Note: The Golden Chariot has temporarily been suspended from operating. It is uncertain when it will restart.
The Golden Chariot train 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, which is operated by the Karnataka Tourism Development Corporation and started in early 2008, is one of the newer additions to the 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.
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 serving Indian and continental cuisine, 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 Timetables
The Golden Chariot has two routes: "The Pride of the South" runs through Karnataka and Goa, while the "Southern Splendor" is an expanded route that incorporates Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Both are for seven nights and operate from October to April each year.
"The Pride of the South" Route
There are one or two departures per month, always on a Monday. The train leaves Bangalore at 8 p.m. and visits Mysore, Kabini and Nagarhole National Park, Hassan (to see the giant statue of Jain saint Bahubali), Hampi, Badami, and Goa.
The train arrives back in Bangalore the following Monday morning at 11.30 a.m.
It's possible to travel on the train for part of the route, as long as minimum of three nights are booked.
"Southern Splendor" Route
There are one or two departures per month, always on a Monday. The train leaves Bangalore at 8 p.m. and visits Chennai, Pondicherry, Tanjavur, Madurai, Kanyakumari, Kovalam, Alleppey (Kerala backwaters), and Kochi.
The train arrives back in Bangalore the following Monday morning at 9 a.m.
Passengers can travel on the train for part of the route, as long as a minimum of four nights are booked.
"The Pride of the South" costs 22,000 rupees for Indians and 37,760 rupees for foreigners per person, per night, based on double occupancy. The total for seven nights is 154,000 rupees per person for Indians and 264,320 rupees per person for foreigners.
"Southern Splendor" costs 25,000 rupees for Indians and 42,560 rupees for foreigners per person, per night, based on double occupancy. The total for seven nights is 175,000 rupees per person for Indians and 297,920 per person for foreigners.
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 many 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 make a reservation for travel on the Golden Chariot by visiting the Karnataka Tourism Development Corporation's website. Travel agents also make reservations.