Ever since I read The Great Railway Bazaar in January this year, it is safe to say that I have been romanticising about train travel. The author – Paul Theroux, explains in vivid detail, the grandeur of the Trans-Siberian express: the plush interiors and High Victorian compartments, and I have been secretly day dreaming of a luxury train travel. And, to my great surprise, wishes do come true. When I got to experience royalty aboard the Golden chariot train – it was more than I could have wished for.
About Golden Chariot train
In the same lines as Palace on wheels of Rajasthan, Golden chariot is an award-winning and the only luxury train in South India. It is a joint venture between Karnataka State Tourism and Development Corporation (KSTDC) and the Indian Railways. The Golden Chariot derives its name from the famous stone structure in the Vitthala Temple at Hampi. It started operating in 2008 and usually runs from October through March. Mapple Group handles the hospitality services on the train. The train consists of eleven air-conditioned passenger cars, two restaurant cars, a bar, a gym car, a staff car and finally two cars to power everything including Internet and television.
It is a 7-night, 8-day journey covering the various locations of South India offering an insight into the rich heritage and culture of the Southern part of India.
Golden chariot offers two train routes. One is The Souther Splendour covering Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry.
Location highlights: one of the oldest towns of India – Madurai, former French Colony of Pondicherry, beaches and backwaters of Kerala, and UNESCO World Heritage site of Brihadeeswara Temple.
Pride of south, on the other hand, covers Karnataka and Goa.
Location Highlights: Mysore Palace, Kabini Tiger Reserve, UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hampi and Badami cave sculptures, and the party beaches of Goa.
The train departs from Yeshwantpur railway station in Bangalore on a Monday night and reaches Bangalore the next Monday morning taking you through a week of cultural extravaganza with dance performances, culinary delights, thousand year old temples and houseboat cruises while living in the comforts of a luxury train.
With 2 dining cars called Nalapaka and Ruchi, and a Cigar Bar lounge called Madira – the train comes fully equipped. While, Nalapaka and Ruchi are inspired by the royal aesthetics of Hampi and Halebidu temples, the ostentatious display of Madira, on the other hand, is modelled after the early 20th century Mysore Palace.
The rooms are cozy and comfortable with attached bathrooms. Either, twin bedrooms or double bedrooms are available. The rooms and bathrooms are well-maintained and equipped with 5-star luxury amenities. Only when I step into one of these corridors, this realisation dawns upon me that it is all inside a moving train and not some swanky hotel.
All the dishes served for breakfast or dinner are prepared in-house(in-train) in a tiny kitchen. With wide-spread varieties of delicious dishes to choose from – you will be spoilt with choices. Mostly, continental and Indian dishes are served and can be customised as desired.
The service and the staff of the Golden chariot is just exemplary. The bar is open 24/7 as per the request of the guests. From the General manager of the train, the friendly chef to the entire staff, makes sure the experience in the train is just extraordinary and a truly memorable one.
Gym and Spa rooms
As if this wasn’t enough, it also offers gym and spa facilities for the guests. It has two massage rooms for traditional Ayurvedic massages. And, gyms have cardio equipments. Of course, it is necessary when you are gorging on lip-smacking food day after day!
Did you know? Two luxury air-conditioned coaches accompany the train throughout the journey for sightseeing of the guests(!!) The train stops at the nearby station, and then you board into the bus which will take you to sightseeing locations. Also, local english-speaking guides join in at respective locations and run through the glorious history and cultural significance at each of these places.
Interestingly, it is mostly comprised of foreigners in the age group of 60-80. With full fledged amenities, flexibility of getting in and out at any station, international airports at each drop-points and without the hassle of packing and unpacking – it offers a wholesome and relaxing experience of a South India tour.
Till now, The Golden chariot train has hosted slew of reputed brands like NatGeo, NDTV, BBC and also hosted fashion shows inside the train.
I was part of the Southern splendour journey and what a joy ride it was! The train is an epitome of luxury and elegance and I am lucky to have experienced it. And yes, wishes do come true, after all! Never before did the journey so outshine the destination!!
Find more information on the Golden chariot train here.
Disclaimer – This post is written as part of the Golden chariot tour with KSTDC. Needless to say, all opinions listed here are entirely my own 🙂
So, have you ever been on a luxury train and how was your experience like? And which one would you like to go on?