Karnataka on wheels

Karnataka on wheels
One State, many Worlds’ is the tag line of Karnataka Tourism and is a fitting testament to the State’s myriad sights. And if you have a week to explore the State, you can get an insight into this all aboard the Golden Chariot, the only luxury train in South India. Named after the iconic stone chariot that is the highlight of Hampi, the Golden Chariot has been operational since 2008 and is being run by the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC). The classy train done up tastefully in the majestic hues of purple and gold has 18 coaches, 11 of which are reserved for the guests. The train can accommodate 110 guests.

A true showstopper in its own right, the exterior of the train has various pictures depicting the wondrous sights of Karnataka. Named aptly after the various dynasties that once ruled Karnataka, each coach has four rooms that are tastefully done up in hues of beige and white.

The train offers two itineraries, of which the ‘Pride of Karnataka’ offers you a sneak peek into the heritage, history, architecture and wildlife of the State. The second route is called the ‘Southern Splendour’

and it covers four states of the south ­— Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala. The train runs from September to March each year. According to KSTDC, they do about three to four trips each month with an average 55% occupancy.

A trip down history

The Pride of Karnataka tour first takes you to Mysuru where you get to explore the incredible Amba Vilas Palace. The beautiful palace has Indo Saracenic architecture and colourful walls, ceilings and flooring. After a dose of royalty, we head to Kabini, which is one of the best wildlife sanctuaries in the State. With rich flora and fauna, it is famous for its safari and wildlife sightings. As part of the sightseeing, you are treated to a dose of history when you visit Tipu Sultan’s summer palace and his tomb in Srirangapatna. The next stop aboard this train is Hassan where you can see the unique 57-foot monolithic statue of Bahubali in Shravanabelagola.

The next stop is at the temples of Halebidu and Belur that are known for their intricate carvings. The next couple of days treat you to the enchanting sites of Hampi and Pattadakal. While Hampi’s ruins tell the story of a bygone era, it is also a great example of the fine architecture of the Vijayanagar period. The 10 temples at Pattadakal are a fine example of Chalukyan art and architecture. The last day is reserved for the ancient churches and idyllic beaches of Goa.

The highlight of this trip is that it offers you a slice of the many sights of Karnataka on a train and showcases a melange of culture, history, art, architecture and food. The various sights on this trip is a testament to what Karnataka as a state can offer.

While the trip is expensive, the team at KSTDC says that compared to other luxury trains in India, the Golden Chariot costs are affordable. “While it is a lot about the luxury and the niche experience, I would love to explore the sights in more detail. There should be more time allotted for sight seeing,” observes Chadda, a non-resident Indian who took the trip earlier this year.

Most of the occupants are foreigners. However, KSTDC wants more Indians to experience the train journey. From the people’s perspective, travellers today are willing to spend a lot more for unique experiences. “The ambience and royalty of the train make the experience truly memorable,” says Satish from Bengaluru who undertook the trip recently.

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