With its 6,800 stations and 40,000 miles of track crisscrossing the Subcontinent, India is no stranger to trains. And now, with the Maharajas’ Express, the country finally has an offering that’s on par with Europe, Asia, and South America’s Orient-Express or Africa’s Rovos. This is not to say that India’s other luxury tourist trains—most of them also quite new—aren’t without merit. Quite the contrary. Each of the four most notable trains take on a variety of worthwhile routes. Prices are per person for seven nights and eight days.
The Golden Chariot
Inaugurated in March 2008, this train journeys through the southern state of Karnataka on one of the most interesting routes in India, from Bangalore to Kabini, Mysore, Belur, Hampi, Badami, and Goa. Awkward to get to by road or plane, these sites were previously best known by backpackers. The Golden Chariot’s other itinerary goes from Bangalore down through the great civilizations of the state of Tamil Nadu, on the east coast, then to Madurai, and finally to the backwaters of Kerala. From $3,000; goldenchariot.org.
The seven-year-old Deccan Odyssey departs from Mumbai, traveling south through the state of Maharashtra to visit Goa, Kolhapur, Pune, and the caves of Ellora and Ajanta in Aurangabad before returning to Mumbai. The train also offers an alternate round-trip itinerary that starts in Delhi and goes to Aurangabad, Ranthambore National Park, Jaipur, and Agra. From $4,095; deccan-odyssey-india.com.
Palace on Wheels
The original luxury train, launched in 1982, the Palace on Wheels makes a tried and trusted round-trip from Delhi, hitting the star palaces and forts of Rajasthan and Agra. Unlike some of the other Rajasthan trains, it always books up well in advance and so is guaranteed to run. From $3,500; palaceonwheels.net.
Royal Rajasthan on Wheels
This newly built train is an updated version of the Palace on Wheels. Launched in January 2009, Royal Rajasthan plans to debut a new route in September, starting and ending in Delhi and covering Jodphur, Udaipur, Chittorgarh, Jaipur, Khajuraho, Varanasi, and Agra in between. From $4,130; royalrajasthanonwheels.com.