The Golden Chariot train is the only luxury train in South India. It gets its name from the Stone Chariot in historic Hampi, one of the many places it visits as it winds its way through the state of Karnataka. You'll travel through the night to different locations and have the day to explore them. The train is owned by the Karnataka Tourism Development Corporation, and operated by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation. It started in early 2008, making it one of the newer additions to the collection of luxury trains in India. Its logo is made up of a mythological animal with the head of an elephant and a body of a lion.
After being suspended for two years while undergoing a makeover, the Golden Chariot is scheduled to recommence running on March 22, 2020.
The train's refurbishment added several new features including newly upholstered furniture, curtains, renovated rooms and bathrooms, crockery and cutlery, fresh linen, smart TVs with subscriptions to streaming sites such as Netflix, and new eclectic global and local menus.
There are 11 themed purple and gold passenger carriages with a total of 44 cabins (four in each coach) and an attendant for every cabin. Each carriage has been named after a dynasty that ruled Karnataka -- Kadamba, Hoysala, Rastrakota, Ganga, Chalukya, Bhahamani, Adhilshahi, Sangama, Shathavashna, Yudukula and Vijayanagar.
The train also has two specialty restaurants, a lounge bar, business facilities, gym, and spa. One of the highlights is the performances by local artists in the train's Madira Lounge Bar, the interior of which has been designed as a replica of the Mysore Palace.
Routes and Departures
The Golden Chariot currently operates on only one route known as the six-night "Pride of the South" tour, encompassing Karnataka and Goa. The train leaves from Yeshwantpur Railway Station in Bangalore on Sundays and visits Bandipur National Park, Mysore, Halebidu, Chikmangalur, Hampi, Badami-Pattadakal-Aihole, and Goa (including Old Goa's churches and museum).
There are three scheduled departures so far in 2020: March 22, March 29, and April 12. The train will then take a break over the summer and monsoon months until October.
Foreigners pay $8,400 rupees for two people double occupancy, while the cost is 598,260 rupees for Indians and Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card holders. Single occupancy is $7,350 per person for foreigners, and 523,480 rupees for Indians and OCI card holders.
Rates include accommodation, meals, sightseeing tours, entrance fees to monuments, and cultural entertainment. Service charges, alcohol, spa, and business facilities are extra.
Should You Travel on the Train?
It's an excellent way to see south India in comfort, without any hassles. The route closely connects to culture, history, and wildlife, with the itinerary including stops at national parks and ancient temples. Excursions are well-organized. The main drawbacks are the costly price of alcohol on-board and the fact that the train stations are not always near the destinations. Although it is a luxury train, there's no formal dress code.
You can find out more information and make a reservation for travel on the Golden Chariot website. Travel agents also make reservations.