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Monday, March 06, 2017

The Golden Chariot Train: Explore South India like Royalty

Dining on the golden chariot train is nothing short of a surreal experience

‘The Golden Chariot!’ Do remember this name as it is bound to become a sensation in the travel circles of South India!




Train journeys have that romantic old world charm and thus are popular all over the world. Throw in regal luxury, outstanding levels of service, a special culinary experience and the best destinations of that region and you have a travel product that commands awe and respect. The Golden Chariot train is one such luxury holiday experience. It offers a luxury holiday concept that is the first of its kind in South India and if it has to be compared with a similar travel product idea, I would compare it to the ‘Palace on Wheels’ train from the North of India.



The Golden Chariot train is pure luxury on wheels! And I am not saying this because I read about it. I am saying this because I experienced it for myself when I traveled on the Golden Chariot train about 5 weeks back. I lived on this uber luxurious train for 8 days and 7 days while we went on the ‘Pride of South’ route that takes people through the best tourist attractions of Karnataka and then ends at the beaches of Goa.

The Golden Chariot Train takes one on a luxurious tour across the marvels of Karnataka

Right from the time I stepped foot into this train to the time I sadly got off, I was love struck and could be found smiling from ear to ear. That’s what happens when you are pampered continuously while exploring the best of Karnataka in total luxury.

Let’s Discuss Facilities on Board the Train

Luxurious rooms inside the Golden Chariot Train

I have to  tell you about how the train looks inside. And I will definitely not be surprised if you don’t believe everything I say.

Super bathroom in the room of the Golden Chariot Train

Let’s start with the rooms. There are no berths, but full fledged centrally air conditioned private rooms with double beds or twin beds (depending on your request), LCD television, a table with chair, attached bathroom with running hot and cold showers, lots of electrical charging points and facilities that we typically associate with 4 or 5 star hotels. There are 4 such rooms in each compartment along with a common lounge area to read the newspaper, to enjoy a cup of coffee or to simply stretch your legs. And each compartment has its own private butler who is on call 24 hours every day and who offers an un-paralleled level of service.

Lounge area - Golden Chariot Train

Each compartment on the train is named after a famous kingdom of the South, like Hoysala, Vijayanagara, Chalukya, etc. My home for these 7 nights/8 days was in the Vijayanagara kingdom.

Super luxurious dining area on the Golden Chariot Train

A couple of train cars away was the business center, spa salon and gym. Yes, a moving gym. And I worked out a couple of days while the train was moving. It was quite an experience.

Gym on the Golden Chariot Train

Then comes the twin dining areas. One compartment is devoted to a kitchen and breakfast dining area, while the other one is devoted to a lunch/dinner dining area.

Each coach on the Golden Chariot Train comes with its own coach attendant

After the dining cars is the bar lounge where live performances, parties and celebrations are held. And then after it are the rooms again.

I think in overall, the train can accommodate about 50 to 60 guests. This is in addition to the staff.

Pampered with Excellent Service

Customer Service like no other - The Golden Chariot Train

While the train in itself is definitely a unique luxurious holiday product, no holiday is complete without that special feeling. If I had to pick one standout feature about this train trip, I would have to say ‘Mind blowing Hospitality’. Right from the operations manager to the chef and from the butlers to the waiters and other service personnel, everyone had just one thing in mind and that was to please their guest. Their smiling faces, their humble demeanor, their attention to detail and their noble intentions of ensuring the best holiday for the guest won me over. To me, luxury without hospitality is empty. And here, I had both in good measure and hence was pampered like never before.

One can spend hours admiring the beauty of Hoysaleswara temple, Halebid

A special thanks to all the super knowledgeable tour guides who joined us at different destinations and shared their incredible knowledge with us.

Heavenly Food

Food fit for the kings - served on the Golden Chariot Train for all meals

As someone who has traveled by train in India a lot, I don’t have nice things to say about the food served on board. But, at the Golden Chariot, it was the other extreme and by that I mean a very pleasant one. Five star quality food and real delicious at that was served at every meal on board. The chef on board personally attended to everyone’s dietary needs and other whims and fancies and unleashed his culinary riches that pleased one and all.

Absolutely yummy Mango delight served on board the Golden Chariot Train

Every single bite that I had was so good that I don’t know where to start. I could have just lived on the desserts served or may be just the soups. Both of them were absolutely delicious. The soups were so good that I would eagerly wait for the soup as if it were the star attraction. Now, that’s not something that you hear every day.

Black Currant Mouse served on board the Golden Chariot Train

There was a different menu for each meal. There were two options for vegetarians and two options for meat lovers. Cuisines ranged from continental to a wide variety of Indian styles. Irrespective of day or meal, food on board the Golden Chariot was like an experience in itself. The well thought through multiple courses with the fantastic array of choices are a sure way to give you that heavenly experience. I certainly found my slice of heaven and unfortunately, a few extra pounds too.

Well Stocked Bar

Monkey on train - Badami Railway Station, Karnataka

While the kitchen on board was top class, I have to say that the bar was not too far behind. Stocked with all the top international labels, the bartenders always found a way to add a buzz to the already pleasurable experience. Even though you have to pay extra for the alcoholic beverages, a good drink is much appreciated after a long day of exploring the sights or even after a long relaxing spa session.

2 Different Routes to Explore South India

The Golden Chariot Train - Many worlds, One Voyage

The Golden Chariot Train plies on two different routes. One is called the ‘Pride of the South’, while the other is called the ‘Southern Splendor’. The Pride of South (that I was on) starts at Bangalore and goes via Mysore, Srirangapatna, Kabini Tiger Reserve, Shravanabelagola, Belur, Halebid, Hampi, Badami, Pattadakkal and Goa before returning to Bangalore. The Southern Splendor on the other hand starts at Bangalore and goes via Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, Thanjavur, Madurai, Trivandrum, Aleppey and Kochi before returning to Bangalore. Both trips last 8 days and 7 nights.

The gorgeous looking Golden Chariot Train - a palace on wheels of Karnataka

The trains on both these routes ply only on pre-defined days.

I Loved this Experience

The Golden Chariot Train of Karnataka - A luxurious train journey

It is very difficult not to love a romantic and luxurious train journey. And especially so when you are treated to unbelievably good hospitality, heavenly food and a lifetime experience. The train is perfect for all kinds of people – international visitors, domestic visitors, romantic couples, families with kids, elderly people and many others. I would definitely recommend it to all. It is a bit expensive, but it is worth it. Especially, if you wish to celebrate something. And do keep an eye out for offers and discounts. When I was traveling, The Golden Chariot was offering a 40% discount to Indian nationals.

How to Book?

Golden chariot parked at Badami railway station

If you wish to know more details, itinerary, costs, etc., I would recommend you reach out directly to the Golden Chariot team through their website or through any of their authorized travel agents and tour operators. Remember, the Golden Chariot train plies only on fixed dates.

My 8 Days on the Golden Chariot Train

In case you wish to know details about the 8 days on the train, here is a sneak peek:

Day 1 – Dumbstruck at Bangalore


It all started with an orientation program at the Taj West End and a quick visit to the ISKCON temple. What happened afterwards was a feeling of being dumbstruck and happy at the same time. After all, I had set my sights on my luxury home for the next 8 days. It was a moment of celebration, introductions and that’s where the journey began.

Day 2 – Mysore and Kabini Tiger Reserve

Elephant and dry Kabini lake bed

Pit stop one was Mysore’s Amba Vilas Palace and then off to Kabini Tiger Reserve for a evening jeep safari in jumbo land where we spotted all animals except the big cats. We stayed overnight at the peaceful Kabini River Lodge.

Day 3 – Kabini Tiger Reserve, Srirangapatna

Beautiful otters come out to play at Kabini Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

The 3rd day was the only morning that didn’t begin in the train. Rather, it began with a early morning boat safari at Kabini Tiger Reserve where we spotted otters and lots of birds. Post the safari we returned to the train, freshened up and explored the Tipu Sultan summer palace and Gumbaz. Dinner was at the lavish Lalith Mahal Palace.

Day 4 – Shravanabelagola, Belur and Halebid


Day 4 onwards, the train kept moving. The first half of the morning was the climb to the massive monolith of Baahubali at Shravanabelagola. The 2nd half was spent exploring the rich sculpted beauties of Hoysaleswara Temple at Halebid and Chennakeshava temple at Belur.

Day 5 – Hampi


The 5th day was all Hampi. From the view points to the ruins and from the river side sunset to the bazaars, we visited all the highlights of this medieval kingdom.

Day 6 – Pattadakkal and Badami


I was excited on the 6th morning as I was visiting my favorite temple complex in India – Pattadakkal, the school of temple architecture. Along with the cave temples of Badami, 7th century Pattadakkal is the gem of the Chalukya era and I think it laid the foundation for the architecture of the rest of the temples in India. This was also the first day spent on the train and we were moving west deep into the Western Ghats.

Day 7 – Goa

Se Cathedral, Old Goa, India

Morning saw us arrive at Madgaon in Goa. The churches and Old portuguese homes of Velha Goa were on the itinerary for the morning. Afternoon was relaxing at the beach in typical Goan fashion. The evening saw us return to the train and begin our journey back to Bangalore.

Day 8 – Bangalore

After a final breakfast on the train and after wishing good bye to the entire crew, I slowly and sadly made my way back home.

Miscellaneous

All day trips to the various attractions were made in air conditioned Volvos managed by KSTDC along with super knowledgeable tour guides. While most of the meals were on the train, we did eat outside at the Lalith Mahal Palace, at Kabini River Lodge and at a 5 star hotel in Goa. The only night we didn’t sleep on the train was the night we stayed at Kabini River Lodge run by Jungle Lodges.



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