The Deccan Odyssey, India
Gliding like a blue limousine through the lush forests and historic cities of India, the Deccan Odyssey luxury train is one of the most sought-after rail experiences in Asia. Operated by of the Golden Eagle Luxury Train company (think the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian and Danube Express), passengers are in safe, white-gloved hands, as they travel from Mumbai around the sub-continent.
Launched in 2004, the train operates rail routes in both Northern and Southern India, showing guests World Heritage Site, forts, sacred lands and Palaces. Oozing opulence and glamour, its carriages are Inspired by the imperial carriages used by the Maharajas, with each coach inspired by a different dynasty. It’s one of the few trains in the world to offer an onboard spa and is perfect for first-time visitors to India – offering itineraries to Agra (for the Taj Mahal), Jaipur and the sacred Ganges.
Prices from: $6,734
Departing from: Mumbai
Journey length: 7 nights
The Deccan Odyssey route
Two unique itineraries are currently offered on the Deccan Odyssey train, exploring either Northern or Southern India and both departing from Mumbai. The Darjeeling Mail itinerary takes passengers on a journey across Northern India, coast to coast from the Aravian Sea to the Bay of Bengal. Stops include Udaipur, Jaipur, Delhi, Agra (for the Taj Mahal) and Darjeeling, with the journey terminating in Kolkata.
Guests looking to explore India’s southern hinterlands should book onto the Madras Mail itinerary, showing off the peaceful backwaters and sandy beaches of the region. Guests opting for this itinerary will start in Mumbai, before heading south to the coastal state of Goa. Stops at Ooty, Kochi (Cochin), Madurai, Pondicherry and Chennai (Madras) are also on the schedule, before the train pulls into to its final destination of Hyderabad.
The Deccan Odyssey train
The Deccan Odyssey is one of the finest trains in India, with 21 carriages made up of 11 sleeper cars and the rest housing incredible facilities like two restaurants, the Mumbai Hi bar, a lounge, conference centre and even a health spa. In-keeping with the imperial Maharaja theme, each luxury carriage is inspired by different royal eras of the Maharashtra rule.
With motif carpets and royal blue seating, the lounge car is for relaxing with a book and looking out the window, while the sultry bar car is great for nightcaps, aperitifs or a glass of fine wine. For customers looking to do some work, a conference car is on band with high-tech audio-visual equipment and hospitality services. Rare even for a luxury train, their Deccan Odyssey even boats as health spa on wheels, a whole car offering pampering spa and massage therapies.
Echoing the taste of maharajas from the past, cabins on the train are decked out in sumptuous colours, rich oak panelling and gold touches, but luckily combine all the modern amenities. All cabins are air conditioned and equipped with internet connectivity, en-suite shower room, personal safe, telephone, separate living room with ornate furniture, an entertainment system with DVD player and music channels and 24-hour butler service.
Two suite categories are available on the train, the standard Deluxe Suite, of which there are 40, and the extravagant Presidential Suite, of which there are two. Deluxe suites are for two guests and offer twin or double beds, while Presidential Suites can host three adults or two adults and two children, with two bathrooms in each suit.
Food and drink
Dining in one of the Deccan Odyssey’s two dining cars is a very special affair. For one, the interiors are reminiscent of a grand Maharaja’s Palace, all cream and gold with rich red carpets, white tablecloths and fine china. The train has two multi-cuisine cars, Peshwa I and Peshwa II, each serving a different menu and attended to by stewards in traditional Maharashtrian attire.
Meals on offer are a mix of Indian, oriental, continental, Maharashtrian, Goan and Chinese cuisines, and chefs design a new three- to four- course meal at every destination. Breakfast and dinner are served on board in one sitting, with lunch and afternoon tea usually taken off the train at one of the scheduled stops or excursions. A bar car, named Mumbai Hi, is also on hand offering wines and spirits from around the world, with an equally appealing menu of soft drinks.
All guided excursions are included in the train fare, and these vary according to the itinerary. Highlights include a trip to the Taj Mahal in Agra, a safari in the Ranthambhore National Park, spa sessions in local hotels, a visit to the Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and high tea at the Laxmi Vilas Palace – still a royal residence today.
Dress code on the Deccan Odyssey
Dress for day is smart casual, with comfortable shoes needed for off-train excursions. Evenings on board call for smart attire.
While there are no age restrictions, the majority of travellers are aged 55+, the average age being 64.
Along with accommodation, all meals, soft drinks with meals, valet service, still camera fees and guided off train excursions are all included in the fare. Taxes, laundry, alcoholic beverages, soft drinks outside of mealtimes, transfers are gratuities are not included in the price, with the line recommending a gratuity of $125 per passenger for the entire journey.
Pros and cons
This is a luxury train journey so you’ll enjoy first class service and comfort whilst on board. The only real con is that you might feel like you’re seeing a sanitised version of India at times.