Rail rendezvous: The most scenic train routes in India | Travel - Hindustan Times
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Rail rendezvous: The most scenic train routes in India

ByImana Bhattacharya
Jun 07, 2022 06:58 PM IST

Fancy a ride along lush farms, babbling brooks or through tunnels in the midst of hills? Hop on for a journey through India like never before

Knots of people with suitcases waiting on a dusty platform, a rhythmic clacket and thud slowing to a screeching halt, a temporary lull in conversations as people clamber lazily onto their coaches and off we go! Greenery, distant cattle and occasional humans outside the window — train rides are the epitome of the Indian travel experience.

The Darjeeling Himalayan rail service zig-zags uphill from New Jalpaiguri through thick groves of pine every day before entering the hill station. (Facebook and Instagram)
The Darjeeling Himalayan rail service zig-zags uphill from New Jalpaiguri through thick groves of pine every day before entering the hill station. (Facebook and Instagram)

As railway life gradually chugs back to pre-pandemic levels, with travellers adapting to the new normal, an increasing number of people are setting out on slow travel modes to make up for the pent-up wanderlust. And, the Indian Railways has taken note! They are all set to deploy three new toy trains on the Kalka-Shimla route for the first time since the service became operational 118 years ago. We take you through some of the most scenic train routes in India for a ride to remember.

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Kalka-Shimla Heritage Train

Start: Kalka; End: Shimla; Distance: 96km; Duration: 5 hours 30 minutes

The Kalka-Shimla train ride is back after Covid-induced hiatus, taking you on one of the world’s most scenic trails. The hop-on, hop-off train service takes you across the UNESCO World Heritage Site of 96.6 km narrow-gauge railway section built in 1903. With 103 tunnels and 800 bridges built in just three years, this engineering marvel treats passengers with breathtaking views of rugged mountains, lush pine forests, waterfalls, valleys and picture-perfect hill stations along the way. Starting from Kalka in Haryana, the train starts ascending through steep mountains and curves at 656 metres, passing through the 18 stations to reach Shimla, located at an elevation of 2,076 metres.

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

Start: New Jalpaiguri; End: Darjeeling; Distance: 84km; Duration: 7 hours 20 minutes

Resuming services after a 17-month long gap due to Covid-19, this train zig-zags uphill from New Jalpaiguri (NJP) through thick groves of pine every day, working its way around rich green tea plantations before hooting into Darjeeling. Established in the late 19th century, the railway was originally used to transport tea and rice down to the plains. Today, this UNESCO World Heritage-listed attraction languorously makes its way on the winding 2-feet narrow gauge track taking passengers through spectacular tracks with striking views of the snow-capped Himalayas. A particularly thrilling section of the track, the Batasia Loop, is an engineering marvel worth witnessing.

The Mandovi Express

Start: Mumbai CST; End: Madgaon Junction (Goa); Distance: 581km; Duration: 11 hours 50 minutes

With the towering Sahyadri Hills on the left and the Arabian Sea sparkling on the right, the Konkan Railway is one of the most scenic railway experiences in India. The journey will take you through thick forests and winding valleys as the coach rushes along pristine rivers. You are likely to have your nose pressed up against the window during most of the ride as the scenery changes every few hours, offering new sights at every bend. The train navigates more than 2,000 bridges and 92 tunnels, and offers and exquisite view with coconut trees bending in the background and rivers gushing beneath the sleepers.

Island Express

Start: Bengaluru; End: Kanniyakumari; Distance: 944km; Duration: 20 hours 30 minutes

The 87-km long stretch from Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala) to the last stop in Tamil Nadu is a testament to the fact that good things come in small packages. As the train chugs forward, waterlogged paddy fields roll by, palm trees bend as if bowing to welcome you, and glimpses of children playing street cricket take one back to a simpler time, so much so that you won’t even mind the occasional stray branches that thwack against the sides of the train, leaving broken twigs scattered up the aisles.

Kyq Capital Express

Start: Rajendranagar T (Bihar); End: Kamakhya (Assam); Distance: 968 km Duration: 22 hours 50 minutes

While this train covers a significant distance, from Bihar to Assam, it is the route that the train takes from Siliguri Junction to Alipurduar towards the last leg of its journey that makes the experience memorable. The trail promises many natural marvels and wildlife attractions such as the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary, Chapramari Forest, Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary and Buxa Tiger Reserve. Even though it’s hard to witness any wild animals from a moving train, the natural beauty of the Himalayas, and the sights of Teesta and Sankosh rivers flowing against this mountainous backdrop are a treat for all the passengers.

The Deccan Odyssey

Start: New Delhi/Mumbai; End: Mumbai/New Delhi; Distance: 1524km; Duration: 7 nights, 8 days, Price: $7,320/Per cabin ( 5.12 lakh approximately per person)

If you believe in the adage that the journey is more important than the destination, then this ride is for you. With 21 luxuriously appointed coaches – out of which 11 are to accommodate guests and the rest are used for different purposes such as dining, lounge, conference car and health spa – a ride aboard the Deccan Odyssey is a superlative experience. From a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an excellent vineyard, a palatial residence to sun-kissed beaches and tranquil backwaters, there are six meticulously designed itineraries at the disposal of tourists – Maharashtra splendor journey, Indian odyssey journey, Jewels of the Deccan, Hidden treasures of Gujarat, Maharashtra wild trail and Indian Sojourn.

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