India is a place filled with wonders and sights, from majestic palaces to enchanting caves; it has something on offer for everyone and anyone. With a deeply seated heritage and cultural link, the railways have been a part of the country’s history for many decades. India is one of the most visited countries in the world and tourism plays a vital role in the economy and livelihood of people in the region.
The Indian Railway operates a host of tourist trains and coach services on very popular tourist circuits in many different regions of the country. These services offer a tour package that is inclusive of rail travel, local transportation, accommodation, food and guided tours. The Railways offer various tourist services which include Luxury tourist trains, Buddhist special trains, Semi-luxury trains, Aastha Circuit trains, Bharat Darshan trains and Steam trains.
Among these trains some of the most popular ones are:
- The Palace on Wheels: It is a luxury-train service, often hauled by a steam locomotive. This train was designed and built to promote tourism in Rajasthan. The train has an itinerary of seven-nights and eight-days; it is a round trip from New Delhi and passes through the cities of Jaipur, SawaiMadhopur, and Chittaurgarh, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bharatpur and Agra.
- The Deccan Odyssey: This journey covers various tourist destinations in Maharashtra and Goa. Its seven-nights and the eight-day tour begins in Mumbai and stops at Jaigad Fort, Ganapatipule and Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Tarkarli and Sawantwadi, Goa, Kolhapur and Pune, Aurangabad and Ellora Caves, and Ajanta Caves and Nashik. The Golden Chariot runs on two separate tours: Pride of the South and Splendor of the South. Each of these tours run on completely separate routes.
- Royal Rajasthan on Wheels: Another luxury train introduced in Rajasthan and covers a number of tourist destinations in the desert region. This seven-day and eight-night tour is also a round trip from New Delhi’s Safdarjung station via Jodhpur, Udaipur and Chittaurgarh, Ranthambore National Park and Jaipur, Khajuraho, Varanasi and Sarnath, and Agra.
- The Mahaparinirvan Express: This train is a fully air-conditioned service also known as the Buddhist Circuit Train and is run by the IRCTC mainly for Buddhist pilgrims. Its seven-night and the eight-day tour begins in New Delhi and visits pilgrimage sights such as Bodh Gaya, Rajgir and Nalanda, Varanasi and Sarnath, Kushinagar and Lumbini, Sravasti and caps it off with a visit to the TajMahal.
- Maharajas’ Express: A luxury train operated by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC). This train runs on five different routes to about 12 destinations across north-West and central India (centred in and around Rajasthan) from October to April.
These trains aren’t the most cost-effective measure to travel and visit tourist destinations. However, one gets an authentic experience of what it is like to feel like Indian Royalty and can comfortably enjoy the journey in peace. Seat availability is easy to find on these trains, and one can book on right away on various travel websites. There is more information also available on travel forums and listing sites.