The romanticism of a royal train tour on The Maharaja Express or Palace on Wheels that chugs along picturesque trails dotted with historical landmarks just got elevated a notch higher as Indian Railways opens its privately occupied coaches for the first time to common public.
Originally built for the Indian royalty, and thereafter strictly used for official tours by top railway officials and rail-road committee members post-Independence, this move marks a significant departure from the conventions in a bid to bolster revenue. Undoubtedly, this will make luxury Indian railway journeys even more interesting, adding more charm and accessibility to the grand list of royal trains in India.
So, what’s in store for us from the time the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation operated its first Indian Railway luxury saloon coach for the public? This first privately-occupied Indian railway luxury coach, replete with all the trappings of ‘travel luxury,’ started its journey with six customers of a private tour operating company aboard the Jammu Mail at the Old Delhi Railway Station. The first of this four-day tour started in April, for an onward journey to Katra. The six VIP passengers on the trip, are the first amongst the many to follow, to experience the sophistication of travelling on a luxury train. The cost of chartering a saloon coach in this Indian train is anywhere around Rs 2 lakh.
The history of luxury Indian railway journeys dates to the early 1880s when Saloon coaches were used by the British emperors in India. As the Maharajas of India fell head over heels in love with James Watt's creation, the famed carriages got more patronage, as royalty travelled in style. Vying to create the most luxurious carriages, the royals installed fineries, the salons and billiard rooms, along with a host of private suites to ferry cuisines and drinks on the sprawling dining tables during their royal feasts.
Keeping this tradition of opulence alive, the newly opened Indian railway luxury saloon strives to replicate the same majestic travel experience for all its guests. Built to accommodate two families and facilitate a stay for up to five days, this Indian train is a mobile luxury house with a view. Boasting two exclusive bedrooms with attached bathrooms, a swanky living and dining area along with a kitchenette and rear windows for soaking in spectacular views, the luxury saloon coach promises a memorable stay. The Indian Railway luxury saloon coach also offers AC and saloon attendants and a chargeable valet service to ensure a hassle-free and great travel experience.
Today, the modern luxury Indian railway journey has come a long way, with an array of luxury trains operating on different routes, offering a kaleidoscope of the countryside. Each of these opulent luxury trains have been designed with the most heady mix of the traditional and the contemporary. These Indian railway luxury trains are equipped with world-class amenities, ranging from restaurants and bar offering a gourmet dining experience to facilities like personal butlers, televisions, telephones, lounges, souvenir shops and spas to completely envelope each guest with utmost luxury.
So far, the most notable amongst luxury trains in India, is The Palace on Wheels. The history of Palace on Wheels is as fascinating as its journey itself. A definite tribute to the royal tradition of Indian Maharajas, this train travels to the heart of India's rich cultural and historical heritage, Rajasthan. Lined with fortresses and palaces amidst sand dunes, forestry and lakes, Rajasthan is the land where the folklores of yore still live on. This luxury train retains the top slot amidst the most revered luxury trains in India. Taking a cue from the personal carriages used by the erstwhile maharajas of Rajasthan, Palace on Wheels recreates the romance and opulence of an era bygone, with its aesthetically appointed 14 carriages, named after a princely state and uniquely decorated to manifest its cultural heritage. Replete with multi-cuisine restaurants, lounges, rejuvenating spa carriages and opulent personal cars, the luxury train is equipped with the best amenities to ensure a magnificent experience.
Following up closely on the fame of the Palace on Wheels, is The Maharaja Express offering extravagant journeys across the most alluring landscapes in the Western and Northern parts of India, including world heritage sites and cultural excursions. The Maharaja Express takes you on a passage through time in the lap of sheer opulence, with gorgeous interiors reminiscent of the elegance of an imperial past and contemporary amenities to match the comfort of a five star hotel stay. A host of stately accommodation suite options match the two fine dining cars and a bar coach with a tasteful selection of the finest wines.
The Maharaja Express route is as luxurious as the carriage itself, with an option of five different itineraries to let you choose the best way to discover forts, palaces, wildlife reserves and World Heritage Sites. Impeccable services and tastefully selected destinations on the Maharaja Express route peppered with some off-train excursions, make for an unforgettable holiday on board this luxury Indian train.
Another royal train in India is the Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, providing a journey through the times and places in the 'Land of The Maharajas’. Gourmet cuisines, round the clock valet, spas, salons and fitness centers line up the carriages, only to be excelled by the impeccable services on board and a red carpet welcome maintained throughout the itinerary.
Luxury Indian railway journeys, evoking an association with the heritage and indulgence of a bygone age, need to be a must-do on each travelling nomad’s wishlist. These voyages which let you see the real countryside are interspersed with leisurely-guided sightseeing, superlative services, fine dining in aesthetically appointed dining cars and sipping evening sparkling vino by the carriage windows. These uber-luxury trains are not just a means of transport, rather an experience of the days of yore when each voyage was an exploration. Bon voyage!