Tailor-made Tour 17 days from £2874 per person
Places Visited: Kolkata, Darjeeling Mail, New Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, Varanasi, Agra, Kalka Mail, Shimla, Delhi
Indian Railways has one of the largest networks in the world and station and railway life is a microcosm unto itself. One of the most rewarding ways to see and experience authentic India is to travel by train.
Here we eschew the luxury wheeled “palaces” designed solely for tourists and embark on an adventure that gives a true taste of India. Using diesel and electric locomotives, with the slim possibility of the odd steam engine, we have a wonderful itinerary taking you from bustling Kolkata up to cosmopolitan Darjeeling, down to the holy city of Varanasi, across to Imperial Agra, up to Shimla and finally to Delhi.
With such contrasting stops we are able to include a wealth of sightseeing but this tour is as much about the thrill of the journey as the destinations. Most trains are for the local populace and standards do reflect this, even in the better classes we book, but you are sure to have some amusing and interesting meetings with fellow travellers on the way.
Fly to Kolkata via Dubai with Emirates.
Upon arrival transfer to the colonial and quirky Fairlawn Hotel (or you could stay at the deluxe Oberoi Grand for a supplement) for two nights.
A relaxed morning boat ride on the Hooghly River allows for a different and intriguing perspective of the city this morning. Later on visit the Victoria Memorial, Indian Museum, St Paul's Church and Mother Theresa's centre.
The day is free to explore the city. In the evening begin your Indian railway experience at the busy Sealdah Station, travelling north towards the Himalaya on the Darjeeling Mail, in an air-conditioned first class sleeper carriage. The night is spent on board the train.
New Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling
Arriving in New Jalpaiguri in the morning you'll change to the narrow gauge toy train bound for Darjeeling. Transfer to The Elgin Hotel for two nights (or you could stay at the period Windamere Hotel for a supplement). If the toy train is not operating, as is sometimes the case, the transfer to Darjeeling will be provided by car.
Wake early this morning for a spectacular sunrise vista over the Himalaya from Tiger Hill. Return to Darjeeling, stopping off at the quaint Ghoom Monastery. There is plenty of time to explore the bustling town and pay a visit to the famous Himalayan Mountaineering Institute.
Just after midday board the Rajdhani Express from New Jalpaiguri; an air-conditioned first class carriage awaits. The ride takes you across the alluvial plain of several 'Himalayan born rivers' including the Ganges. Rural life slowly passes by as you draw ever closer to the holy city of Varanasi. Stay three nights at the Ganges View Hotel (or you could upgrade to the Suryauday hotel for a supplement).
The morning is spent relaxing after yesterday's long train journey. In the afternoon take an excursion to Sarnath, the site of The Buddha's first public discourse.
One of India's classic experiences awaits this morning; an early morning boat ride to see devotees at prayer along the ghats. The rest of the day is at leisure to explore before witnessing the evening Ganga aarti (ceremonial worship). The perfect way to end the day.
Take another exciting day train to Agra. Upon arrival transfer to either the Gateway or Trident Hotels for a two-night stay.
Visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise; an unforgettable experience. Later on take in the Red Fort which is set on the banks of the Yamuna River, and the tomb of Itamud-ud-daula, an architectural precursor to the Taj Mahal. There is also the possibility of returning to the Taj at sunset this evening.
Agra, Kalka Mail
This morning at leisure. This afternoon board the Kalka Mail, in an air-conditioned first class sleeper carriage, as it heads north towards India's Western Himalayan range. The night is spent on board the train.
Arrive at Kalka early and change to the heritage Shivalik Express (toy) train for a four-hour ride up into the hills and the 'hill-station' of Shimla. On arrival transfer to the Clarks Hotel (or you could upgrade to The Oberoi Cecil, Shimla for a supplement) for two nights.
Enjoy the day at leisure exploring the town; the mock Tudor Library, Christ Church, Gaiety Theatre and the Vice Regal Lodge are all within easy reach.
Drive to Kalka and board the Shatabdi Express bound for Delhi. Stay two nights at the colonial Maidens Hotel (or deluxe Imperial hotel for a supplement).
A sightseeing tour of Delhi is arranged this morning and takes in the Jama Masjid, Lutyens' buildings and the Railway Museum. The afternoon is free to relax back at the hotel or do some final shopping.
Fly back to the UK via Dubai.
Tailor-made Tour 17 days from £2874 per person
✓ International flights from London
✓ 15 nights accommodation
✓ All internal transportation and transfers
✓ English-speaking guides
✓ Breakfast daily, full board in Darjeeling
✓ Entrance fees to sites and monuments listed in tour itinerary
Places and Experiences in this tour
Kolkata, or ‘Calcutta’ as it was known prior to 2001, is the capital of West Bengal state, and India’s third largest city, with a population of approximately 14.1 million. The trad…
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway - Riding the Toy Train
The perfect preamble to any visit to Darjeeling is the journey up from the plains on the 19th century toy train. Steam locomotives still haul some of the services trundling up and…
It’s not hard to understand why the British chose Darjeeling as the site of an army sanatorium back in the early 19th century. Dense oak and sal forest cloak the high, undulating r…
Varanasi, or ‘Benares’, is the holiest of Hinduism’s seven sacred cities. It stands on the banks of the Ganges, at a bend in the river where traces of human settlement have been un…
The city of Agra makes up one-third of India's 'golden triangle', along with Delhi and Jaipur, three of northern India's most popular destinations for tourists. Agra’s heart-stopp…
‘A teardrop on the face of Eternity’ is how the Bengali mystic poet, Rabindranath Tagore, famously described the Taj Mahal. Built in the mid-16th century by the Mughal emperor Shah…
The lengths the British were prepared to go to in order to escape the rigours of the Indian summer must have been a source of amazement to their subjects. Each year, the entire adm…
Delhi, India’s capital, is home to an estimated 20 million people. A compelling hotch-potch of ancient and modern, it holds the vestiges of at least seven great urban centres: Afgh…
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