All aboard India's Maharajas' Express

You can live like a king aboard the Maharajas' Express, a hotel-on-wheels that's considered one of India's most luxurious trains.

Posted: Jul 31, 2018 5:32 PM
Updated: Jul 31, 2018 5:55 PM

From Jaipur to Jodhpur, India's northerly Rajasthan region is famous for its ancient forts, opulent palaces and gleaming marble monuments.

But why stop there? The "Land of Kings" is home to yet another regal travel experience: the Maharajas' Express.

Billed as India's most luxurious train, the opulent hotel-on-wheels winds around the countryside on its eight-day "Heritage of India" route, stopping at key destinations such as Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Ranthambore National Park and the Taj Mahal.

"The romance to it -- I would recommend it to anyone for traveling around somewhere like (India) because you get to see so many places," says Joanna Newman, a passenger from England.

"You feel as though you are part of it. You're not flying over it, you're not driving, you are just there."

The royal experience

Chugging across Rajasthan's parched desert landscape, the Maharajas' Express aims to make guests feels like royalty.

Instead of crowded quarters, travelers will find opulent interiors, an on-board chef and a roughly 3:4 staff-to-guest ratio.

In addition to attentive service, the train also delivers opulent Indian aesthetics.

The dining rooms, for example, feature peacock motifs and rich fabrics, while bedrooms are kitted out with gold-hued drapes and linens.

Even with impressive interiors and attention to detail, there are a few drawbacks for first-time train travelers.

"There are some quirks when traveling by train," says Newman.

"Getting used to sleeping at night (can be challenging due to) the different movements -- the starting and stopping of the train."

A hotel on wheels

Still, traveling by rail has more pros than cons.

For starters, you can see various destinations without having to repack every few days.

It's also a better way to meet other travelers and create relationships with staff members -- an opportunity you might miss if jumping from hotel to hotel.

When it comes to guest rooms, the cabins start from a cozy 112-square-feet in size -- each with modern amenities such as LCD TVs, king-sized beds and bathrooms.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Suite stretches across an entire train carriage, featuring two bedrooms, a private living area, bathtub and regal decor.

And with 23 carriages for up to 88 guests -- including two dining cars, two bars and a lounge -- the Maharajas' Express has plenty of room to stretch out and relax.

But running what is essentially a hotel on wheels has its logistical challenges.

"India's railway network is the biggest in the world. To operate such type of luxurious train in such a big network is a big challenge for us," Hammond Kumar, the train's general manager, tells CNN Travel.

"To leave the station timely, to board the train ... it's a big challenge."

On the menu

Naturally, delivering world-class cuisine is essential to the regal experience.

Luckily, the train has executive chef John Stone, who specializes in French cuisine but prepares a wide array of local and international dishes for guests.

"Ever since my early childhood I was very interested in traveling on the trains," says Stone.

"I still remember vividly that, even during the night when you could not see anything through the window, I would still keep on peeping out the window."

For Stone, cooking on a train was a challenge at first.

"I remember for the very first day the train actually went from track A to track B. There was a slight curve and all my pots and pans went (flying) ..." adds Stone.

"But by now, I know precisely when we're going to change tracks and where the curves are, so I hold onto my pots and pans."

The right track

The "Heritage of India" route, running from Mumbai to Rajasthan to Delhi, is among the most popular journeys.

The itinerary includes a day in the 'Pink City' of Jaipur -- known for its salmon-colored buildings, heritage handicrafts and imposing Amber Fort.

The journey also includes stops in the Thar desert and in smaller villages, where travelers can experience a camel safari or traditional folk dances.

This is just one of seven of the train's routes. A journey to the south, instead, would be a totally different experience.

The eight-day Southern Jewels route, for example, departs from Mumbai before traversing some of southern India's most beautiful landmarks.

The itinerary highlights include the seventh-century temples of Mahabalipuram near the Bay of Bengal, temple complexes of ancient Hampi, beaches of Goa and the Ratnadurg Fort in Ratnagiri.

"It's been a lifelong ambition to come to India," guest Greg Newman tells CNN Travel.

"Trains have this wonderful ability to get you somewhere overnight and wake up the next morning in a different city ... without having noticed you moved."

Terre Haute
Clear
42° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 42°
Robinson
Clear
39° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 39°
Indianapolis
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 55°
Rockville
Clear
42° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 42°
Casey
Clear
51° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 51°
Brazil
Clear
43° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 43°
Marshall
Clear
43° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 43°
A Cool, Sunny Weekend
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 272517

Reported Deaths: 8647
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook1375805150
DuPage16488550
Lake16175484
Will13211370
Kane12444325
St. Clair6184182
Madison5231130
Winnebago5098149
McHenry4350118
Champaign429020
Peoria313048
McLean308919
Rock Island272770
Kankakee260976
Unassigned2242236
Sangamon220344
Kendall186025
LaSalle156854
Tazewell151115
DeKalb140638
Macon133734
Coles132428
Williamson128934
Jackson122024
Clinton102220
Boone99923
Adams95610
Randolph90311
Effingham7981
Whiteside67219
Grundy6165
Morgan61221
Henry6105
Monroe60515
Ogle6046
Vermilion5684
Knox5653
Bureau55710
Jefferson54437
Union49324
Marion4810
Franklin4732
Macoupin4706
Stephenson4536
McDonough43815
Logan4241
Christian41210
Woodford3835
Jersey37313
Cass37211
Iroquois34519
Shelby3424
Perry33214
Crawford3301
Lee3191
Montgomery30912
Fayette3003
Warren2941
Livingston2935
Bond2764
Douglas2725
Lawrence2422
Saline2403
Wayne2345
Jo Daviess2262
Moultrie2063
Greene2053
Carroll2024
Cumberland1894
Jasper1869
Hancock1823
Washington1791
White1550
Pulaski1531
Clark1442
Johnson1420
Fulton1400
Clay1370
Wabash1361
Richland1354
Piatt1300
Mercer1245
Mason1181
Menard1120
Edgar1085
Pike1041
De Witt931
Ford914
Massac902
Marshall850
Gallatin682
Scott670
Alexander651
Hamilton630
Henderson620
Edwards600
Stark492
Schuyler440
Putnam400
Brown360
Calhoun340
Hardin330
Pope251
Out of IL20

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 109683

Reported Deaths: 3495
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion20510758
Lake10095315
Elkhart6268107
St. Joseph593596
Allen5849198
Hamilton4589109
Vanderburgh322728
Hendricks2617120
Monroe230036
Johnson2236122
Tippecanoe214213
Clark208156
Porter201144
Cass19239
Delaware182460
Vigo173822
Madison154675
LaPorte135137
Floyd128661
Howard126163
Kosciusko117417
Bartholomew114257
Warrick109335
Marshall97524
Boone94046
Dubois92718
Hancock89842
Noble86932
Grant85833
Henry74224
Wayne73614
Jackson7279
Morgan68538
Shelby66129
LaGrange62911
Daviess62827
Dearborn61628
Clinton59012
Harrison55124
Putnam5159
Lawrence50028
Montgomery49521
White47514
Knox4689
Decatur45039
Gibson4444
DeKalb43111
Miami4223
Greene41335
Fayette41213
Jasper3752
Steuben3577
Scott35010
Sullivan32612
Jennings30712
Franklin29325
Posey2910
Clay2885
Orange28124
Ripley2788
Carroll26713
Wabash2588
Washington2511
Wells2462
Starke2457
Whitley2446
Jefferson2383
Adams2343
Fulton2292
Tipton21522
Huntington2123
Spencer2074
Randolph2037
Perry19914
Newton16711
Jay1660
Owen1641
Martin1570
Rush1494
Pike1341
Vermillion1240
Fountain1152
Pulaski1131
Blackford1092
Brown993
Crawford990
Parke932
Benton880
Ohio767
Union760
Switzerland670
Warren381
Unassigned0225