11 May 2023

Palace Of Wheels: Epic Royal Journey By A Heritage Tourist Train Across Rajasthan

The erstwhile royal dynasties of Rajasthan have inscribed the most thrilling narratives of their reigns, so richly documented in the history and heritage of their cities, the monuments, and their commercial and cultural pursuits. The museums too, scattered across Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Udaipur and many other exotic destinations, offer a window to the heyday of the life and times of the Princely state of Rajputana of yesteryears. As you journey through the varied geographies of the state, in regal style on the Palace on Wheels, India’s first, present-day luxury train, opportunities will present themselves to explore these custodians of this dazzling world.

The award-winning Palace on Wheels offers travellers a luxurious experience of regal delights woven seamlessly into a classic rail adventure, which puts it on par with the glamorous train journeys such as the Orient Express from Europe and the Blue Train from South Africa.

The journey itself kicks off from Safdarjung railway station in New Delhi on an auspicious note with a ceremonial Indian send- off, bounded by ancient traditions such as garlands and tikkas for each guest–all accompanied by the soothing sounds of the shehnai. Liveried attendants attired in vibrant safas (turbans) usher in the guests to their gorgeously appointed saloon cabins that are awash with traditional Rajasthani décor.

The idea of spending eight days on this luxury train being pampered thoroughly as it wends its way across Rajasthan and Agra is sure to give you goose-bumps! While the memory of the lovely sending-off ceremony still lingers making you feel all warm and very special, what will excite you even further is having your own private luxury suite, not only is it quite spacious, it comes with an attached bathroom, a TV and comfy bed with quality linen. A personal butler service underpins the customised caring the services on board are loved for. Superb meals summoned up by the lavishly curated menus in the two restaurants, a lounge bar and a spa add that special vibe to the whole on board experience.

When the train makes its way into state capital Jaipur, you are in for a royal treat as you explore the vibrant bazaars, palaces, havelis and museums in this UNESCO-acclaimed walled city beautifully planned along Vedic tenants by Maharajah Jai Singh II in the 18th century. The bazaars and residential spaces, courtyards and itinerant shrines still evoke the atmospherics of its bygone days. You will spend time at the St. Albert Museum, Pick City Palace and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Jantar Mantar observatory. Then wend your way to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hill Fort Palace of Amber, the 16th century fortress with its well- preserved amalgam of Rajput and Mughal architecture.

Following the tracks of the apex predator of the Indian jungles, the tiger, in Ranthambhore National Park, offers an opportunity to explore an erstwhile hunting retreat of the maharajahs of yesteryears. The city of Chittorgarh sweeps you back into the legendary guts and glory days of the valorous Rajputs, who have written in blood the history and heritage of the martial world of Rajasthan–for this is the stage where the story was unravelled of the bewitching beauty and bravery of Queen Padmini who outsmarted the ruthless invader Alauddin Khilji in a brutal battle, by committing Jauhar rather taken captive by him. The sound and light show in this historic setting of Chittor Fort is an unmissable treat.

Udaipur, city of lakes and fairy-tale water palaces, is charged with a different vibe altogether from Jaipur. The frantic pace of Jaipur and the serenity of Udaipur are two sides of the coin of royal Rajasthan. In Udaipur’s vintage bazaars shop for gem-studded jewels and gaze up cabins filled with dagger and swords, shields and maces up for sale–both of which mirror the royal and martial past of this lovely city. A boat ride on Lake Pichola gives you up-close and personal viewings of the famous Lake Palace. At the Crystal Gallery at the lakeside Fatehprakash Palace Hotel get bowled over by the stunning crystal ware, which never got used because Maharana Sajjan Singh who ordered it in 1877, died while it was still sailing on the high seas out of London. Wrap up the visit with an elaborate lunch at the hotel.

The remote outposts of Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, with their grand forts, exotic palaces and bazaars and antique step-wells, showcase how royal Rajasthan survived the harsh climes and terrains of the Thar Desert. The monochrome hues of the desert sands are beautifully countered by the colourful costumes of the women and the brights safas of the men as they come together in a wondrous display of traditional folk dance and music performances to entertain you. You will love the sunset joyride by jeep in the Sam Dunes.

In the cool environs of Keoladeo Ghana National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in Bharatpur discover the wealth of avifaunal species in what used to be a royal duck-shooting water-bound private royal sanctuary. Rich shwa rides take you through the paved path past woodlands, swamps, wet prairies and dry savanna, which attracts both domestic and migrant species from Central Asia, Siberia and Western China in the winter.

Your journey would not be complete if you don’t visit that exquisite, gem-embedded marble edifice which is a memorial to eternal love –the Taj Mahal, built in the old Mughal bastion of Agra by the Emperor Shahjahan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is with reluctance you get ready for the journey back to Delhi to deboard this glittering palatial residence on wheels.

This journey that takes you to some of India’s most thrilling royal destinations in the most luxurious and regal style is going to get you addicted to rail travel in the most tempting way. There are several other luxury trains now operating in India which explore the southern and coastal areas which have their own alluring destination to explore in royal style. Plan ahead for the season as bookings get snapped up quickly…

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