A luxury train journey on the Golden Chariot through South India

posted in: Asia, India, Karnataka, Kerala, Stays, Tamil Nadu, Tips | 128

The first time I discovered luxury trains was when I read Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. I was extremely fascinated with the whole train scene that for the first time I paid more attention to the description in the novel rather than the plot. Since then, I have devoured all possible articles and references to Orient Express, Palace on Wheels and the Golden Chariot. I always wanted to travel on one of these, and thanks to the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation, I finally managed to get onto the Golden Chariot.

Aboard the Golden Chariot
Aboard the Golden Chariot                                                                                                           Photo Credit: Medhavi Davda

Before I embarked on the Golden Chariot, I wondered what it would be like to stay on this train? How would they take us to places like Mahabalipuram that had no railway stations? What would the coach rooms be like? Would they have a dining car just as they described on the Orient Express? I wouldn’t be surprised if these questions are running through your head. Frankly, the best way to answer these, would be taking you along on my experience with the Golden Chariot. So, without much ado, let’s chug away!

About the Golden Chariot

The Golden Chariot is operated by the Karnataka State Tourism board, who in turn, have got Mapple hotels to manage the same. It has won Asia’s leading luxury train award. It currently, operates on two circuits –

  • The Pride of South that runs from Bengaluru to Goa and covers destinations like Mysuru, Hampi and Badami along the way
  • The Southern Splendor which covers three states – Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and takes you through the best in each of these.
The Golden Chariot
The Golden Chariot

These tours are for a duration of 7 nights and 8 days and run every fortnight. I had the fortune of being on the 2nd route that took me from Bengaluru through Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Puducherry, Thanjavur, Trichy, Madurai, Kanyakumari, Kovalam, Alleypey, Kochi and back. While each of these destinations is marvelous, it is the train journey that became the highlight of this travel for me – starting with the grand welcome.

Grand Welcome at the Golden Chariot

Cultural Program at the Taj West End, Bangalore - Part of the Grand Welcome to Golden Chariot
Cultural Program at the Taj West End, Bangalore – Part of the Grand Welcome to Golden Chariot

The first welcome that you get is when you arrive at the Taj West-End Hotel in Bengaluru. While the primary aim was to check-in the guests and brief them about the tour, it is here that you get the first taste of their hospitality. A small glimpse of what is to come is accompanied by a cultural show. From here, you are transferred via a coach to the train waiting at Yeshwantpur station.

A royal welcome awaits you here with garlands and trumpets. And quite like the Maharajas of yester-years, you are welcomed into the Golden Chariot.Take a look at this Facebook Live video of my own welcome.

Coaches of the Golden Chariot

The Golden Chariot
Coach of the Golden Chariot

What awaits inside is just quite unlike a train. The decor within is nothing short of a royal palace. The best part is that each coach of the Golden Chariot is different. Each one is named after the famous dynasties of South India – Chalukya, Vijaynagara, Adilshahi etc. The decor within the coach matched the architectural style of that era. From the carpet to the ceiling and the soft furnishings, each part of the interior added to the whole royal feel of the train.

The corridors of one of the coaches of the Golden Chariot
The corridors of one of the coaches of the Golden Chariot

 

The sitting area in one of the coaches of Golden Chariot

Each coach had the butler’s cabin at one end and a small sitting area at the other. There were just 4 cabins or rooms within each coach – with either a double bed or a split bed arrangement.

The Rooms in Golden Chariot

My room in Adilshahi Coach of the Golden Chariot
My room in Adilshahi Coach of the Golden Chariot

My room was in the Adilshahi coach and once the door to it slide open, I was in awe. The whole room looked no less than one that you could find in a luxury hotel. Comfortable beds, warm lighting, lovely wall pictures, a little wardrobe and side table….what more would you need?

My room in Adilshahi Coach of the Golden Chariot
My room in Adilshahi Coach of the Golden Chariot

Each room has an attached bathroom that has a small shower area and 24 hours of hot water. The bathroom is also, well stocked with towels and toiletries. With all this, there was no doubt that this was a hotel on wheels.

Facilities on board the Golden Chariot

Within each room, there is a small TV where you can see Movies on Demand. WiFi is restricted to the bar and restaurant area and does not reach the room. However, through the journey, I had an excellent mobile data connection. So, staying connected is not an issue.

Mini Gym in the Golden Chariot
Mini Gym in the Golden Chariot

The Golden Chariot has a special coach called Arogya (literally meaning health) that has a small gym and a spa. You will also, find a mini business center here, in case you wish to send some urgent emails or need a desktop.

Restaurants and Bar

Nalapakka Coach - the dining car of Golden Chariot
Nalapakka Coach – the dining car of Golden Chariot

The Golden Chariot has two restaurant coaches – Ruchi and Nalapakka. The menu on the train is fixed but you will realize that you are not restricted with your choices even within the fixed menu. You have a lovely blend of Indian cuisine with Continental and that honestly, covers it all. The chef accommodates any special diet requirements you may have. Every meal time, you will find him walking through these coaches and talking to the guests to make them comfortable.

Breakfast time in Golden Chariot
Breakfast time in Golden Chariot

For me, the desserts every night were just heavenly. And then, the morning breakfast with fruits, a cheese platter and the Indian specialty of the day had me set for a complete day out at the destination.

Dinner time in Golden Chariot train
Dinner time in Golden Chariot train
Drink time at Madira
Drink time at Madira

The Golden Chariot also, has a bar called Madira (meaning Alcohol in Hindi). The bar is a central meeting point in the morning but transforms into a lounge by evening. It is perfect for the end-of-the-day glass of wine or just for a game of chess with your travel mates.

The hospitality of the staff

The ever pleasant butler in Golden Chariot
The ever pleasant butler in Golden Chariot

The one thing that made my experience on the Golden Chariot perfect were the ever-smiling staff. Every coach has a dedicated butler who caters to all your requirements within your room. Besides this, the head waiter and his crew ensure that you have tried every possible specialty on their menu. They feed you till you plead full.

Lovely staff at Golden Chariot
Lovely staff at Golden Chariot

The tour manager and his crew never leave you unattended while you are on your tour and every special request is catered to their best abilities. Honestly, without this entire crew, the Golden Chariot experience for me would not be what it was.

Visiting the destinations on Golden Chariot

The luxury coach that takes you sight-seeing when traveling on the Golden Chariot
The luxury coach that takes you sight-seeing when traveling on the Golden Chariot

Here is what will answer your question on what if the destination like Mahabalipuram did not have a train station. Part of the journey on the Golden Chariot is on a luxury travel coach. The buses are quite comfortable and await you at the main railway station. So where you cannot go by train, you travel by bus.

Comfortable seats within the bus
Comfortable seats within the bus

At every destination, you will be greeted by an experienced tour guide. He takes you through the details of various sight-seeing places and helps you understand the same better.

However, your end of the day is always on the train. This is to say that once we were done with our day’s itinerary, we boarded the train back either at the same railway station or at the next one. For example, we disembarked at Alleypey for the backwaters and then traveled to Kochi by the luxury coach to board the train back there. The coach travel is not more than 1-2 hours and is during the day only. During this travel, WiFi is available on the coach and you can well do your social sharing on the go – just as I did 🙂

My views of the Golden Chariot

The key advantages of the Golden Chariot are –

  • The unique luxury experience of a train
  •  Essentially you are combining your sleep time with your travel time as the train moves mostly at night. This means that you are effectively using more time at the destinations you visit instead of traveling during the day.
  • A pre-planned and a well-managed itinerary
  • Amazing food throughout the journey

However, having said that, I would warn you that there were two things that I feel could cause a bit of discomfort for a few travelers. If you are deep sleeper, then the night travel will not bother you but if you are a light sleeper, then the natural jerks of the train could cause a bit of a discomfort. The second is that you need to be mindful of the time constraint at certain destinations. This again is unavoidable as the train needs to be boarded on time and there are only that many hours during the day.:-)

There is no doubt that a trip on the Golden Chariot is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It allows you to see the best of the unexplored South India in a really luxurious manner. I can assure you that I was completely spoiled for that one week that getting back home was a shock. I mean, no one would pamper me anymore – right? I am sure you too, would not mind being spoiled for that one week while you visit the best of South India on the Golden Chariot. For now, treat yourself to this video of my journey through the train and don’t forget to pin the image below that on your board as a reminder to try it out yourself.

Golden chariot

Travel Tips

  • You can get more information on the Golden Chariot tour, its rates and schedule on this website. You can even book through this site.
  • Stick to the itinerary time to get the maximum out of your destination. Do not get late as it will delay the rest of the guests too.
  • Light cotton clothes would do for most of the destinations. Carry enough sun-screen for your day sightseeing. Flat shoes are recommended on all days as there is plenty of walking.
  • At the temples, please avoid half pants, shorts and sleeveless tops. The Golden Chariot crew will also, advise you against the same. For more tips on visiting Hindu temples. you might want to read this.
  • The Golden Chariot team hands out temple socks at the venue so that you can walk comfortably without shoes.
  • The Golden Chariot team asks you not to tip any individual but to add your tips to the gratuity box at the bar so that it may be distributed equally. Kindly stick to the same.
  • On long days when you are out sight-seeing, the Golden Chariot team offers snacks and cold drinks within the bus coaches. Alternatively, you can request them to stop at a shop for you to grab some for yourself.

 

 

 

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128 Responses

  1. 2travellingsisters

    This is truly a “Palace on Wheels”. Looks so grand and luxurious.. 🙂

  2. Kalpanaa

    The train looks like something out of a fairy tale Ami. Thoroughly enjoyed your photographs and write up.

  3. Shaun

    So cool! I did a train trip with Rovos Rail in South Africa and loved it. This is now on my list to when I head to India!

  4. Csecsi

    This luxury train ride looks awesome, it really looks like a luxury hotel on wheels! Thank you for sharing your experience with us, I have never thought that this kind of train exists.

  5. Sherianne

    Once in a lifetime experience for sure! I love everything about this, so much better than group tours moving you from hotel to hotel and eating up a day riding in the couch!

    • Ami

      Yes, it does save a lot of time . And that for a tourist in India can be pretty huge!

  6. The Soul of Seoul

    That train looks fabulous! Definitely NOTHING like the trains I was riding when I was traveling around northern India ahhaha I’m guessing this is mostly for tourists then so not too cramped. Definitely something I’d want to take a trip on. ^^

    • Ami

      This is a boutique train …:) with limited accommodation. So it will not have crowds. A lot different from the regular trains.

  7. Megan Indoe

    OMG I’ve always wanted to ride a luxury train and Scott has always wanted to do more train travel in India. He went years ago and did it on the regular trains and told me some of the stories, they were nothing like this. He has always wanted to go back and experience it in a more luxurious way! We are totally doing this when we go to India!!

  8. quirkywanderer

    WOW WOW WOW! it looks so regal! Much more than royalty, the choice of destinations is impeccable 🙂 Sounds just like the Orient express! 🙂 Great description Ami, thanks for the virtual tour! 🙂

    • Ami

      Thank you Divsi….:D I hope you are taking the opportunity to try it out yourself.

    • Ami

      Thank you Ruchie. The train itself is an experience and am sure most people will love that bit.

  9. Mayuri Nidigallu

    I journeyed on the Golden Chariot through your gorgeous pic and descriptive write up, Ami. I would love to experience this journey sometime soon.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Ami

      Thank you Mayuri. It definitely is a once in a lifetime experience and if you get a chance, go for it.

  10. Dr Roshan R (@pythoroshan)

    In so many ways, it is still hard for me to compute that this is India. I’ve been traveling by Indian trains for over two decades, slowly graduating from general compartments to 2ND Class AC and for me, just having a chilled compartment with no insects counts as a wonderful journey… this… all these images. Wow! I really need to make a trip just to experience this part of the rails.

    • Ami

      Indian Railways have indeed come a long way. The regular trains too have become quite comfortable. But this one is something else all together and if you get a chance, you should most definitely go for it.

  11. Becky Angell

    Oh wow, I had no idea this even existed. I absolutely love train travel so I think this is something I will look into for my trip to India. I have pinned to read again nearer my trip 🙂

  12. nycgingeronthego

    That looks like such a lovely experience and a total time machine. I have done a good bit of train travel, but i have yet to embrace a luxury train travel experience. it does seem like a great way to see a lot of destinations and it looks like the dining experiences were top notch.

    • Ami

      The food was indeed amazing on the train. And it sure is a luxurious way of traveling around. If you ever get a chance, just try it once.

  13. openroadahead

    Needless to say this looks about 1000% more luxurious than any train I have ever been on. Taking a journey on a Golden Chariot Train is now firmly on my bucket list. My goodness! The room is perfect and looks so comfortable and inviting, and everything looks so glamorous. Not that I wouldn’t also love to explore the destinations along the way, but just experiencing the train ride, the dining car and the service would be an adventure I wouldn’t forget soon!

  14. Mimi & Mitch

    Would be so super keen to try this! Love the wrapping around the busses, the purple is so funky! Thanks for showing us about this

    • Ami

      YEs, the train does look pretty in purple. Made the whole aura so royal. Thanks for stopping by

  15. Tony (tonyandkimoutdooradventures)

    Nice little read. The coaches really look more 1st class. I had a giggle when I saw the photo of the bus with fans in it. It’s been time since I’ve seen something like that. The photos really captured how predestine the journey was.

    • Ami

      Actually those fans are just in case. The bus is air conditioned. 🙂 Thanks for the compliments on the pics and the read! Cheers

  16. colbyholiday

    Talk about traveling in style! This sounds like it was such an incredible experience. I love that each coach was different. I would love to experience this some day.

  17. TalesOfABackpacker (@clairesturz)

    I love travelling by train, you get to see such wonderful places and in relative comfort – but this takes it to a whole new level! It’s just like a 5* hotel inside!! I can’t believe they have a butler in every carriage, that’s pure luxury. I love the colour of the train too, purple is my favourite colour 🙂

    • Ami

      It does take it to a whole new experience. The purple outside adds to the royal touch, does’nt it? Thanks for stopping by

  18. abcdefghizzy

    Is this forreal? I had NO idea that there were still luxury locomotives in operation! That cabin looks like something out of a five star hotel! And there were even cultural performances and a gym on board? I don’t know anyone who would say no to that… I am a super, super deep sleeper so I think I would fare just fine!

    • Ami

      The cultural performance was in a hotel before we started off but we did have a cookery demo in the train :D. Since you are a deep sleeper, you are all set for this experience. Cheers

  19. Sandy N Vyjay

    Golden Chariot is far better and far more luxurious than most of the hotels! The itinerary is prepared very thoughtfully. I loved the fact that the travel is on the move at night. I am sure you had a wonderful experience.

    • Ami

      Yes, the itinerary is quite well planned and that is what makes the whole difference. 🙂

  20. manders1397

    This trip sounds amazing!! The train is beautiful, and sounds like quite the pampering experience. I would love to see India via train! I’ve definitely added this to my list!

    • Ami

      Cool and that is sure to give you a good experience. Hope to see you here in India soon.

  21. sunsetscribble

    This looks incredible! I’ve always wanted to travel by train, but didn’t know such luxury trains existed. What an experience, the inside of the train is so impressive.

  22. Jeff & Crystal Bryant

    I am so jealous of you for having ridden on this excursion. The Orient Express was one of my dream trips from my youth. Thanks for sharing, and your pictures are fantastic.

    • Ami

      I can imagine the envy. I was envious too, of those who had managed it before me. 🙂 Dont worry, am sure you will also, get to try this.

  23. Tom @ Adventurous Travels

    My dream was always do to the transsiberian train from Europe all the way via Central Asia to Siberia… But… I must say the photos here in this post are… crazy! It doesn’t look real 😉 I’m really jealous now – I’d love to do that (but I wonder how much this pleasure costs 🙁 ) I’m afraid to check the rates…

    • Ami

      Thanks Tom. I know what you mean. Have been dreaming of it myself and am glad to have been able to try it once. It was lovely and I hope you get to this too. Cheers

  24. Stella the Travelerette

    This sounds like a wonderful experience! I’ve wanted to take a luxury train experience ever since reading Murder on the Orient Express. I love the purple exterior of the Golden Chariot and the interiors look amazing too. And the food! Simply droolworthy.

    • Ami

      Yes, the food was just awesome and the whole interior does make you feel special. You should definitely try it out.

  25. Prema

    Saw you live on FB as well. Looks amazing..Loved the post and tiny details of your journey..

    • Ami

      Thank you Prema for watching me live. That was when I was discovering it and was so excited. Glad you enjoyed the post too.

  26. Parul Thakur

    Wow! What a fabulous trip this must have been. It’s like a dream and wheels and so goodvthat you got a chance to be on it 🙂 enjoyed reading about this, Ami!

    • Ami

      Thank you Parul, I am truly grateful that I got to experience this. It was really amazing.

    • Ami

      Check my travel tips section for the website…and go for it 🙂 Thanks Christopher for stopping by

  27. Bhushavali

    That’s absolutely awesome! I’d love to travel on this train. Too bad I missed it! It looks like pure luxury and comfort! The food looks yummm…

    • Ami

      I am sure you will get another opportunity soon and this time- grab it. The food is yummy indeed. Thanks Bhushavali for stopping by.

  28. Rebecca

    I’ve never taken a train journey like this; it looks absolutely luxurious. Purple also happens to be my favorite color. Also amazing that they fit a treadmill on the train as well. Hopefully no one gets thrown off when the train comes to a stop.

    • Ami

      Thank you Rebecca for stopping by. I did try the treadmill and did not really get thrown off. I think the train is pretty stable that way. 🙂

  29. Jodie

    This looks like so much fun! Love the purple colour! The beds look extremely comfortable. I love trains so this would be a perfect experience for me! Thanks for sharing!

  30. Joy Generoso

    Wow that was a cool journey on the train! I bet it’s a wonderful experience with all the luxury while traveling on train. Thanks for the tips. Another travel inspiration added to the list. 🙂

  31. finaciofotografia

    Wow, I never heard about this train and I go many times to India, just arrived from Goa two weeks ago. For me, the best way to travel in India is by train, it is the way to see the country and I always do it in sleeper class, the chapest one with bed, usually the only tourist in there… But this Golden Chariot looks a thing that I need to try. Thanks for share 😉

  32. AllGudThings

    This train is awesome and so looks the route they cover. I love the way you have detailed everything in your post. From your pictures I could say it is a complete epitome of Luxury in train travel. Beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing

  33. kidsandcompass

    Amazing interior to that train! You wouldn’t think that those rooms were on a train – they look quite spacious. I would love to take a trip on it. The food looks wonderful and the staff very friendly.

  34. Where Monica Goes

    I do love trains and I make it a point to travel with one whenever I am in a new destination. The Golden Chariot seems to be very interesting for me. Even though I usually travel on a budget, I sometimes do one luxury transportation and accommodation in one leg of that trip and this must be it! I even like the interiors.

    • Ami

      Every once in a while you should treat and pamper yourself. And for that the Golden Chariot is ideal. Thanks for stopping by Monica.

  35. The Travel Ninjas

    The train itself is beautiful, love the regal color and design. And the whole experience sounds amazing. We totally bookmarked this. Our Indian bucket list is huge, but this is on it. Thanks for introducing this great experience.

  36. Medhavi Davda

    I started missing each moment on The Golden Chariot while reading your post. I loved the honest reviews about the discomforts too. I absolutely agree that the luxury train journey can only give glimpses and not immersive experiences. But, still, it is a lifetime experience for us! I forgot the discomforts very soon and started enjoying the luxury of the train that I didn’t want to get down at the end of the journey!

    • Ami

      I can so relate to the not getting down part of the train. It had become home :). We did have a lot of fun on it, did’nt we Medhavi?

  37. Eva Maris

    Lovely blog.. !! I liked this blog so much. This is very helpful information for travellers. I love travelling and want to explore the whole world. This travel blogs is very helpful for travel junkies. This blogs makes my trip more easier and memorable. The Golden Chariot train journey is the best way to experience the major and also offbeat tourism destinations of South India. The Golden Chariot offers you the unforgettable luxury train journey in South India.

    • Ami

      Thank you Eva. This journey was just one amazing one. Glad you found my account helpful.

  38. footlooseinme

    Wow! This train journey seems to be a royal affair. You portrayed every details of the train so beautifully that it was like a virtual tour. The train itself seems to be a destination 🙂

  39. LoveTrains

    Thank you for the blog! Booked a 7N/8D tour on this train on Christmas Day this year. I cannot wait for the experience. The Maharaja Express selected alcoholic beverages were included, do you know if this is the case for this train journey?

    • Ami

      I am so glad that you have booked your travel after this blog. On your query, the alcoholic beverages are charged as per your order. On certain days, they do have a happy hour though. 🙂

  40. Johna

    Wowwww! I didn’t know that trains like this existed! It’s like something from a movie, it’s so beautiful! I want to ride in it one day! 😀

  41. ambujsaxena05

    Golden chariot looks like a great way to roam around in Karnataka. When I was consultant in Gujarat Govt in 2013, I suggested them to build their own luxury rail, they agreed but nothing came through!

  42. Marjorie Gavan

    The color of your top even matches the color of the train! I haven’t ridden a luxury train yet, and after reading this, I wanna experience it too. And there’s even beds on it and wow a mini gym!? Wow.

    • Ami

      Ha ha…that was coincidence. But the train was just amazing. I hope you manage a journey in one of these. It is amazing!

  43. traveldejavu0

    OMG! This train is such a luxury! Would love to do this trip someday! Thanks for sharing your trip experience! Cheers!

  44. Asian Traveller

    Nicely written. only thing is it’s super expensive for common folks
    Hopefully i get a chance some day

    • Ami

      True. It is expensive, which is why it is termed Luxury. I was glad to be able to do this. I hope you get a chance too

  45. Ana Ojha

    Whoa! Your Golden Chariot train journey looks like an experience in itself! Glad that you got a chance to travel on it!

  46. Manish Chaurasia

    Thank you for writing this post.By reading this post I got to know how your trip was and how much you enjoy this trip.The images shown here are very beautiful and awesome.Also the information about chariot is good to read.

  47. Manoj

    What an incredible journey! I am sure that it will be an unforgettable experience for you. Great attempt by Indian Railway. Thanks a lot for the detailed information and photographs.

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