butler organizes your daily schedule, maintains your cabin, and help you with everything you might need. This hassle free train journey is perfect for travelers that want to see the best of Rajasthan in a short time and without worrying about booking transportation, hotels, and activities by themselves.
9. Deccan Odyssey
Covering a 7 night round trip journey from Mumbai, the luxury Deccan Odyssey explores Gujarat, which is India’s most western state and is as fascinating as neighboring Rajasthan. Visits to Palitana, with its 900 Jain temples, the stunning Sun Temple at Modhera, Sasan Gir National Park, home of the mighty Asiatic lion, and the haunting desert landscape of the Little Rann of Kutch with its diversity of birds and wild asses, are all part of the trip.
Since, there are many people prefer the journeys on tracks over flights, we have curated this list with the best rail journeys in India, including regular rail journeys, toy trains, and luxury trains.
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