Since its modest beginning in 1853, the Indian Railways has been an integral part of the nation, with its route spread to 64,000 kilometres. Indian railways have also marked its space in inspiring filmmakers, authors and dreamers like Michael Palin and Wes Anderson, to craft their work around the evolution of Asia’s most extensive rail web.
With more than 18 million daily passengers, Indian railways have reached almost every nook and cranny of the country. Whether it’s the tea estates of Ledo in Assam or the mutinous hills of Jammu, there’s always a train that can inch into the remotest place around the nation. And India, being a country packed with treasures of scenic lakes, lush green forests and majestic mountains from east to west and from north to south, it offers a real assortment for nature lovers via train journeys.
Below is a list of top ten breathtaking train journeys around India that reflects the unbeaten diversity of nature.
Dibrugarh Rajdhani Express – New Jalpaiguri to Ledo
The route starts from new Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal and takes you to Ledo (Assam) via Tinsukia. Hence, technically this journey involves two trains. The first is the super fast Rajdhani express that starts from West Bengal and reaches the vast stretches of the emerald green flora of Assam in around 16 hours. For the second train, you will have to get down at the New Tinsukia Junction and take another train to the Ledo Segment.
Although the expanse of greenery around Assam is entirely flat, the route crawls through the city slums past the Brahmaputra river and sometimes hops off to someone’s cooking, under the starlit night sky. With the morning sunbeam, the passenger train to Ledo starts from Tinsukia, and blasts through the awe-inspiring scenic places. It then moves on to the squeezed paths behind people’s houses, before reaching your destination.
Goa Express – Vasco da Gama (Goa) to Londa (Karnataka)
With the flavor of late afternoon cooking, friends chatting in the huddles and families splashing into the sea waters, the Goa Express moves past the Goan beaches and approaches the Western Ghats. The train sneaks into the heart of Goan Village and moves you through the paradise of pink blossoms hanging so close that you can even reach out and touch them.
While it reaches the dense jungle and curved mountainside, the train speeds up and takes you through the fresh waterfalls, peaks and deep valleys. Till the time you will reach Londa, Karnataka, the sun should start setting, which gives you an ominous glow in your surroundings.
Mandovi Express – Madgaon to Mumbai
A mesmerizing route between the Arabian sea on the west and Sahyadri hills on the east, Konkan railway is one of the most beautiful railway constructions in India. It touches India’s southwest coastline with sunlit paddy fields, mango trees, and villages with endless wildflower beds.
With more than 90 tunnels and 2000 bridges, this breathtaking journey covers unending stretches of water bodies and India’s highest viaduct, the Panvalnadi bridge.
Indian Maharaja Deccan Odyssey – Mumbai to Delhi
The Indian Maharaja Deccan Odyssey, being the younger sibling to the King of Indian railways, the palace on wheels, is a royal yet elegant carriage that connects Delhi and Mumbai via Rajasthan. As mentioned, its royal so we cannot expect it to be budgeted, but it’s worth the price.
During the journey, you can enjoy tiger-watching in the jungle of Ranthambore and the beauty of the Ajanta & Ellora caves. Also, you get a chance to spend an afternoon at the charming Taj Mahal in Agra. The journey also includes some interesting on-board activities like dining in a splendid car, reading in the lounge, watching Octopussy under the giant duvet and sipping the Bombay Sapphire Gin. The magnificence of the passing by Thar desert is an addition to the overall kingly experience.
Golden Chariot – Bangalore to Goa
Weaving through the land of Vijayanagara Kings, Karnataka, Golden Chariot is a popular choice among travel enthusiasts. En route the train halts at the Kabini wildlife sanctuary, before it reaches one of the world’s oldest heritage sites the Hampi and Badami. Strewn with sandstone caves, giant boulders, palaces and temple ruins, this place is a must see if you are in India.
Even after all these wonderful experiences, the journey holds mesmerizing sunset views from your cabin window before arriving in Goa. On-board you can enjoy the hot en-suite showers, well equipped and clean rooms, and swaying dining cars to make your tour more royal.
Island Express – Kanyakumari to Trivandrum
Nothing can be better than starting a train journey from a place where three oceans meet. Karnataka, the southernmost point of India is a land of greenery filled with long grass verges, palm trees, and a soothing lemon-green hue. To enjoy the real beauty of this area, board the island Express from Kanyakumari at 10:30 AM and sit near a general class window.
It takes around 2 hours to reach Trivandrum, passing through the hanging jungle-like creepers, painted houses and beautiful churches. If you look carefully, you may also see local people washing clothes and playing cards.
Nizamuddin Duronto Express – Pune to New Delhi
The Nizamuddin Duronto Express is one of the youngest non-stop express trains that connect important cities between Pune and Delhi in less than 20 hours. The route covers exceptionally varied topography and excellent on-board services. From morning until sunset, the train passes by deserts, rivers, mountains, villages, and pyramid-like salt mounds.
On the other hand, tasty on-board meals, cleanliness, interiors, phone sockets and modern design enhances the quality of your overall journey.
Himalayan Queen – Kalka to Shimla
With more than 100 tunnels, 900 twists and 87 bridges, this delightful little metre-gauge-railway of Shimla was initially built for English ladies in 1903. However, it’s quite pleasant to see that the train is mostly used by local commuters and sellers to travel the hillside up and down, rather than just functioning for camera-flaunting tourists.
While approaching Shimla you will see sleek rivulets of water running down ledges, blooming red flower orchards and fresh waterfalls, that is sure to soothe your soul. As the train halts often, you can also get down and enjoy some hot pakoras, and a refreshing cup of tea during the journey.
The Toy Train – New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling
One of the main attractions of Darjeeling, the toy train is a mini steam train is also considered as a World Heritage Site. This hill rail was originally built to diminish the price difference of potatoes between Siliguri and Darjeeling and is now famous for its spirals, reverses, and loops at Agony Point. It travels at a speed of 12 kmph and slides through curved tea plantations and dense forests.
While travelling on this toy train, you may also meet some tea-pickers with their tea-leaves basket on their heads. The best time to travel in this train is when it’s a bright sky day, as you can then also have a glimpse of the snow-capped Kanchenjunga mountain.
Jammu Mail – Jammu to Udhampur
With an extension to the railway line from Jammu to Udhampur, the northernmost railways of India have reached the foothills of the Himalayas. Other than the incredible 53 km stretch into the mountains, this train journey has many other surprises hidden in the basket.
This journey will give you a heavenly experience with its weaves around the rocky Shivalik mountains, plunging valleys and widespread rivers. The jaw-dropping view across the Gambhir bridge and flat meadows make this trip a must-have experience.
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