EXPLORE INDIA BY RAIL: SOUL-SEARCHING TRAIN JOURNEYS

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travel by train

The sound of a whistling train transports us back in time, as rhythmic vibrations tend to entrance travelers to a world full of nostalgia and melancholy – a home on a hundred wheels. With a rail network covering over 70,000 kilometers of track, it is no surprise Indian Railways attracts not only tens of millions of civilian passengers every single day but also tourists and wanderers who are looking to experience arguably the most diverse nation on earth. 

Founded almost two centuries ago during the heyday of the British empire, railways are now the lifeline of India. Head to https://indiarailinfo.com/ – the largest database of information on Indian Railways – to learn more about train routes, maps, ratings, seat availability etc.

From lush green tea plantations and coffee estates to snow-capped mountains and meandering valleys, the varied landscapes of the subcontinent are bound to allure any type of visitor. Here are the most scenic and soul-searching train journeys one can take in the country from the seat of a locomotive –

  • Desert Queen

Rajasthan’s unique desert topography calls for an unforgettable journey through the barren landscapes of the Thar. Desert Queen is a special semi-luxury tourist train brought into the spotlight to develop heritage tourism, plying from the city of kings Jaipur through the blue city of Jodhpur all the way to the historic settlement of Jaisalmer and back forth. Stretches of golden desert as far as the eyes can see, coupled with endless blue skies make it a fantastic desert rail safari.

  • Pamban Rail Bridge

Arguably the most thrilling and ferocious train ride you can take, the Pamban rail bridge is just 2 kilometers long but offers unmatched vistas of the roaring Indian ocean. It connects Rameswaram located on Pamban Island off the coast of mainland India to Mandapam in Tamil Nadu. The bridge itself is a narrow cantilever structure bombarded by the sea day in and out, and the fact that that it opened in 1914 makes it all the more worthy of a visit. A new bridge right parallel to it is in the works.

  • Nilgiri Mountain Railway
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With a gradient of 8.33%, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway has the steepest track in Asia as it scales from an elevation of 326m to 2,203m. It is undoubtedly a treat to experience in all its aesthetic might amid tea plantations, dense forests, steep cliff edges and pretty little tunnels. Operational for more than a hundred years now, the early 20th century track line is India’s only rack railway. The train covers a distance of 46 kilometers from Mettupalayam to Ooty in four and a half hours and is rightly declared as a World Heritage Site, according to https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/944/

  • Jammu – Baramulla Line

The Jammu-Udhampur line comes directly en route this particular track, starting from the Shivalik ranges and goes all the way into the foothills of Himalayas in Baramulla. Giving you an up-close glimpse of Kashmir’s majestic peaks, the Indian Railway has gone lengths to complete this challenging rail project that extends for 356 kilometers in total. The line is also home to the tallest rail bridge in the world, the Chenab Bridge that is 1,178 ft tall from the base. 

  • Darjeeling Toy Train

Another mountain entry, the 2 feet gauge Darjeeling Himalayan Railway starts in New Jalpaiguri and ends in the beautiful hill-station of Darjeeling in West Bengal. It boasts of being India’s oldest mountain rail track – opened in 1879 – and is rightfully known as a gateway to paradise. The 88-kilometer-long line is adorned with tea and coffee estates, quaint villages, dense pine-dotted forests and otherworldly views of the Mt. Kanchenjunga on a clear day as you near the end destination. It has 14 stations en route, including the village of Ghum, which is India’s highest railway station.

  • Island Express
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Despite the railway line extending all the way from Kanyakumari at the southern tip of India to Bangalore, the capital city of Karnataka, it is the stretch between Kanyakumari and Trivandrum in Kerala that is utterly picturesque. From glistening backwaters on one side and the Arabian Sea on the other, the train takes one through lush paddy fields, the wavy hills of the Western Ghats and coconut groves as far as the eye can see.

  • Mandovi Express

The Mandovi Express operates between Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Madgaon Junction in southwest India, covering 600 kilometers of pure bliss from start to end. One of the best parts about this route is that you are no more than 60 kilometers away from the west coast as you meander through the Sahyadri ranges on one side and hug the Arabian Sea on the other. Konkan Railways offer some of the best sceneries in India between the financial capital of Mumbai and the entertainment destination of Goa.

As one of the foremost leisure destinations in the country, Goa is unmissable for anyone choosing to visit India, even on a short trip. As the only Indian state where live gambling is legal, the smallest state is also one filled with the most adrenaline rushes.

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