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, trains journey into otherwise inaccessible territories, giving you the chance to witness the scenic vistas this country has to offer in all their glory. You’ll travel through gushing waterfalls, precipices of mesmerising mountains, and chug alongside {and sometimes across} clear blue seas.

LBB picks out the most scenic train journeys that you can embark on in India.

Vasco Da Gama – Londa

Passengers travelling on this route should keep their eyes peeled for one gloriously gorgeous sight. As the train snakes its way through Goa – Karnataka border, the sound of the gushing waterfalls can already be heard. The train then glides across a narrow bridge, as the frothy, powerful waters of Dudhsagar, flowing through the deep gorges in the mountains come 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 km

Duration: 2 hours 53 minutes – 3 hours 25 minutes

Nilgiri Mountain Railway

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 km

Duration: 5 hours

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Darjeeling Mountain Railway route is traversed via 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 at 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: Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

Route: New Jalpaiguri – Ghum

Distance: 88 kms

Duration: 7 hours 30 minutes

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 with gusto. The train also takes you through the rustic settlements of Thakurwadi, the rugged Monkey Hills, and the charming hill station of Khandala.

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

Route: Karjat – Lonavala

Distance: 28 km

Duration: 43 – 49 minutes

Ratnagiri – Mangalore

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

Speaking of Konkan Railways, we’d also like to 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 on this one. From charming villages to sweeping vistas of the sea, abundant forests, bright-green paddy fields, and a series of dark tunnels; all in just one train journey.

Train: Ratnagiri – Mangalore Konkan Railways; Mandovi Express

Route: Ratnagiri – Mangalore; Mumbai – Goa

Distance: 554 km; 581 km

Duration: 9 hours 30 minutes; 11 hours 35 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: Guwahati – Silchar Fast Passenger

Route: Guwahati – Lumding – Silchar

Distance: 379 km

Duration: 13 hours 15 minutes

The Kangra Valley Railway

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 moving 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 trains {there are five of them} there are a UNESCO World Heritage site, rolling through enchanting pine forests and looming mountains. In this journey, the Barog to Shimla stretch is particularly captivating, and much of the journey is dotted by tunnels, bridges and sharp curves.

Train: Pathankot – Joginder Nagar Kangra Valley Passenger; Kalka Shimla NG Passenger, Kalka Shimla Rail Motor, Shivalik Deluxe Express, Himalayan Queen, and Kalka Shimla NG Express

Route: Pathankot – Joginder Nagar; Kalka – Shimla

Distance: 164 km; 94 km

Duration: 9 hours 10 minutes; 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 the empty 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 km

Duration: 6 hours 45 minutes

Banihal – Baramulla

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 along the towering Shivalik Mountain Range. And it only gets 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: Baramulla Banihal DMU

Route: Banihal – Baramulla

Distance: 29 kms

Duration: 34 minutes

Featured photo: Stephan Niewolik via Wikipedia [CC-BY-3.0]  

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