A Train Tour: The Palace on Wheels
If you have limited time, one of the most exciting and convenient ways to see Rajasthan is aboard the Palace on Wheels. This train, which runs August through April, takes you on one of the most luxurious rail journeys in the world, through a region well known for its historic architecture, varied wildlife, and heady culture.
The Journey Begins
The seven-night-and-eight-day journey begins in Delhi every Wednesday, from Safdarjung railway station, from where you travel to Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, with its "pink" city, forts, palaces, and ornately outfitted elephants. From there you travel to Ranthambhore, where you might spot tigers in the wild, and Chittaurgarh—at the heart of chivalrous Mewar state. Next stop is Udaipur, the city of lakes, you have a chance to lunch at the famous Lake Palace hotel (the James Bond movie Octopussy was filmed here). Then you continue on across the desert to Jaisalmer, whose fort is a vision in sandstone, and to Jodhpur with its magnificent and well-preserved Mehrangarh Fort. The last leg of the journey takes you to Bharatpur, which bird-watchers, especially, will enjoy, and finally Agra, where the stunning, ethereal Taj Mahal is the crowning experience of the breathtaking week before you return to Delhi.
The destinations, however, are only half the fun. The train's 14 splendid coaches are replicas of those once owned by the viceroy of colonial India and the rulers of the princely states of Rajputana, Gujarat, and Hyderabad, and the plush accommodations allow you to sink blissfully into an unforgettable experience of India's sophisticated royal past while watching rural scenery through elegant, wood-frame picture windows. Bedchambers have private baths, while the train's shared facilities include two dining cars and a lounge coach with a bar and library. Service is warm and attentive, and each coach has a captain and an attendant.
Your ticket on board this opulent train—it's about $5,390 per person for standard single occupancy for the whole trip (there are hefty surcharges over the Christmas–New Year period and lower fares in September and April)—covers taxes, all meals, including those taken off the train, entrance fees to every monument and national park, elephant, camel, jeep, rickshaw, and boat rides, and cultural entertainment. Beverages (alcoholic and nonalcoholic), camera fees, Wi-Fi and some other items are not included. The Palace on Wheels' well-planned route allows you to take in a lot in a week, though it's more antiseptic than the typical India experience and some travelers don't appreciate being herded around in a group.