Travelling by train in India is an experience like no other. From luxury trains with comfortable cabins and fine dining on board to scenic mountain railways, commuter trains and long-distance journeys, there is certain to be a trip to suit everyone. Here are our recommendations for the top 5 train journeys to take in India.
Kalka – Shimla railway
The Kalka to Shimla narrow gauge railway opened in 1891 to connect the summer capital of the British Raj – Shimla – with the Indian rail network. Today, the journey on the Unesco toy train is like travelling back in time. Winding its way steeply up the narrow track, through spectacular mountain scenery and pine forests, the 96-kilometre-railway passes through 20 stations, round 900 bends, over 800 bridges and through 100 tunnels, the longest of which is over a kilometre. For the best views, make sure you sit on the right side going up and the left coming down.
The 14-hour journey on the Konkan railway from Mumbai to Mangalore is seldom used by tourists but is a contender to be one of the country’s most scenic routes. Travelling down India’s west coast, the train passes paddy fields, mountains, rivers and beaches. A highlight has to be crossing the 2km bridge over the wide Sharavathi river in Karnataka state.
Covering a range of routes across India, the luxurious Deccan Odyssey explores India in style. On board, cabins are spacious and comfortable, and the restaurant cars serve excellent foods. Excursions off the train reveal the natural beauty and cultural gems of both well-known parts of India and lesser-visited destinations. Journeys available include the classic Delhi to Mumbai or the Golden Triangle and more remote Gujarat and Maharashtra.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
Known as the Darjeeling toy train, this 61cm narrow gauge railway runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling, connecting the foothills with the British Raj’s summer hill station. Rising from 100m above sea level up to 2,250m in Ghum – the highest railway station in India – the tracks follow the main road pass through towns, villages and seemingly through their market stalls. The railway is very much considered a part of the region’s identity and should not be missed.
One of southern India’s oldest railways, the 746 km route from Chennai to Alleppey takes over 13 hours and travels across the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The final two hours of the journey from Cochin take in the famous backwaters of Kerala, crossing Lake Vembanad twice and passing through small villages and towns.
Katie Parsons is the PR Manager at Cox & Kings.