India

Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in India.

Ratnagiri: An Indian Hidden Paradise

Located 335 kilometres from Mumbai, Ratnagiri has hills on one side and the Arabian Sea on the other. Close to town, there are undisturbed and underrated beaches such as Velas, Diveagar, and Guhagar that offer an insight into the Konkan lifestyle.

DO

► Home to the famous Alphonso mango, Ratnagiri is the perfect spot if you want to indulge in mango picking, and of course, eat them fresh from the tree.

► Try Konkan-style fish curry and balance its spicy flavours with sol kadi, a pink-coloured drink. Local snacks such as ambapoli and phanaspoli are must-try.

Ratnagiri

STAY

► Blue Ocean Resort & Spa offers a classic beach resort experience with comfortable rooms.

► Set amidst coconut and mango plantations, Atithi Parinay Homestay is an example of Indian hospitality. Stay here for its traditional food and outstanding location.

Diu Has Wonderfully Uncrowded Beaches & Delicious Food

An erstwhile Portuguese territory, Diu is connected by a lattice of bridges and ferries to Gujarat on the mainland. It has a distinct Mediterranean-meets-Kutch look where houses are painted sunshine yellow, creamy white and powder blue under a scorching sun and clear sky. With a Union Territory status, it is a refuge for travellers to get a real drink as its neighbour is a dry state. Some call it Little Goa, and some call it Gujarat’s Ibiza. But it’s actually a charming and quiet island with clean beaches and delicious food. Wander at the old Portuguese churches and dine on fabulous seafood including rockfish, calamari and prawns.

 Azzaro Resort and Spa

Azzaro Resort and Spa

DO

► Rent a bike and drive to the quiet beaches of Goghla or Ngao and explore the Naida Caves.

► Plan a day trip to the Gir National Park to spot the endangered Asiatic lion from an open-roof jeep.

STAY

► Azzaro Resort and Spa offers 40 rooms and suites, a bar, and a spa.

► Close to the Gir National Park, The Fern is an eco-friendly resort with two restaurants, a spa, and simply decorated cottages and villas that bring you closer to nature.

Indian Wildlife: Wonderful Lodges & Views

Driving through the state of Madhya Pradesh, in the heart of Indian tiger country, it was difficult to reconcile the tranquil scenes flashing past my window with nonstop reports about the animal’s slide toward extinction. Tigers, it seemed, were the topic of the moment. As I set off from New Delhi on a six-day safari, global specialists were converging to discuss how many of the world’s largest felines are left, and how best to save them. With so many vested interests resting on the creature’s survival (it’s estimated that just six of India’s tiger reserves are worth US$1.2 billion to the Indian economy), it’s hard to know whose version of reality to believe.

Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh

On the one hand, the World Wildlife Fund and Global Tiger Forum claim the worldwide population has risen by 22 per cent since 2010, to 3,890. On the other, in spite of investment of about US$500 million since the start of former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi’s Project Tiger in 1973—when nine tiger reserves were created and dozens of camps built—global tiger populations have plummeted. Since 1993, numbers worldwide have halved, and in the past 80 years, three of the nine subspecies have become extinct from habitats including Indonesia and Central Asia.

In India, where two-thirds—or about 2,200— of the world’s tigers live, in and around 49 reserves, there is grounds for cautious optimism, with one study recording an increase of 30 per cent in numbers between 2010 and 2014. Having been on five tiger safaris in India in the past decade, I wanted to see if there was any perceptible improvement in terms of the numbers that were visible and the protection they were being given. Along the road from Madhya Pradesh’s Jabalpur Airport to Bandhavgarh National Park, where more than 60 cats roam through 1,11,000 acres of forest, it was clear the species is a big part of local identity. I noticed their image everywhere: on a packet of cookies bought at a stall, sculpted on an arch, painted on a village temple. I was also informed of a discouraging report stating that 19 tiger deaths had been recorded in Madhya Pradesh in the first half of 2016 (almost half of all Indian tiger deaths in that period).

As I’ve learned over the years, there’s nothing straightforward about conservation in India, and with so much conflicting information in my head, I was relieved to arrive at Samode Safari Lodge, on Bandhavgarh National Park’s periphery. Built by descendants of the royal family of Samode, the camp’s colonial-style interiors are reminiscent of an African safari camp, with whirring bamboo fans and elegant tea-planter’s chairs. My room was designed in the style of local farmhouses: roughly rendered in mud and decorated with naive, nature-inspired bas-reliefs and murals. Outside, there was a tub for starlit baths and, on lamplit communal patios, trays laid with spicy fried okra, flame-grilled prawns, and fresh coal-baked roti.

 Samode Safari Lodge

Samode Safari Lodge

There wasn’t much time to sit around feasting, though. Bandhavgarh park authorities allow visitors to take three- and four-hour safaris twice a day, starting around 5.45 am and 2.30 pm. While that does leave a little time for a midday massage or a swim, I spent most of my days in a safari jeep in the company of my guide, Anshuman Shah. He warned me right at the start of our first drive that not every guest sees a tiger. “Most people staying three nights should see one,” he said as we made our way to the park gates. “A group from Canada recently saw eleven in four days. It’s a question of luck: being in the right place at the right time.”

A decade ago, Bandhavgarh’s roads used to be clogged with cars full of colourfully-clad passengers who would spill out, often yelling into their cell phones. Today, only a limited number of registered 4 x4s are allowed into each zone, radios and phones are banned, and a park guide has to accompany every vehicle. The experience is far more peaceful and organised—not dissimilar to a safari in a popular park in Africa— even if visitors all still want the same thing “Just tiger, tiger, tiger,” as Ramkripal Ram, our park guide, put it. But cat sightings that day weren’t good. After spending four hours in the morning and three that evening listening, watching, and tracking, we returned, slightly dispirited, to camp.

The next day, I was assured, we would have more time, since the hotel had secured one of only five 12-hour, US$750 permits issued every day: a popular move by Bandhavgarh’s authorities. “You will see a tiger before you leave, I am sure,” Shah told me. In fact, I saw not just one magnificent cat on my full-day safari, but two. When, mid-morning, we ascended a hill to find a male cub lying languidly on a shaded sandstone rock, I was so thrilled my eyes welled up. Banbayi, a handsome 18-month-old, is seen regularly in this area, Shah said. From his supine position, the cub occasionally looked up at us as we examined him through binoculars, trying to memorise every detail: the long white whiskers; the striped tail that flicked every now and then to dislodge a fly; the muscles that rippled beneath his taut, light-orange hide as he slowly padded off into the long grass to the accompaniment of hooting langurs.

Our second sighting evoked a different emotion. After lunch, we spotted an eight-year-old tigress, Pattya, slinking into a bamboo thicket to rest. Keen to see her properly, we decided to sit and wait for her to re-emerge. By the time she padded out, two hours later, another 18 safari vehicles had lined up beside us, as well as two open-topped buses of schoolchildren. Thanks to the presence of park officials, the crowd was remarkably quiet. Nonetheless, the scene was more zoo than safari, and the striped star of the show was clearly aware of her audience. After performing a quick turn—drinking delicately from a water hole, rolling like a kitten in the sand— she took a final look at the crowd and vanished. And with the evening performance over, the cat paparazzi dispersed in clouds of dust, leaving us to make our way back to camp, as the red ball of the sun sank below the tree line.

 Bandhavgarh National Park

Bandhavgarh National Park

It’s a sad truth that, were the tiger a less beautiful creature, its future might be more secure. But the glorious Shere Khan archetype of The Jungle Book is in the unenviable position of being not only the beast that most tourists want to photograph, but the one poachers most want to capture for use in Chinese medicine. It is wanted both dead and alive. The fact that there are any still in existence is in part thanks to Project Tiger, and in part thanks to a handful of enlightened state leaders, said hotelier Jaisal Singh. Singh, a co-founder of Sujan Luxury, a chain of high-end Indian camps and hotels, spent much of his life studying tigers with his uncle, the well-known conservationist Valmik Thapar.

He told me that in states such as Maharashtra and Rajasthan, chief ministers have diligently implemented conservation policies. These have included programmes to turn poachers into gamekeepers, the launch of responsible-tourism organisations that link public and private companies (a pilot project of privately-run nature reserves is underway in Maharashtra), and schemes to compensate villagers if they or their livestock are harmed by a tiger. What they are up against, though, is an exploding human population that increasingly encroaches on forests, creating man-animal conflicts. “India has one and a quarter billion people, with goodness knows how many cows and goats that need land to feed on,” Singh said. Another problem is that forests are run by individual states—whose local bureaucrats make their own rules.

The central government spent US$57 million on the issue in 2015 but, according to Singh, “no matter how much money is pumped into tiger conservation, it gets sucked up by bureaucracy. Until you have a national strategy, nothing will happen.” Most conservationists agree that, under current prime minister Narendra Modi, there is little sign of positive change at a national level. Last year, Modi’s government not only cut funding for the environment by 25 per cent, and support for tiger protection by 15 per cent, but fast-tracked projects that could have disastrous environmental consequences.

Panna-Tiger-Reserve

Panna Tiger Reserve

These include a river diversion that will submerge nearly a third of the Panna Tiger Reserve and the expansion of a country road along the Pench Tiger Reserve into a four-lane highway. And despite signing an international agreement promising to protect tigers and their dwindling environment, the country currently loses an average of 333 acres of forest a day, which partially explains why the creatures now occupy just 7 per cent of their original habitat. As Julian Matthews from Travel Operators for Tigers explains: “Now less than two per cent of India is protected, far less than is needed for the tiger’s ecological security. Forests are being decimated for pasture and charcoal. So tigers are increasingly forced to live off cattle, which further worsens man-animal conflict.”

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Jaipur – The Place Where Indian Tales Come to Life

Bring an empty suitcase to Rajasthan’s famed pink city, because you’re going to want to buy everything in this creative hub.

“JAIPUR IS SLOW LIFE!” my taxi driver declares. All around us, cars, pedicabs, bicycles and cattle are stuck in hardcore commuter gridlock. Horns screech, elephants trumpet, and pedestrians tumble in and out of the disorderly scrum. Young boys jog in between the cars and oxcarts hawking fresh coconuts, marigold garlands, and saris. A horse cart waits patiently next to us, the turbaned driver casting a betel- stained grin. My driver responds by pressing on the horn for an unnecessarily long time. Slow life? Sure, in the literal sense. But it definitely doesn’t seem relaxing.

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Amer Fort, outside Jaipur, dates to 967, the reign of Raja Man Singh

After a few days in the Rajasthani capital, however, my taxi driver’s declaration begins to make sense. In spite of the log-jammed roads and dizzy markets, folks here take their time. Like the horse-cart driver who smiles in traffic, shopkeepers linger over tea and conversation, and skilled artisans work slowly and deliberately to create swoon-worthy architecture, textiles, art and jewelry that stand the tests of time. This is no accident.

Back in 1726, Maharaja Jai Singh, the city’s namesake, summoned skilled craftsmen—bricklayers, stone masons, marble cutters, metal smiths, potters, weavers— from the farthest reaches of the Subcontinent to build a new capital from the ground up. City planners followed architectural blueprints detailed in Vastu Shastra, a part of the Vedas, or Hinduism’s religious texts. Think of it as Vedic feng shui. Balanced aesthetics and details of  extraordinarily exquisite filigree, inlay and gilt are the cornerstones of the city’s iconic structures: the old city wall, the City Palace, Jal Mahal (or Water Palace, on Man Sagar Lake), and the pink Hawa Mahal, (Wind Palace), for example.

hawa-mahal

Hawa Mahal

Jai Singh launched one of modern India’s first intentional artisan communities. Deep inside the dusty warrens of the walled old city, artisans— or karigbars— turn out extraordinary objects much like they have for the past three centuries. Craftsmen chisel marble, cut gems and hand-embroider garments with solid-gold thread with casual expertise. The level of detail is staggering. More than once on my visit, I was given a magnifying glass to properly appreciate gold inlaid with precious gems, highly technical weaving techniques, and pichwai or gota embroidery, which resembles a painted tapestry.

Modern designers—native and foreign-born—still flock to Jaipur. Tapping indigenous artisans’ know-how, the new kids are repurposing folksy styles into edgy, appealing fashion, furniture and practically anything else. The contemporary craft movement, in turn, gives a lifeline to the karighars in their continual defense against machine- made wares. We can all thank the Maharaja for inuring his subjects with an abiding appreciation for hand-hewn beauty and intricacy—an ethos of living and enjoying creative pursuits that continues to underscore the city’s character. Here, the slow life is the good life.

NEIGHBORHOODS

Zip around the Pink City’s eclectic enclaves—a seamless blend of ancient and avant-garde, bustling and sleepy—via autorickshaw or Uber.

OLD CITY
The Pink City got its rosy paint job in 1876, and the original walled core still blushes with glorious palaces, forts and temples. The old markets are full of treasure; it’s worth elbowing you way through the mayhem to get your piece of Jaipur’s magic.

CIVIL LINES
The posh district’s graceful tree-lined streets and colonial and Mid-century bungalows appeal to dignitaries and design-types.

C-SCHEME
Teeming with youthful energy, this burb mixes cool cafes and crafty threads with the ubiquitous sidewalk ch ai wallah, or tea seller.

Ml ROAD
Endless rows of multi-generation jewelry shops, snack stalls and sari boutiques make this iconic street a one-stop shopping (and eating) hub.

VAISHALI NAGAR
The up-and-coming district’s low rents and broad avenues lure fresh start-ups looking for space to flex their creative muscles.

KANOTA BAGH
Not a neighborhood per se, the pretty shopping complex’s bougainvillea-covered courtyards are home to trendy ateliers peddling contemporary and vintage crafts.

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European Feels in The Far Fort Kochi, Kerala – India

With a melange of European influences, Fort Kochi is a historic place, with much architecture to marvel at. Kerala is a favourite with international visitors, but it can be as interesting as it is affordable.
Walk through one of India’s oldest Jewish quarters, Mattancherry, and visit the Dutch Palace and the Synagogue. Believed to be India’s oldest European church, St Francis, built by Portuguese Franciscan Friars, the Santa Cruz Basilica and Fort Immanuel are all worth visiting.

dutch-palace

Dutch Palace – Mattancherry, Fort Kochi

The Dutch Cemetery is a quiet, lovely spot for a break in your day. Fort Kochi’s beach, with its iconic giant Chinese fishing nets, is lovely in the mornings and evenings. Plan to visit the nearby Vasco da Gama Square and Maritime Museum along with Fort Kochi. The Kerala Folklore Museum is a must-visit, with daily traditional dance performances. If you’re hankering for a day-trip, Alleppey, with its beautiful backwaters and lagoons, is a good option.

fort-kochi-nets

Chinese fishing nets – Fort Kochi


Cherai Beach on nearby Vypeen Island is also worth visiting, with swimming and seafood restaurants vying for your attention. Back in Kochi, Bishop’s House Road, with its beautiful old-style homes, the Indo Portuguese Museum and The Union Club Building are all very pretty, and worth a dekko.

cherai-beach

Cherai Beach

LEAVE ON A JET PLANE OR TRAIN: Return flights start at USD109 and USD70 from New Delhi and Mumbai respectively and from USD 3,300 from Bangalore; trains from Bangalore start at USD12.
GET AROUND: Auto rickshaws, taxis, rented scooters and radio cabs- take your pick. Of course, the cheapest option is to walk or cycle. Autos will cost a minimum of USD 3 – be prepared to bargain. Local taxis charge from USD 8, scooters can be rented for USD6 day. Radio cabs are easily available and almost as economical as using local cabs and autos.
STAY: Try The Old Courtyard, Raintree Lodge and The Fort Bungalow.

the-old-courtyard-hotel-cochin

The Old Courtyard Hotel – Cochin

EAT AND DRINK: Visit the KashiArt Gallery and Café to feed your mind and soul, as well as your body with all-day breakfasts, hearty sandwiches and soups. The Teapot Cafe is justly famous for its variety of teas, including rose ice tea as well as local seafood dishes. You must visit Hotel Rahmaniya for the Kethel Chicken Fry. The no-fuss Kayees Hotel is famous among locals for its chicken biryani; get here fast as the biryani gets sold out quickly.

kashiart-gallery-and-café

KashiArt Gallery and Café


WHEN TO GO: October to February is the best time- Kochi is less humid then and its tropical climate is relatively cooler, with occasional showers.
If you like the rain, July to September, the non-tourist season, is a better bet, with lower prices.

The Most Amazing Railway Stations In India

Sawai Madhopur Junction, Rajasthan – When passengers alight at Sawai Madhopur station, gateway to Rajasthan’s Ranthambore National Park, they’re struck by the bright murals that adorn its walls. There is a giant painting of a banyan tree that covers the entire ceiling of a central hall. It is modelled after a real tree inside the national park, one of the largest in India. A number of forest dwellers inhabit its branches. Paintings of tigers, flocks of birds, and sloth bears cover platform walls and pillars of the small station, offering a colourful peek into life in the jungle. Painted by the artists from the Ranthambore School of Art, the spectacular murals capture the hearts of all who visit this National Tourism Award-winning station.

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Royapuram, Tamil Nadu – The very first train to run in South India rolled out of Chennai’s Royapuram station in the monsoon of 1856 and travelled to the town of Arcot in Vellore district. Royapuram was southern India’s first station, in what was then known as the Madras Presidency. The original structure still stands today, making it the oldest functional railway station in the country. The simple red-and-white colonial building with grand Corinthian pillars is a heritage structure. The station underwent extensive restoration in 2005.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Maharashtra – Without a doubt CST is Mumbai city’s busiest railway station. But the metropolitan city’s transport hub is also a UNESCO World Heritage structure and one of the best examples of Gothic Revival architecture in India. Gargoyles jut out of the high walls of this 19th-century masterpiece; they often spout water from their mouths during the monsoon. A high-arched ceiling painted with golden stars covers the ticket counter, while statues and carvings of peacocks, tigers, and other wildlife cover walls and crevices. An octagonal ribbed dome atop the structure is its crowning glory. Known as Victoria Terminus until 1996, CST is an arterial city station, one which took almost a decade to build.

Charbagh Railway Station, Uttar Pradesh – The city of nawabs welcomes passengers in style at the splendid red-and-white Charbagh Railway Station. Built in 1914, the sprawling structure blends Mughal and Rajasthani architecture, and overlooks a huge garden located outside its front entrance. It was here, under the station’s cupola-studded structure, that Jawaharlal Nehru is said to have first met Mahatma Gandhi in 1916. In aerial views, the structure with its small and large domes resembles a chessboard laid out with pieces.

Charbagh Railway Station, Uttar Pradesh

Charbagh Railway Station, Uttar Pradesh

Howrah Junction, West Bengal – With a mindboggling 23 platforms, this is one of the busiest stations in India. A melee of bookshops, tea stalls, and fast-food stands provide succour to passengers. This is one of the oldest stations in India, and the first train from Howrah ran on 15 August 1854, to Hooghly. It was the proverbial feather in the cap for British engineers, representing a new era in the colonial dream of expansion. Located on the banks of the Hooghly River, with the Howrah bridge leading up to its cherry-red facade, the station has starred in many a poster shot promoting the state. Its architecture is a mix of Romanesque and traditional Bengali styles, very much in sync with its surroundings.

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Science Express Combines Perfectly Knowledge, Fun and Beauty of Nature

Rolling into stations around India since 2007, the Science Express is essentially a science exhibition on a railway track. For seven months a year, the train travels to various places across the country. Visitors, especially schoolchildren, troop in for guided tours. The train undergoes thematic transformations; it ran as Science Express Biodiversity Special from 2012-2014 and has been the Science Express Climate Action Special since 2015.

science-express

The pop-coloured interiors are lined with exhibits and photographs created by the Centre for Environment Education, National Innovation Foundation, and Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology on themes like the impact of climate change, adaptation, carbon footprints, and prevention of climate change. The next phase of the vibrant science lesson begins October 2016 and goes on till May 2017. (www.sciencexpress.in; entry free).

  • Around the world: If the train tracks of the Indian Railways were laid side by side, they would cover Earth’s circumference twice over, and then some more.

Other Beautiful Indian Rail Routes:

tiger-express-india

Take The Tiger Express and Get Enthralled By India’s Wilderness

TIGER EXPRESS

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Ranthambore National Park

Scenes from the jungle and India’s many heritage sites adorn the exterior of the semi-luxury Tiger Express that journeys to Rajasthan from Delhi. Passengers travel to Udaipur, Chittorgarh, and Ranthambore National Park to soak in the tranquility and myriad sights of the forest, and perhaps catch sight of the magnificent striped cat.

The entire train is a tribute to the national animal, so a journey aboard ensures the image of the regal beast stays with travellers long after the safari has ended.

Other Beautiful Indian Rail Routes:

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Step Into a Spiritual Trip Through Indian Rich Culture By Train

BUDDHIST CIRCUIT SPECIAL TRAIN

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Mahabodhi temple – Bodh Gaya, Bihar

If enlightenment could be found on wheels, it would be aboard the Mahaparinirvan Express or the Buddhist Circuit Tourist Train. On this circuit, passengers travel to four key Buddhist sites in India and Nepal. Starting in Delhi, they first pay homage at the Mahabodhi Temple complex at Bodh Gaya in Bihar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where Buddha attained enlightenment.

The train then moves on to witness the serenity of Sarnath’s Dhamek Stupa, and the fifth-century reclining Buddha at Mahaparinirvana Temple in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh. A bus ride to Lumbini in Nepal follows, taking passengers to the spot where Siddhartha Gautama was born.

DAKSHIN DARSHAN

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Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple

Jaw-dropping sculptures and murals, serene deities, and mandapams: the pious and spiritually curious have much to see on the Dakshin Darshan train tour.

There are numerous Dakshin Darshan tours, starting from Mumbai, Delhi, Lucknow, and Agra among others. Itineraries include a visit to Trivandrum’s eighth-century Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, which is revered for its statue of Lord Vishnu reclining on a serpent. At Rameshwaram Temple, columns carved with ferocious mythical creatures greet visitors. And in Madurai, the highlight is the towering gopuram of Meenakshi Temple covered in sculptures painted in bright pinks, blues, and reds.

Other Beautiful Indian Rail Routes:

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Travel High With The Mountain Railways of India

The mountain railways of India are narrow gauge trains curving across wooded hills and challenging mountainous terrain. Three of these trains are part of UNESCO’s Mountain Railways of India heritage list, while the fourth has been submitted for review. Affectionately called toy trains, they traverse some of the most beautiful routes in the country and are marvels of British rail engineering built between the 1890s and early 1900s.

DARJEELING HIMALAYAN RAILWAY

DARJEELING HIMALAYAN RAILWAY

This darling of Indian mountain railways was built in 1881. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was also the first of its kind to get UNESCO heritage status. The 8 8-kilo metre-rail line is all about the journey rather than any of the stations en route. It chugs upwards from New Jalpaiguri through tea gardens, flower-filled meadows, and vertiginous curves to about 7,200 feet at Darjeeling. The highlights of this heritage track include the famous Batasia Loop, a spiral line near Daijeeling which offers gorgeous 360-degree views of the Eastern Himalayas, and the lovely mist-draped station of Ghum, among the highest railways stations in the world. Originally built to take British officers from Kolkata’s humidity to Daijeeling’s cooler climes, the steam-powered train still remains one of the most charming ways to journey into the hills.

KALKA SHIMLA RAILWAY

KALKA SHIMLA RAILWAY

Built in the 1890s, the Kalka Shimla Railway has UNESCO World Heritage status. It is the gateway to Shimla, the summer capital of the British Raj, and still among India’s most popular hill stations. Five trains run along the 96-kilometre track which is a massive engineering feat featuring 102 tunnels and a staggering 864 bridges with glorious viaducts. Offering a spectacular ride through small hill towns and forests of fir and pine, this route is popular with holidaymakers and honeymooners. Indian Railways has also introduced two special charter coaches—the Shivalik Queen and the Shivalik Palace Tourist Coach, which offer privacy, giant picture windows, and plush onboard comforts.

NILGIRI MOUNTAIN RAILWAY

NILGIRI MOUNTAIN RAILWAY

The third of the UNESCO heritage railways opened in 1899 and was extended up to Ooty (Udhagamandalam) in 1908. Nilgiri Mountain Railway offers a memorable journey through the lush Nilgiri Hills. Starting in Coimbatore, the train puffs its way through the hill towns of Coonoor, Wellington, and Lovedale before culminating in Ooty, having travelled 46 kilometres through tea plantations and mist-filled valleys. The train was a boon for travellers to these hills at a time when the only way up was on horseback. Its construction led to the further development of hill stations in the region. Today, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway together with the misty Western Ghats form a popular backdrop for Indian films. Several abandoned stations, old churches, and cottages along the way add to the route’s nostalgic charm.

KANGRA VALLEY RAILWAY

KANGRA VALLEY RAILWAY

The Kangra Valley Railway’s narrow gauge track is the only one on this mountain railway list yet to receive UNESCO heritage status. Running from Pathankot in Punjab to Joginder Nagar in Himachal Pradesh, the route dating back to the 1920s is both scenic and cleverly engineered. The well-designed track offers unsurpassed views as it makes its way up hilly terrain rather than tunnelling through the mountains. Although not a mountain railway in the strictest sense—the train meanders through for­ests, fields, and valleys before making its way up into the hills over a distance of 164 kilometres. Kangra Valley Railway is near­ly always backed by the snow-capped peaks of the Dhauladhar range. Aboard this train, passengers can see the various facets of the Kangra Valley, from its urban centres to its rural heart.

Other Beautiful Indian Rail Routes: