After the famous Palace on Wheels in Rajasthan and Deccan Odyssey in Maharashtra, Karnataka is now all set to launch South India's first luxury train that will take Indian and foreign tourists on a journey through the rich natural and cultural heritage of the state.
Designed to give the well-heeled tourists a taste of the state's royal past on board, for a princely sum of course, the weeklong tour starting from Bangalore will offer them a varied visual treat. This would include the famed palaces of Mysore, ancient temples of Hassan, Belur, Halebid and Hospet, the Jain pilgrimage at Shravanbelgola, the world heritage site at the ruins of Hampi, Dandeli wildlife sanctuary and, finally, the breathtaking beaches of neighbouring Goa.
To be operated as a joint venture between the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) and the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), the launch of the luxury train is scheduled for November 1 when the state celebrates its 51st foundation day.
The train, which is likely to be named as the Golden Chariot, will be fitted with all the five-star luxuries and comforts including a spa and gymnasium, restaurant coaches, TV lounges, conference coach and internet connectivity, according to KSTDC Chairman and state Tourism Secretary IM Vittalamurthy.
With 19 coaches and 110-passenger capacity , the luxury-on-wheels is basically targeted at foreign tourists with whom the two Palace on Wheels trains in Rajasthan have proved to be immensely popular. Karnataka received as many as 5.40 lakh foreign visitors in 2006. But the KSTDC also plans to market it for corporate conferences, promotional events as well as wedding packages, its Managing Director Prashant Kumar Thakur said.
The fare, which has yet to be finalised, is expected to be slightly less than the $ 400 per day charge on the Palace on Wheels for foreigners or its equivalent in Indian currency for the Indian tourists. It will run round the year and is expected to be heavily booked months in advance by foreign tour operators.
The coaches of the train are being readied at the Indian Railways' Integral Coach Factory in Chennai and, after interior designing, will be available for trial runs in September-October.
The IRCTC, which handles the catering and tourism operations of the Railways, will look after the running and maintenance of the train while KSTDC will be the host onboard in partnership with private hospitality groups.