By Rashmi Goyal
The old cliché that to see the ‘real’ India one has to hop onto the rails contains an element of truth. Since a sizeable portion of the population lives in villages and small towns, whatever tour you opt for once at a Delhi hotel of your choice, whether rural or mystic India or heritage or any other, the cliché is reinforced.
Railways in India a way of life . A staggering 18 million people travel by train every day. Religious pilgrimages alone account for hundreds of thousands of journeys every year. The Indian Railways has 9000 trains running on roughly 65,000 km of track along side 7,083 stations. And with hotels dotting the entire stretch, the daily flow of human traffic on and off its tracks is mind boggling.
India’s railway network is extensive, prices are reasonable with accommodations suiting every pocket, AC and non AC seating/sleepers of all classes. Apart from the normal trains connecting all parts of the country there are also special faster trains like the Rajdhani Express and Shatabdi Express; the fully AC Garib Rath Express , Duronto Express , Janshatabdi Express and Super fast Trains along with the Mail Express Trains & Local Trains for local travel. Like our Clark Hotels, most luxury budget hotels in Delhi are not far from the major railway stations .
IR has also introduced Bharat Darshan, a special pilgrimage train taking tourists through religious and pilgrim centers in North India (in 14 days) including sacred Shirdi, Varanasi, Gaya, Allahabad, Haridwar, Mathura and Agra.
Then there are the Royal Trains of India, a favorite luxury travel option - The Palace on Wheels, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, Deccan Odyssey, Maharaja Express all have fabulous, beautifully adorned coaches, well stocked bar/ restaurants, lounge, library, gym, even spa on board.
India’s most expensive train, the Maharajas’ Express is one of the six luxury trains that offer the best in travel, traditional food and hospitality. Its Classical India tour (7 days/6 nights) starts from Delhi and passes through Agra , Gwalior , Khajuraho, Bandhavgarh, Varanasi , and Lucknow , before returning to Delhi . Its Princely India trip (8 days/7 nights) starts from Mumbai and passes through Vadodara, Udaipur , Jodhpur , Bikaner , Jaipur, Ranthambore, Agra and finally lands you back to your hotel in Delhi thrilled and fulfilled.
The train crisscrosses the beautiful locales offering panoramic views of India’s countryside, chugging along majestic ghats, deserts, lush green fields, scenic villages and rivers .
The Maharaja Express is akin to a five-star hotel on wheels . Every cabin has large panoramic windows, individual temperature controls, LCD/TV, DVD players, direct dial phones, electronic safe deposit and internet facilities. It has two fine dining restaurants, a bar with the choicest collection of wines, a lounge cum bar and high-end boutique.
When coming to India, its important to plan ahead and inquire before acting, especially when it comes to booking a hotel, tour and especially luxury train tours which are booked fully months in advance.