Before Independence in 1947, the rulers of Rajputana, Gujarat and Hyderabad states, along with the British viceroy and vicereine, used to travel around India in a specially converted train. A red carpet would be laid across the platform to its carriages, which included sumptuously decorated cabins, dining car and servants’ quarters for the legion of turbaned attendants required to service the royal passengers. Upon arrival, garlands of marigolds were offered to them, troupes of liveried musicians serenaded them and caparisoned elephants waited at the station exit to transport them to their destination. With the demise of the princely states, however, the train was relegated to a siding in Delhi. But in the early 1980s, Indian Railways had the bright idea of resurrecting it for use as a rolling, five-star hotel on which guests could re-live the romance of travel in the colonial era.

The first refitted train – the ‘Palace On Wheels’ – has proved enduringly popular ever since, and has spawned several other luxury locomotives covering different regions of the country. Travel by luxury train is a novel and hugely enjoyable way to see the country: guests are treated like VIPs onboard – and during the daily sightseeing excursions to palaces, forts and other monuments along the route. Elephant polo matches and high tea with local maharanas also feature on some routes! Around half a dozen luxury trains currently operate in India. All work to more or less the same formula. The travelling is generally done at night, while you’re fast asleep in your own en suite cabins. Meals are served in a richly decorated dining car by courteous uniformed staff. Each cabin also has a dedicated turbaned butler. For prices and further details on the trips, contact one of our India-specialist consultants.

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