Imagine getting to see the breathtaking landscapes pass by your window as you sip some masala chai or a glass of Indian wine while en-route to go on a tiger safari or to tour one of the many ancient forts. That’s just a little of what you are in store for when traveling on the Palace on Wheels, a luxury train in India. The locomotive took me on a 7-night tour through the state of Rajasthan, passing through exotic lands and stopping at the best landmarks, all while being catered to onboard by a dedicated staff.
From grand palaces boasting unique architecture (Taj Mahal! Need I say more?) to some of the best historical places in the world to intriguing private tours of the top destinations Rajasthan has to offer, taking a train tour of India is not only practical, it is bucket list worthy.
Palace on Wheels: What to Expect From Luxury Train Travel in India
What is the Palace on Wheels?
The Palace on Wheels is a train that takes you on a luxury multiple-day tour that will take you to some of the most exciting destinations in India. The train itself has cabins and coaches that were used by royals in the past. While the train still bares its old regal looks, it was refurbished in the 1980s and turned into a overnight tourist train that can accommodate up to 82 travelers.
Think of the Palace on Wheels train as a cruise ship on land—all you have to do is show up with your luggage and everything else will be taken care of for the entirety of the trip. Considering it was my first visit to India, it definitely was a practical and hassle-free way to tour the country. All I had to do was pack my clothes and bring a sense of adventure, the details were all taken care of!
What the Palace on Wheels price includes:
- Your meals, which are a mix of traditional Indian and Western
- You accommodation
- Entry fees to all the destinations you will visit
- Transfers from the train to the various destinations
- Meals in the cities you will visit, when applicable
What is the Palace on Wheels Price?
The price for the Palace on Wheels starts at $500 per person per day and can go up to $1800 for the Super Deluxe Suite. Check current pricing here.
Benefits of This Type of Overnight Train Travel in India
While most people would love to travel the world, there are some fears and logistical issues that keep many from going where they want to go (I used to be one of them!). These issues include things like:
- Finding clean and safe accommodations
- Communication your way around the city with the language barriers
- Transportation from hotel to attraction and back to hotel
- Safe places to eat
- Packing and unpacking as you hop from place to place
With the all-inclusive train tour package, these issues are solved. It gives you a chance to actually enjoy your travels without being worried.
That is why taking an all-inclusive tour such as the one offered by the Palace on Wheels train is ideal for most travelers. By taking this tour, you will be ensuring that most of the headache that comes with travel is taken off your plate! You will also:
- Make new friends: With a capacity of up to 82 travelers per tour, you are likely going to make a lot of new friends within the week that you will be on the road together.
- Have your own space: Your private cabin has its own bathroom, wardrobe, table and butler. This is perfect for when you want your privacy and own space.
- Do not have to pack and unpack: Throughout the eight day, seven night train trip, you will have the same cabin which means that you do not have to pack, unpack and check out of hotel rooms every other day.
- See so much of India in such a short time: I can confidently tell you that it is difficult, if not impossible, to see so much of India by road or train within such a short time. The tour covers about 3,000 kilometers (1860 miles), most of which is done overnight so you can maximize sightseeing opportunities during the day.
- Save money: Considering all that is included in the package, you will be saving money (and time!) taking the Palace on Wheels luxury train in India as opposed to hoping from destination to destination by road or plane, then finding lodging, paying entrance fees and eating along the way.
I should mention that, once you get on board, you will be given a Palace on Wheels pin which is your all-access pass to select attractions along the route. With that pin, you will not be required to pay entrance fees nor even queue for that matter. All you would have to do is show the pin and you are whisked right through.
How’s that for VIP treatment!?!
What to expect from the Luxury in India?
For 7 days, the Palace on Wheels will be your home as you travel through Rajasthan. This huge luxury train has a total of 39 Deluxe Cabins and 2 Super Deluxe Cabins within which you can choose between double or single occupancy. Every single one of these cabins have a private bathroom, a table, a small wardrobe, some chairs and a dedicated butler (my favorite part!). Some of the amenities that you can expect include:
- Air conditioning
- Steamy hot water in the showers
- High-speed internet (although this is not entirely reliable because the train will travel through different regions that may not have 4G or even 3G coverage)
- An Ayurvedic Spa that offer you rejuvenating treatments and massages
- Two restaurants and bars
One thing you should keep in mind is that, even though the train has been nominated by PATWA as one of the most luxurious tourist trains in India, the kind luxury you will find here is not similar to what you are used to in North America. Yes, the Palace on Wheels offers 5-star accommodation and service but in India it is a whole different style and standard.
It is like taking a trip on a luxurious time machine where all the furniture, amenities and even service is modeled to be at par with what the royals of Rajasthan used to enjoy. You know, the Maharajas and Maharanis of ancient times. It has colonial wooden furniture, fluffy colored rugs, draped pink curtains, silver cutlery and staff members who are dressed in traditional Rajasthan turbans. It is this kind of ancient luxury decor that you will find here.
Therefore, do not come to the Palace on Wheels expecting a modern, fancy setup like the Four Seasons—you will be disappointed.
Here’s a peek inside the train:
Palace on Wheels Itinerary & Highlights
The tour officially begins in New Delhi at the Safdarjung Railway where you will be welcomed with vibrant music, flowers and a whole lot of smiles. Once you check in, you will be escorted to your private cabin, introduced to your butlers and your journey will start at 6:30 pm.
A little after, you will be served dinner and you will get a small ceremony where you will be told all about the history surrounding the Palace on Wheels luxury train as well as how your trip will be organized (which destinations you will visit first and how you will go about the entire trip for a seamless experience).
Then you set off on an experience of a lifetime!
This is the starting (and ending) point of your tour. As the capital and third largest city in India, Delhi has an eclectic fusion of modern and ancient architecture. It is also has a vibrant mix of cultural diversity as well as a cluster of museums, monuments, galleries, lush gardens and exotic shows that will show you the true heart of India. Some of the most exciting attractions here include:
- Rashpati Bhawan (President’s Palace)
- Agrasen Ki Baoli
- Bahai’s Temple
- India Gate
- Red Fort
These are some of the most outstanding structures and historical sites in the city.
Also known as the ‘Pink City’ because it has so many beautiful palaces, forts and havelis that are all painted pink, Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan. Built in 1727, Jaipur means ‘city of victory’ and it still has that formidable look till today. It is an attractive work of art worthy of international recognition. Some of the attractions you should visit here include:
- Albert Hall Museum
- Hawa Mahal
- Jantar Mantar
- City Palace
The Palace on Wheels is one of the best and most hassle free ways to explore this beautiful fortress in pink.
Situated between two ranges (Aravalli Ranges and Vindhyachal range) as well as between two cities (Kota and Bikaner) the town of Sawai Madhopur was built in 1765 AD. Apart from being an awe-inspiring relic from the past, it is also a gateway to the Ranthambhor National Park which is a world renowned Tiger reserve. Apart from the national park, there are other attractions that you might want to visit here:
- Ranthambhor Fort
- Ganesh Temple
- Jogi Mahal
It is also home to some of the most beautiful lakes in the region.
This is the land of romance and valor and a symbol of bravery in Rajasthan. Since 1303, this city was invaded three times and on every one of these occasions, the brave and inconceivable ritual of ‘Jauhar’ which involves throwing oneself into a well or raging fire to avoid humiliation at the hands of your enemy was performed. To say that this is just another ruined citadel will be to grossly misunderstand the history and heritage that this city holds. Some of the attractions you should see here include:
- The Fort
- Vijay Sthamb (Victory Tower)
- Rana Kumbha’s Palace
- Kalika Mata Temple
- Government Museum
- Mohar Magri (Hill of gold coins)
If all you do when you visit is to hear about the history of valor in the city then you will have truly taken an emotional and thrilling tour of Chittorgarh.
Bordered by the lush hills of the Aravalis, Udaipur is an exceptionally beautiful city that is home to enchanting lakes. Ruled by the Sisodia dynasty for about 1200 years, Udaipur was considered the jewel of Mewar Kingdom. The noteworthy attractions in this city include:
- The City Palace
- Lake Palace
- Jag Mandir
- Jagdish temple
- Fateh Sagra Lake
- Saheliyon Ki Bari
It is a city that stands majestically and offers up some of the most graceful reflections of ancient architecture and glory.
Jaisalmer has been an important trading town because of its location on the camel trade routes that are still present today. Described as the ‘golden city’, the city has havelis that were built by merchants in the 19th century and are carved out of golden-yellow sandstone. The Jaisalmer Fort, built in the 12th century stands on Trikuta hill and is still a striking and imposing structure to date. This was one of my favorite stops on the itinerary because of the shopping! Some places you should see include:
- Gadsisar Lake
- Jaisalmer Fort
- Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli
- Desert National Park
You should also take the time to go on Sam Dunes Camel Ride; this will give you a feel for the olden trade route days.
Found smack in the middle of the sand dunes and the thorny vegetation that makes up Thar Desert, this city was founded in 1459 AD and was an important stop on the 16th century silk route. The old city has a 10 KM (6 miles) long wall surrounding it with eight gates that act as entrances. Apart from the exquisite palaces, the city also has:
- Meharangarh Fort
- Jaswant Thada
- Maid Bhawan Museum
- Government Museum
- Clock Tower & Sadar Market
It is a princely state that observes a traditional lifestyle, has warm people and is choke full of exciting festivities.
Best known for its bird (Keola Deo National Park – Ghana Bird Sanctuary) which is one of a kind in Asia and has a wide variety of avian creatures, Bharatpur was founded in 1733 AD. Each year, the rare Siberian cranes migrate to this location to winter in the warm climate of the region. Apart from the bird sanctuary, other attractions include:
- Lohagrah Fort
- The Palace
- Jawahar Burj and Fateh Burj
- Government Museum
You should also take the time to visit Deeg (32 km) which is an awe-inspiring excursion destination that is just 22 miles north of the city and once served as the summer resort for the ruling Bharatpur family.
Home to the Taj Mahal, perhaps India’s most recognizable attraction, Agra is the final stop of this exciting tour and is by far one of the most breathtaking. From the Forts to the palaces, the tombs, mosques and of course, the world’s largest monument of love (Taj Mahal) Agra has a wealth of bucket list worthy destinations including:
- Agra Red Fort
- Taj Mahal India
- Fatehpur Sikri
- Akbar’s Mausoleum, Sikandra
- Mariyam Tomb
The city is also very famous for its gold thread embroidery, carpets and leather shoes.
There was no better way for me to tour Rajasthan, the land of sand dunes and regal palaces than by taking the Palace on Wheels train tour. The seven nights and eight days were filled with culture, history and fun. Plus, with all the ‘TLC’ you get from your personal butler and the entire staff, the tour flew by in the blink of an eye and before you know it, was looking forward to taking the train again.