The Maharajas’ Express is one of only a handful of luxury trains operating in India. The 19-car train service provides an unparalleled way of seeing some of the best-known sites in the north and west of the country in comfort and style. Your highpoint could be marvelling at the Taj Mahal, getting close to a tiger in Ranthambore or meeting a living royal. The balance between dining on the train, daytime train travel and excursions by coach, is well judged. The time spent travelling passes in a whirl of princely estates, palaces and forts, learning about the style of those who lived in them and rubbing shoulders with their descendants. All the while you’ll enjoy the remnants of princely pomp, perhaps working off your lunch with the maharana and high tea with the maharaja with a few chukkas of elephant polo. This glamorous passage, from Bombay to Delhi, is the only way to see India.
Following a chauffeur-driven transfer to the airport, ease into your holiday with a complimentary stint in the VIP airport lounge, before your overnight flight to Delhi.
Begin your trip by freshening up after your journey at your base in Delhi, the Imperial, a grand landmark hotel that makes the perfect entry point to India; grand, luxurious and very elegant. An impressive blend of Victoriana, colonial and Art Deco, the Imperial is undoubtedly Delhi’s finest hotel. The smart public areas and restaurants, replete with outstanding works of art, will make you feel like a Rajah, while the hotel’s location means that there are museums, theatres, monuments, parks and cultural sites at your doorstep. When your senses are suitably overwhelmed after a packed day’s sightseeing, retreat to the hotel to relax with a soak in the tub in your marble bathroom, a dip in the hotel’s refreshing reflection swimming pool or perhaps unwind with a treatment or massage at the hotel’s spa, Refreshed, change for dinner then enjoy a drink in the colonial atmosphere of the renowned 1911 Bar before embarking on a Southeast Asian culinary adventure in The Spice Route, regarded as one of the best restaurants in India. There’s even a resident astrologer so that you can divine what your future holds.
Start your day with a morning spent on an optional tour, exploring the city in greater depth in the company of a top guide. Discover the 16th-century Red Fort, home to the Mughal kings, see the Raj Ghat, a poignant memorial to Mahatma Gandhi and admire the grand architecture of the medieval Jama Masjid mosque. Step off the tree-lined boulevards and immerse yourself in the hurly burly of sprawling Chandni Chowk market for a flavour of local life. In the evening we’ll whisk you to Safdarjung Station where you’ll get your first glimpse of the classic Maharajas’ Express. Board the train and having settled into your cabin dress for dinner and take a seat in the dining car for a gourmet meal as you travel across country to Agra, in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.
Disembark from the train early to spend the day discovering the Taj Mahal, which still has the power to move people, even after all the times it is seen in photographs or on television. We suggest that you rise early in order to be able to appreciate the changing colours of sunrise on its white marble façade, before you tuck into a champagne breakfast at Taj Khema, a hotel that not only has front-row seats for viewing early morning activity at the gleaming mausoleum but was built on a mound formed from the digging of its foundations. In the afternoon delve deeper into Agra’s architectural wonders and secret corners or relax in your private cabin before the train departs and rolls on to Ranthambore National Park.
As the train pulls up at the platform in Ranthambore, prepare for a safari in the company of a top guide. Let them maximise your chances of spotting a tiger and look out for jungle cats, jackals, sambar deer and wild boar as well, as you search for the elusive big cat. Return to the train to swap stories of sightings or near misses with fellow passengers over a delicious lunch and let yourself be transported to Jaipur in south Rajasthan. Spend the afternoon uncovering the treasures here with a trip to the Amber Fort, Hawa Mahal Palace and Jantar Mantar Observatory. Dinner that evening will be a feast at the City Palace.
Pull back the blinds in the morning to reveal the fringes of the desert before you pull into Bikaner. After a leisurely breakfast on board the train, join an excursion to Lalgarh Palace, Deshnok Temple or a camel breeding farm, the latter of which lies at the heart of this region of Rajasthan’s local industry. You’ll explore Junagarh Fort where artefacts include a Foe-Frightening Kettle Drum and a pair of ivory slippers. Finish the day in the desert, processing through the dunes in an authentic canopied camel cart that allows you to immerse yourself in desert culture before you arrive at a torchlit encampment for a romantic barbecue dinner, folk dancing and music, all the while backed by rolling dunes and laid out below a stunning starscape.
Cross the desert during the night to reach Jodhpur. In a departure from the rounds of regal meetings, join a guided excursion to meet a local Bishnoi tribal group, who live in dung-and-straw huts and still adhere to traditional practises, and take part in a tea ceremony. Or, if you’d prefer to pamper yourself, try a trip to a city spa hotel for a rejuvenating treatment. Spend the afternoon exploring the Mehrangarh Fort that rises above the cobalt-blue jumble of houses and let a local guide show you the must-see sights. Celebrate this enchanting city with a glamorous dinner and drinks at an exclusive venue.
Next, the train reaches Udaipur, held by many to be Rajasthan’s most romantic city. In the company of a local guide, explore the city’s timeless lanes, incense-filled temples and numerous havelis as you visit the City Palace and Crystal Gallery, where every artefact, from a fly-whisk holder to a bed, is made from crystal. Spoil yourself with lunch sat beneath giant chandeliers at the Fateh Prakash Palace, one of the most exclusive addresses in the city before spending the afternoon searching out treasures in the bustling old bazaar. There’s a chance for you to visit a vintage car collection owned by one of Rajasthan’s royal families or witness an evening light show illuminate the City Palace before you retire to the train.
In Sevaliya leave the train to travel by road to Balasinor in Gujarat and see why the region is nicknamed India’s Jurassic Park by letting a local archaeologist lead you through its unique history, with a chance to see the fossilised remains of some of the dinosaurs that roamed the region, including the carnivore Rajasaurus Narmadensis, who hunted here 65 million years ago. Meet local tribespeople who make the region their home today before enjoying an exclusive invitation to join the Balasinor royal family for lunch.
Enjoy a final farewell breakfast onboard as you approach Mumbai. Step down from the train one more time to be whisked to a luxury boutique base in the heart of the city. From the landmark Taj Mahal Palace, itself an opulent oasis of calm amid the chaos of the city where the extravagant interiors are decorated with Italian marble, Belgian chandeliers and works of art, many of them antiques. Attentive staff will anticipate your every whim and if you’re staying in the Palace wing you’ll have access to 24-hour butler service, along with an in-house Vedic astrologer. Try a tailored yoga or meditation class, or escape in serious style on board the hotel’s luxury yacht. Back on land again, eat your way around the world with menus from a range of countries in half a dozen restaurants alongside the best of classic and modern Indian cuisine.
Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner included
A private driver will collect you and bring you to Mumbai’s international airport ahead of your scheduled daytime flight back to the UK.
"This journey is one of the most luxurious and interesting ways to experience India. There's everything from lunch with a royal family to glamorous drinks and camel-cart journeys. If you're lucky you might even spot Bengal tigers in Ranthambore, while city palace feasts and a visit to the simply magnificent Taj Mahal add to what will be an unforgettable, luxury holiday."
Year Round from: £6,500 pp