With the coming of low-cost airlines and other modes of transport, the good old Indian Railways has lost its lure. That’s unfortunate though, since the Indian Railways Network, one of the largest in the world, has plenty to offer to the curious tourist. For one, train journeys to otherwise inaccessible territories, give you a chance to witness scenic vistas this country has to offer. You’ll travel through gushing waterfalls, across the precipices of mountains and chug across blue seas. LBB picks out the most scenic train journeys that you can embark on in India.

LBB’s Loving

The Kangra Valley Railway

Readers’ Vote

Darjeeling Mountain Railway

Nilgiri Mountain Railway 

nilgiri mountain railway journey is scenic

Photo by: Prakhar

Every morning at around 7.15 am, a charming blue and cream vintage train chugs in to the Mettupalaiyam station, that’s outside Chennai, for a journey uphill, towards Ooty {officially known as Udagamandalam}. You can hop on for a ride through the picturesque Nilgiris mountains. The toy train, a UNESCO World Heritage site, still runs on steam locomotives between Mettupalaiyam and Coonoor. From Coonoor to Ooty, it changes to a diesel locomotive for greater engine power.

You can book a spot in the first-class couch {limited seats, but more comfortable} or grab a chair in the second-class compartment {tends to be cramped} to travel through paddy fields, rugged mountains, brooks and tea estates. If you need further proof of the scenic views, just watch SRK dancing on top of a train {same train, same route} more than a decade ago and you’ll witness the gorgeous scenery that’s in store for you.

Train: Nilgiri Mountain Railway

Route: Mettupalaiyam – Ooty

Distance: 45.88 kms

Time Taken: 5 hours

Vasco Da Gama – Londa

vasco londa train journey is scenic

Dudhsagar Photo by: Sarangi B

Passengers travelling on this route keep their eyes peeled for one gloriously gorgeous sight. As the train snakes its way through the Goa-Karnataka border, the sound of the gushing waterfalls reaches your ears. The train then glides across a narrow bridge and the frothy, powerful waters of Dudhsagar flowing through deep gorges in the mountains comes into full view. It might be a short-lived show but so worth your ticket price.

Train {s}: Amravathi Express, Vasco Da Gama – Kacheguda Amravati Express, Velankanni Weekly Express, Vasco – Chennai Express

Route: Vasco Da Gama {Goa} – Londa {Karnataka}

Distance: 109 kms

Time Taken: 2 hours 53 minutes – 3 hours 25 minutes

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway 

darjeeling toy train route is scenic

Source: Wikipedia

A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Darjeeling Mountain Railway route is traversed through a quaint toy train that takes you through mist-covered hills. As the train makes its way from New Jalpaiguri to Ghum {the highest railway station in India} the blue train, letting out puffs of steam, passes through busy local bazaars, monasteries, around manicured gardens and beside the war memorial at Batasia Loop. At the end of your journey, when you reach Ghum, you can drop by the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway {DHR} museum that showcases the heritage of this train {including the Baby Sivok – the oldest engine of the DHR}.

Train {s}: Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

Route: New Jalpaiguri – Ghum

Distance: 88 kms

Time Taken: 7 hours 30 minutes

The Pamban Bridge 

pamban bridge connecting to rameshwaram island

Photo by: Arun

Spanning across the shimmering, emerald waters of The Palk Strait, the Pamban Bridge is a railway line that connects mainland India to the island of Rameswaram. Opened in 1914, the collapsible bridge {it routinely opens up to allow ferries to pass} offers panoramic views of the sea. For pilgrims who travel to the holy town of Rameswaram {it is from here, according to Hindu mythology, that Rama built a bridge across to Sri Lanka to save Sita}, the breathtaking sights assure them of the presence of the divine.

Train {s}: Boat Mail, Rameswaram Madurai Passenger, Rameswaram – Kanyakumari Express and others

Route: Depends on the train taken

Distance: 161 kms onwards

Time Taken: 3 hours 50 minutes onwards

Karjat – Lonavala

This short train journey is a true showcase of the splendour of the Western Ghats. We recommend a trip during the monsoons when the mountains come draped in lush, green foliage and the waterfalls rush down is gusto. The train also takes you through the rustic settlements of Thakurwadi, the rugged Monkey Hills and through the charming hill station of Khandala.

Train {s}: Siddheshwar SF Express, Mumbai – Pandharpur Fast Passenger, Ajmer – Mysuru Express, Deccan Queen and many more

Route: Kajrat – Lonavala

Distance: 28 kms

Time Taken: 43 – 49 minutes

Guwahati – Silchar 

Nothing captures the abundant natural beauty of Assam like the train journey from Guwahati to Silchar. You’ll travel through valleys, lord over thick, unspoiled forests {the train passes by on elevated bridges}, choo-choo along the River Jatinga and encounter the endless tea plantations that dot the Barak Valley. If this isn’t a slice of heaven, we don’t know what is.

Train {s}: Guwahati – Silchar Fast Passenger

Route: Guwahati – Lumding- Silchar

Distance: 379 kms

Time Taken: 13 hours 15 minutes

Ratnagiri – Mangalore

konkan railway has a scenic route

Photo by: Vinayaraj

An engineering marvel, the Konkan Railways’ taming of unyielding mountains and an unfriendly terrain {landslides are reportedly common here} is no mean achievement. Settle in for the ride and roller-coaster through the curves and bends of the Sahyadri Range, pass by serene waterfalls and traverse through rivers and lakes.

While on the topic of the Konkan Railway, we’d also like you to make room for the Mandovi Express that runs between Mumbai and Goa. One of the most well-known scenic train routes, you can feast your eyes on a variety of landscapes. From charming villages to sweeping vistas of the sea, abundant forests, bright-green paddy fields and a series of dark tunnels.

Train {s}: Mandovi Express

Route: Mumbai – Goa

Distance: 581 kms

Time Taken: 11 hours 35 minutes

The Kangra Valley Railway 

kangra valley railway route is scenic

Photo by: G Karunakar

This journey through the sub-Himalayan region is sure to send your spirits soaring. The Kangra Valley Railways gracefully makes its way through a maze of valleys and hills before dramatically changing the background to snow-clad mountains of the Dhauladhar range. Many say that these mountains are the abode of the gods and goddesses. And looking at the picture-perfect scenes around you, you’ll tend to acknowledge that the Gods sure do have an eye for stunning real estate.

The Kangra network is one of two mountain railways that make their way though Himachal Pradesh. The Kalka-Shimla is the other one and is equally awe-inspiring. The bogies of the toy train {there are 5 of them}, that’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, rolls through enchanting pine forests and through looming mountains. The Barog to Shimla stretch of this journey is particular captivating and much of the journey is dotted by tunnels, over 800 bridges, and over 900 curves and bends.

Train {s}: Pathankot – Joginder Nagar Kangra Valley Passenger

Route: Pathankot – Joginder Nagar

Distance: 164 kms

Time Taken: 9 hours 10 minutes

Train {s}: Kalka Shimla NG Passenger, Kalka Shimla Rail Motor, Shivalik Deluxe Express, Himalayan Queen, and Kalka Shimla NG Express

Route: Kalka – Shimla

Distance: 94 kms

Time Taken: 4 hours 40 minutes – 5 hours 20 minutes

Jaisalmer –  Jodhpur

While other train journeys highlight India’s verdant abundance, the Jaisalmer-to-Jodhpur route is made magical by its journey through the golden sands of the Thar Desert. You can spend time gazing at tribal settlements, wandering camels and watching sand dunes collect.

Train {s}: Jaisalmer – Jodhpur Express

Route: Jaisalmer – Jodhpur

Distance: 300 kms

Time Taken: 6 hours 45 minutes

Banihal – Baramulla

winter time the banihal baramulla route is pretty

Photo by: PP Yoonus

Built in high-density earthquake zones, in difficult terrains, through hot summers and bitingly cold winters — the Banihal – Baramulla stretch is an engineering triumph, to say the least. As you pass through hundreds of bridges and tunnels, you’ll be treated to the sight of deep valleys and the towering Shivalik Mountain Range. And it is only going to get better. The stretch is being expanded to include the world’s highest train bridge.

We also recommend a ride on the Qazigund – Baramulla stretch {same train} during a snow-filled winter. The graceful Chinar  trees sprinkled with snow flakes and the icy mountain views will warm your heart and fill it with glee.

Train {s}: Baramulla Banihal DMU

Route: Banihal – Baramulla

Distance: 29 kms

Time Taken: 34 minutes

Featured image of Nilgiri Mountain Railway by: NS Mohan