Photo: Toy train of Kalka – Shimla Railway; Credit: iStock
Travel is said to increase cultural understanding. If you want to understand India’s diverse cultures and landscapes, you must experience some train journeys. Indian Railways, the fourth largest Railway network in the world, passes through the majestic mountains, bridges and tunnels. Life memories of many Indians are intertwined with the large network and experiences of train travel. We have shortlisted some train routes which are popular for offering breath taking view.
For Mountain Views
1. Darjeeling Himalayan Railway – Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is a 2 feet narrow gauge toy train that runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling, in West Bengal. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (DHR) offers amazing views of the Eastern Himalayas – Mt. Kanchenjunga – which is the third highest mountain in the world, lush green tea plantations and forest. The train does a full circle just beyond the Ghoom – one of the highest railways stations in the world, at the Batasia Loop – a spiral line near Darjeeling. One can get properly acquainted with the Eastern Himalayas through this train journey. It is one of the finest heritage train rides in the country. The main service is usually pulled by a diesel engine, but two-hour joy rides chug from Darjeeling to Ghum (the highest railway station in India) and back tugged by steam locos.
Photo: Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, West Bengal; Photo Credit: Tripsavvy.com
2. Jammu Mail – Jammu to Udhampur
The Jammu Mail runs from Old Delhi to Udhampur 53km stretch of railway into the foothills of Himalayas. The route includes158 bridges and 20 tunnels passing through the rocky Shivalik mountain range. The landscape changes dramatically though the course of the journey. Travellers can enjoy photogenic hill stations, panoramic views of changing landscapes from hills, gently flowing rivers and deep valleys, Flat lands and green pastures, and the darkness of tunnels.
3. Nilgiri Mountain Railway toy train- Mettupalayam to Ooty
The Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) is a world heritage train which attracts numerous tourists travelling to Ooty. Nilgiri Mountain Railway commonly known as Toy train or Nilgiri passenger travels between Mettupalayam to Ooty daily and it covers a distance of 26 km and passes through 208 curves, 16 tunnels and 250 bridges.
The train journey starts from the plains and then passes though the Nilgiri Mountain Range offering views of mountains, deep valleys, beautiful hill stations, tea plantations, deep forests and wildlife. The route comprises around 250 bridges, 16 tunnels, multiple curves and hairpin bends.
Photo: Nilgiri Mountain Railway toy train; Credit: iStock.
4. Himalayan Queen: Kalka-Shimla
Kalka to Shimla rail line holds the UNESCO World Heritage status. The Himalayan Queen toy train passes through gorgeous pine and rhododendron jungles and several green valley offering travelers authentic hill experience. The railway runs from Kalka, approximately north of Chandigarh, to Shimla in Himachal Pradesh. The enthralling train track spans 96 kilometers (60 miles), passing through 20 railway stops, 103 tunnels, 800 bridges, and an amazing 900 turns. On this route the longest tunnel, which spans more than a kilometer, is located near the major railway station in Barog. From Barog to Shimla, the view is beautiful.
Photo: The Kalka–Shimla railway; Credit: iStock.
For Konkan Coast Experience
5. Mandovi Express: Mumbai-Goa
The Konkan Railway is one of the most scenic railway experiences in India. The train ride will take you through the Sahyadri mountains, the Arabian Sea, lakes and waterfalls. The Mandovi Express is a part of the Konkan Railways. The train route from Mumbai to Goa has a total of 2000 bridges and 92 tunnels including Panvalandi Bridge- beautiful railway bridges of India located in the Ratnagiri District of Maharashtra. The journey is a great way to get a hint of life along the Konkan coast.
Photo: Mandovi Express: Mumbai-Goa; Credit: iStock.
For Ocean Views
6. Boat Mail Express – Chennai to Rameswaram
The Boat Mail Express connects Chennai in the north to the temple town of Rameswaram on Pamban Island, in the southeastern part of Tamil Nadu. The major highlight of this train is the way it crosses the sea as the train gets on to Pamban Bridge, connecting the mainland to Pamban Island.
Note: Recently Southern Railway has announced suspension of train operations on the Pamban Rail Bridge till further announcement.
Photo: Boat Mail Express – Chennai to Rameswaram; Credit: iStock.
For Touch of the South India
7. Island Express: Kanyakumari to Bengaluru
While experiencing a scenic train journey from Bengaluru to Kanyakumari through Kerala in Island Express passengers can watch the palm trees of Kerala and view the backwaters between Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam. Best part of the train route is between Kanyakumari and Thiruvananthapuram. This is the best way to experience the heart of southern India.
For Lake Views
8. Hirakhand Express: Amritsar to Vishakapatnam
Hirakhand Express train from Bhubaneswar to Brahmapur (in Odisha) passes through the most fascinating train routes of Indian Railways, where travellers can see Incredible Chilika lake – largest coastal lagoon in India and UNESCO World Heritage Centre at one side and Eastern Ghats with a blend of greenery on the other. Stunning views of the lagoon dotted with small islands, salt pans and fisheries is impressive from a train window. The Chilka lagoon is a destination for migratory birds and a famous travelling spot for birdwatchers. It is one of the largest breeding grounds for flamingoes. So, passengers can often spot different species of birds while train passes by.
For Waterfall Views
9. Goa Express – New Delhi to Goa
The route passes through the Konkan zone and connects Goa, a state along the western coast of India with New Delhi, the capital of the country. The most charming section of this route is the coastal section between Goa and the town of Londa in Karnataka. The Goa Express passes through hills, valleys and forests of the Western Ghats and also the beautiful beaches and villages of Goa. The main attraction of this journey is that passengers can see the long silvery cascade of the Dudhsagar Falls in Goa through the passing train. During the monsoon as the Sahyadri Hills turn an emerald green, a train journey through the section is sight to behold.
Photo: Dudhsagar falls in Goa Via Train; Credit: Spirit Bohemian.
For Desert Views
10. Desert Queen -Jaisalmer to Jodhpur
The Desert Queen rail route offers intimate desert experience. While traveling in train once can enjoy the beauty of barren desert land, sand dunes desert wildlife, herd of deer, grazing camels and tribes. For tourists it is an unforgettable tour between the Aravali range and the Thar desert, Rajasthan. Starting from Jaisalmer, a city in the heart of the Thar deserts the arid landscape adds its own charm to the journey, which offers a glimpse into the colorful towns and villages that the train passes through. The Desert Queen is a special tourist train that conducts a desert safari. It takes the Nawalgarh to Shekhawat route and takes one through the deserts of Rajasthan.
Photo: Train Journey through Indian Desert; Credit: Orient Rail Journeys.
- Nat Geo Traveller India | Travel Experts and Magazine, Scenic Indian Rail Routes to Fall in Love With Trains Again , Retrieved from https://natgeotraveller.in/scenic-indian-rail-routes-to-fall-in-love-with-trains-again/
- Condé Nast Traveller India, The 9 most scenic train journeys in India , Retrieved from https://www.cntraveller.in/story/the-9-most-scenic-train-journeys-in-india-konkan-darjeeling-kashmir/
- p. 284- p. 289, DK (Author), Debroy B. (Foreword), (2020). Indian Railways- A Visual Journey: Transforming a Nation’s Destiny (A. Thapliyal.).