Palace On Wheels was the first luxury train started by the Railway Department. Even though Karnataka is well known for its tourism it never had its own Palace on Wheels. There has been talk about it for a while and most of the plans were on paper for a long time.
Finally Karnataka has its own luxury train. Karnataka State Tourism is calling the train its ‘heart and soul’ – The Golden Chariot was flagged off on February 2, 2008 by Smt. Pratibha Patil, the President of India. This train will be going commercial from March 10, 2008. Destinations covered on the route are,
It should be noted that Halebidu, Hampi, Badami and Aihole are World Heritage sites. The train is equipped with comforts one could imagine. It has an inter-continental and local cuisines (Nalapaka and Ruchi), a lounge bar where people can taste the finest wines and spirits, a world class spa and gym.
The train has 18 coaches named after the dynasties who ruled Karnataka, 11 passenger coaches and each cabin fully furnished with modern day amenities like Wifi connectivity, plasma TVs and attached baths. The interiors of cabins have been inspired from the Mysore and Belur Halebid schools of art and architecture.
A conference chariot will be procured and attached to the train by October 2008 for corporates to make chartered trips. There are plans to introduce GPS systems on the TV sets in each of the rooms on the train. These will show real-time location of the train and the route it is taking.
In June 2008 the Government decided to introduce shorter trips on the Golden Chariot. The highlights are,
- 3-day, 4-day packages soon
- Tariff likely on a pro-rata basis
- Tourists can take Bangalore-Hassan, Hospet-Bangalore options
- Overnight stay at Jungle Lodges and Resorts, Kabini
- Passengers in 80:20 international to domestic ratio expected
Update in 2009
A year after Karnataka’s flagship luxury train, The Golden Chariot, started chugging along, the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) is satisfied with the way it has been doing. The current occupancy levels are 35% and such low level occupancy is expected in first five years of operation. The normal occupancy levels are 40-50%.
Majority of the passengers are foreigners.
South India Tour
Golden Chariot, which has managed to find a place among the world’s best — the only Indian luxury train to do so as per recent lists — will soon begin to offer two-week long trips across South India. If all goes well then from October this year.
The Golden Chariot will, for one week, will go along the current route of heritage destinations in Karnataka. In the second week, it will travel along Coimbatore, Madurai, Kanyakumari, Trivandrum, and Kochi and then enter into Karnataka again. Passengers will be able to opt for either a two-week long journey, one of the two weeks or shorter packages for a few days, all differently priced.
The fares along the Kerala and Tamil Nadu route will be 20 percent higher than the current fares.
The first of these fully chartered trips will start from march 2010. The flagship luxury train will cover most of South India namely Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
The Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) idea is to introduce passengers to most of South India’s tourist hotspots in about two week’s time. One week the train will go along the usual Golden Chariot route and the next week it will travel along the other states. Tourists can opt for just one week long trips too.
The trip in Karnataka costs a little more at about $485 per person per day.
Golden Chariot Route Map
- Golden Chariot to also cover Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
- New route: Coimbatore – Madurai – Kanyakumari – Trivandrum – Kochi and re-enter Karnataka.
- Off-board destinations to include Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, Madurai, Kovalam beach and Kochi.
- Trip costs approximately $450 per person per day.