India

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

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.

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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:

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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:

Royal Indian Train Rides

PALACE ON WHEELS

PALACE ON WHEELS

A traditional welcome with garlands and Vermillion awaits pas­sengers who board the Palace on Wheels. This luxury train starts in Delhi and loops through many famous tourist attractions in Rajasthan, before returning to Delhi via Agra Its elegant sa­loons, restaurants serving Rajasthani and continental cuisine, and furniture with inlay work take passengers back to a time when maharajas ruled the land. Palace on Wheels showcases the best heritage and wildlife along India’s Golden Triangle, includ­ing the grandeur of Hawa Mahal and Amber Fort in Jaipur, the wilderness of Ranthambore National Park, the timeless sands of Jaisalmer and Jodhpur, and Agra’s centrepiece the Taj Mahal.

MAHARAJAS EXPRESS

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Those looking to experience the best of central and northwestern India in the lap of luxury should board the opulent Maharajas’ Express. The train runs on five separate routes across the states of Delhi, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat. Depending on the journey chosen, passengers may visit a dinosaur excavation site in Gujarat, feast on local delica­cies, and explore the temples of Khajuraho. In addition they get to relax in luxurious suites with large windows and have their meals in elegant dining cars.

THE GOLDEN CHARIOT

THE GOLDEN CHARIOT

Be it the erstwhile hunting grounds of Mysore’s maharajas in Kabini,Tipu Sultan’s Daria DaulatBagh palace in Srirangapatna, or the temples of Mamallapuram, The Golden Chariot flaunts the best of South India’s wonders. The train runs on two routes, both of which begin and end in Bengaluru. On board, guests live in cabins with modern decor tinged with traditional elements. The cuisine changes with the region the train is passing through, and local artists often perform in the train.

THE DECCAN ODYSSEY

THE DECCAN ODYSSEY india

Dubbed the ‘blue limousine,” the interiors of this train bring to mind the era of Deccan rulers, thanks to its jewel colours, extensive woodwork, and attendants dressed in traditional Maharashtrian attire. Its two restaurants, Peshwa I and Peshwa II serve Indian and continental cuisine. Rooms on the train have modern ameni­ties and decor with a traditional touch. The Deccan Odyssey runs on six routes across the Deccan, and also covers Delhi, Mumbai, Aurangabad, and parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan.

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Along The Indian Coast By Train

BOAT MAIL EXPRESS

BOAT MAIL EXPRESS

Snaking along the coast of Tamil Nadu, the Boat Mail Express connects Chennai in the north to the temple town of Rameswaram on Pamban Island, in the southeastern part of the state. It passes through the port town of Cuddalore, offering lovely coastal vistas. But the high point of the journey is when the train gets on to Pamban Bridge, connecting the town of Mandapam on the mainland to Pamban Island. Waves lash about in the Palk Strait underneath as the train crosses the bridge at an easy pace, filling the last minutes of the journey with scenic bliss.

MANDOVI EXPRESS

MANDOVI EXPRESS

The Mandovi Express travels through an endless montage of enchanting vistas, including at some points, the Arabian Sea Impossibly green swathes of the Western Ghats, cliffs, and endless fields punctuate the journey between Mumbai and Goa. One of the highlights is travelling on the 213-foot-high Panval Nadi viaduct, believed to be the highest in India. But the main perk of the journey is that the sights change rapidly, from the 90-plus tunnels to a valley, followed by a stop at a low-key station.

GOA EXPRESS

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The most charming section of this route that connects New Delhi to Goa is the coastal section between Goa and the town of Londa in Karnataka. It is here that the Goa Express winds through forests and hills, passing peaks and valleys of the Western Ghats. But the undisputed highlight of this joyride is when passengers get to see the long silvery cascade of Dudhsagar Falls. This is best viewed on the outbound journey from Goa to Delhi when the waterfall is visible in the clear light of day.

ISLAND EXPRESS

ISLAND-EXPRESS

Seated at the window of the Island Express, passengers can watch the swaying palm trees of Kerala, and view the backwaters between Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam. The Island Express runs between Kanyakumari and Bengaluru, but it is especially scenic on the stretch between Kanyakumari and Thiruvananthapuram. It offers travellers an opportunity to see the southwestern coast of India and glimpse life as it unfolds along the way.

For a journey back in time, book a ticket on the Steam Express Tour from New Delhi to Alwar. Visitors travel in an air-conditioned saloon car pulled by a steam locomotive built in 1965. It’s a photogenic engine, with a buIging nose and a siIver star on it. The journey includes a safari to Sariska National Park.

Other Beautiful Indian Rail Routes:

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Hill Sojourn – A Scenic Rail Route In India

JAMMU MAIL

JAMMU-MAIL

The beauty of India’s northernmost state with its green vales and charming towns unspools like a film when one looks out the windows of the Jammu Mail. The train starts in Delhi and makes it way north. Entering Jammu & Kashmir, it winds past photogenic stations with sloping roofs and green fields dotted with coniferous trees. Snowy Himalayan peaks form a continuous backdrop along the way. While the view is reason enough for many to hop on to this train, the recently extended route from Udhampur to Katra also brings in a different crowd, that of pilgrims making their way to Vaishno Devi.

BARAMULLA-BANIHAL DEMU

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The Baramulla-Banihal DEMU can shovel through layers of thick snow, and passengers can enjoy Kashmir’s winter landscape on their journey

Without a doubt, the best time for a journey aboard this train that runs within Jammu and Kashmir is when thick layers of snow cover every inch of the Kashmir Valley. Groves oickirutr are slathered in white and cottages are adorned with gleaming icicles. Vast meadows spread out like fluffy white canvases, and children bundled up in winter wear frolic in the snow as the train chugs its way through this winter wonderland. En route to Baramulla, the Baramulla-Banihal DEMU train runs through an 11.2-kilometre-long tunnel cut into the Pir Panjal range. The longest and highest tunnel in the country, it is a feat of railway engineering that’s enabled access to northern parts of J&K. To extend this route, a massive rail bridge is being built over the River Chenab. Once complete, it will be among the tallest bridges in the world.

VISAKHAPATNAM-KIRANDUL PASSENGER

VISAKHAPATNAM-KIRANDUL PASSENGER

Only one train, the Visakhapatnam-Kiiandul Passenger, travels through Andhra Pradesh’s picturesque Araku Valley, past the lush green Anantagiri hills and sprawling coffee plantations. It passes through 58 tunnels and traverses more than 84 bridges during the Kothavalasa-Kirandul stretch, which is the most beautiful part of the journey. Along the way it stops at Shimliguda station, located at a height of 3,264 feet; this was once the highest broad gauge railway station in the country. The popular hill station of Araku Valley is located in the thickly forested Eastern Ghats with its deep gorges and cascading waterfalls.

A JOURNEY THROUGH ASSAM: Starting from Si I char, close to the Assam-Bangladesh border, the railway line passes through British-era tea gardens in the Barak Valley. It then curves along the emerald hills of the Haflong Valley to reach Lumding in the central part of the state. This track through the verdant valleys of Assam is one of the most scenic rail routes in the country. Long-distance trains like the Kanchanjunga Express ply this stretch.

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The Desert Circuit Train

Golden sands, brooding camels, and smiling men and women in colourful clothes and ornate silver jewellery—all the imagery typical of Rajasthan—make an appearance on this Desert Circuit route. Starting in Delhi, this semi-luxury train makes its first stop at Jaisalmer. Passengers explore the city duringthe day, while the evening is spent on the Sam Dunes with a camel/jeep safari, dinner, and folk music. As the train winds its way across the state’s varied sights, its history and legends come alive. These include Jodhpur’s Mehrangarh Fort, and Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar, and City Palace in Jaipur. The sojourn ends with a traditional Rajasthani meal.

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Vast stretches of Rajasthan’s Thar dominate the vistas from abroad the Desert Circuit Train

Letter for a Loo

In 1909, Okhil Chandra Sen wrote a letter to the Sahibganj divisional railway office that has been carefully preserved at the National Rail Museum in New Delhi. The letter is believed to have been one of the reasons that we have loos on trains today.

“I am arrive by passenger train Ahmedpur station and my belly is too much swelling with jackfruit. I am therefore went to privy. Just I doing the nuisance that guard making whistle blow for train to go off and I am running with lotah in one hand and dhoti in the next when I am fall over and expose all my shocking to man and female women on plateform. I am got leaved at Ahmedpur station.

Th is too much bad, if passenger go to make dung that dam guard not wait tra in five minutes for him. I am therefore pray your honour to make big fine on that guard for public sake. Otherwise I am making big report! to papers.”

Other Beautiful Indian Rail Routes:

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Holi (Festival of Colors) – India and Nepal

END OF FEBRUARY OR EARLY MARCH.

CAN’T YOU NARROW DOWN THE LOCATION FOR US A BIT MORE?

Holi, or the Festival of Colour, as it has come to be known, is primarily a Hindu festival and it’s celebrated with wild parties and crazy colour fights all over India and Nepal in areas with large Hindu populations. You’ll know you’ve found one when you spot the revellers who look like they’ve walked through a rainbow waterfall.

A COLOUR FIGHT?

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Holi is a celebration of the victory of one’s inner good over evil but has basically become a frolicking free-for-all involving coloured powder and water. In a joyous and raucous street fight, participants throw powder and water at each other using the bright, exuberant colours to signify the start of spring, the power of love, and the generosity of humanity.

SOUNDS LIKE SOME SERIOUSLY MESSY FUN.

Just try to resist the truly jubilant spirit of the festival – everyone, and we mean everyone, comes together to play, laugh, forgive and give thanks. What’s not to like?