India is one of the countries which has almost all terrain types and is well known for its incredibly beautiful landscapes. As some travel connoisseurs say that the best way to explore a country is to do it by train travel so, in this article, I am going to jot down some of the most beautiful railway routes in India.
Considering India is a big country and its natural to get confused with the names and locations (especially for foreign people) therefore, I am segregating the most beautiful railway routes into four natural sub-divisions. Whether you love mountains or desert, there is something for everyone in these scenic rail routes.
1. Nilgiri Mountain Railway
Duration: 3.5-4 hours (downhill), 4.5-5 hours (uphill)
Tickets: Indian Railway Website or IRCTC
With UNESCO’s World Heritage Site status, this railway route exists in Tamil Nadu. This was built by British in 1908 and is the only rack railway in India.
The trains on this route run between the stations Mettupalayam and Udagamandalam (Ooty) via Coonoor. This train ride provides thrilling experience because of its route, which passes through rocky mountains, bridges and world-renowned tea plantations in Coonoor. Since this route is very popular among tourists so, I would advise you to book your tickets in advance (2-3 months).
Duration: depends on the chosen route
Distance: approx. 360-450km
There is no direct connection between Bangalore-Ooty and this route, in fact, includes the above mentioned Nilgiri Mountain Railway route.
This journey provides a holistic train travel experience through the green valleys, tea plantation and thick forests in Southern India.
To travel from Bangalore to Ooty by train, you need to do the following:
a. Take a train from Bangalore to Coimbatore (several trains at this route)
b. Coimbatore to Mettupalayam by bus or taxi
c. Mettupalayam to Udagamandalam (Ooty) with Nilgiri Mountain Railway
3. Banihal-Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir
Duration: 2 hours
Distance: approx. 130km
This route is basically a section of Jammu-Baramulla train route and perhaps the best to get mesmerized by the beauty of Kashmir. The enchanting views of snow covered mountains, green valleys and pristine natural beauty justify with the saying that Kashmir is heaven on earth.
The train service on this route gets disrupted sometimes due to occasional unrest situation in Kashmir. Please allow yourself enough time to make a travel plan on this route.
4. Kalka-Shimla, Himachal Pradesh
Duration: 6 hours
Distance: 96 km
This railway route also made its place in the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Site. This route was commissioned by British Raj in 1898 to connect their summer capital Shimla.
Shimla has already been a very popular hill-station destination among Indians. This old-fashioned train slowly passes through the beautiful valleys and villages of Shimla, and you get ample time to admire the beauty of mother nature. Though there are some fast and more comfortable trains available on this route, I would still recommend doing this once in a lifetime journey on this heritage train.
5. Pathankot – Jogindernagar, Himachal Pradesh
Duration: 7-10 hours
Distance: approx. 164km
Tickets: Pathankot/Kangra valley station
After Kalka-Shimla, this is the second narrow gauge rail track in the state of Himachal Pradesh. There are several ordinary trains as well at this route but perhaps the best way to savour the beauty of Kangra valley is to travel by Kangra Toy Train at this route. The train passes through tea-gardens, pine forests, valleys and as the train approaches Palampur, the distant snow-covered Dhauladhar mountain range seems very close.
6. Goa-Mumbai (Konkan Railway)
Duration: avg. 10 hours
Distance: approx. 710km
In addition to being an engineering marvel, this route of Konkan Railway between Goa-Mumbai is also a delight to the eyes. This railway route exists on one of the most challenging terrains in the world and consists of numerous bridges and tunnels. The Western Ghat mountains stretch is the most pleasant and scenic part of this route. During this journey, the train passes through hills, green fields, rivers and several small and large waterfalls. This journey provides breathtaking views particularly during monsoon period when it becomes all green to the extent of your sight and the rivers are full of water.
Duration: 6-7 hours
Distance: approx. 300km
This is my personal favourite so, excuse me for being a little biased to it ;). When the golden sand slowly takes the red sheath of setting or rising sun, it is impossible not to get lost in the storm of captivating thoughts. The flatlands slowly merge into the desert on this fascinating journey en route to Jaisalmer.
8. Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
Duration: 2 hours for round trip
Distance: 14 km round trip
And I saved the best for last in this list of most beautiful train routes. This UNESCO’s World Heritage status accorded Toy Train is very popular among tourists and is a not-to-be-missed attraction in Darjeeling. The chuff-chuff sound of the steam engine, breathtaking views of mountains and the fragrance of Darjeeling itself makes this journey a truly remarkable experience.
This 14 km round trip journey starts from Darjeeling Railway Station then, the train goes up to Ghum and finally comes back in a duration of 2 hours. During this journey, the train makes a loop at Batasia, which provides unmatched views of snow-capped Kanchenjunga mountains. You can choose either the Diesel Engine Ride or Steam Engine Ride (which is a little costly but represent the actual heritage trains).
A picture could not justify with the beauty of this train ride so, let me leave you with a video, which may do a little better than just a picture.