Palace on Wheels is one of the luxury trains in India that travels through the majestic landscapes of Rajasthan within India’s Golden Triangle. Powered by a traditional steam engine, the Palace on Wheels train made its inaugural journey in 1982. It was THIS train that started the era of luxury trains in India. This train has given rise to other luxury trains, such as the Maharaja Express.
As the name itself implies, the Palace on Wheels shuttles passengers to the most beautiful tourist places in India while onboard a luxury coach that was once used by Kings and Queens. It is like traveling through the country aboard a palace that is actually a train. It has an amazing final stop to see the famous Taj Mahal City in Agra as the culmination of the trip. The train was refurbished in the 1980s and was turned into a heritage train that perfectly defines the grandeur and style of the early maharajas of India. It is definitely bucket list-worthy!
I believe taking the Palace on Wheels train is definitely the most convenient and comfortable way to explore the stunning tourist places in North India.
Palace on Wheels India: Arrival at the Train
Just like with taking a cruise, you simply have to show up to the Palace on Wheels train and everything will be taken cared of. This is including your meals, guided excursions, and accommodations. In fact, you only have to unpack once unlike when you travel to the tourist places in India on your own where you need to pack and unpack from one hotel to the next.
Thus, taking the Palace on Wheels is great for those who want a hassle-free way to explore the country for the very first time. It’s perfect for those who are visiting the country alone and might get overwhelmed by the chaos. The tour’s hassle-free setup is also ideal for those who have a limited amount of time in the country but would like to take part in a week-long luxury tour to see more of the country of India.
The Palace on Wheels journey will begin in New Delhi, India’s capital city. Upon arriving, guests are greeted with flower garlands hung over the neck along with a tikka, where a red dot is splotched into your forehead. A band playing lively local music can be heard in the background. Typical of each train stop, there is always a lot of welcome celebrations going on before you actually get on to the train. Before the journey starts, guests are treated on a short tour of the train. Guests are then led to their own rooms before the train departs later in the evening as you unpack.
All in all, the Palace on Wheels India has a total of 14 coaches. The train interiors are lavishly decorated according to traditional Rajasthani designs reflecting glimpses of the earlier princely states. Each of the ornate carriages at the Palace on Wheels is named after the states of Rajasthan. Every carriage will have a carriage captain and an assistant who will take care of all the guests’ needs. The cabins are equipped with modern amenities such as Wi-Fi, satellite TV, private bathroom, and air conditioning. There are also two restaurant cars, a lounge area, well-stocked bar and a wellness center where guests can enjoy a spa package that could include massages and treatments.
Palace on Wheels: Palace on Wheels Itinerary
One of the great things about the Palace on Wheels India is its epic itinerary. The tour covers the main tourist places in North India in a short time frame. Sure, the Palace on Wheels ticket price might be pricier as compared to the other luxury India tours, but it is definitely worth it. Unlike the usual Rajasthan Tour, where you have to travel in between cities and states by bus and check in and out of hotels many times, the Palace on Wheels eliminates all these hassles.
Starting in Delhi to Agra and passing through the various cities in Rajasthan, the train travels to more than 3,000 kilometers in an eight-day journey. It travels mostly at night so that guests can explore the tourist places in North India during the day. Here’s a glimpse of the tour’s itinerary.
- As mentioned, the Palace on Wheels itinerary starts in Delhi, India’s capital city. Since the Palace on Wheels is due to leave in the evening, you have the entire day to explore the capital city and discover its hidden gems on your own. Among the most interesting sights to check are:
The Royal Palace and Gardens (Rashtrapati Bhawan)
Agrasen Ki Baoli, which is a fascinating ancient step well
- After the warm and lively welcoming ceremony in Delhi, the Palace on Wheels itinerary takes you to Jaipur where the stunning Pink City greets you upon waking up. As part of the Golden Triangle India tour, Jaipur is one of India’s most popular tourist destinations. A royal welcome awaits guests complete with music and garlands, similar to the welcoming ceremony in Delhi, although for us on this stop, there was also lively music and two massive elephants to greet us. After a sumptuous lunch at the Rambagh Palace, guests are taken into a tour of the city onboard luxury buses. The tour covers some of the best tourist places in India such as the:
Albert Hall Museum
The fascinating Amber (Amer) Fort, with an optional elephant ride
Jal Mahal, a lovely palace set in the middle of Jaipur’s Man Sagar Lake.
- After Jaipur, the train’s next journey is Chittorgarh, a city where some of the best tourist places in India can be found, especially national parks and wildlife. Starting at dawn, guests will be taken to the Ranthambore National Park to take part in the Bengal Tiger Safari and witness a Bengal Tiger’s natural habitat up-close. After the safari, the train sets off to the city of Chittorgarh, home to the majestic Chittorgarh Fort. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Chittorgarh Fort is one of the largest forts in the country. At sunset, guests are entertained with a sound and light show, which takes place against the fort’s magnificent walls.
Ranthambore National Park
Vijay Sthamb (Victory Tower)
Rana Kumbha’s Palace
Kalika Mata Temple
Mohar Magri (Hill of gold coins)
- The following day, the Palace on Wheels itinerary stops at the lovely city of Udaipur, known as India’s White City. The highlight of the day is a boat ride to the scenic Lake Palace Hotel. The Lake Palace Hotel, along with its impressive complex that opens up to the panoramic views of the lake, is definitely one of the most beautiful tourist places in India. Other visits include:
The City Palace
Fateh Sagra Lake
Saheliyon Ki Bari
- From Udaipur, the train Palace on Wheels itinerary take you to its next destination to the desert city of Jaisalmer. Here, guests are taken for a tour at the Jaisalmer Fort, a bustling living fort that’s filled with narrow winding alleyways and chaotic plazas. Exploring the fort is a great way to spend your afternoon. Make sure you check out the shops selling a wide array of goods, from leather products to bright scarves. There’s also a stop at the Gadisar Lake, which is said to be the only source of water in the entire city of Jaisalmer. Surrounded by temples, the lake was built by Jaisalmer’s first ruler, Raja Rawal Jaisal. After the stop, you will head back to the train for some relaxation before the later afternoon excursion where you will head to the Thar Desert for an exciting camel ride in the sand dunes. What an adventure! Again, the major attractions are:
Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli
Desert National Park – Thar Desert
- Famously known as the Blue City, Jodhpur is the next stop on your Rajasthan Tour aboard the Palace on Wheels. Photography enthusiasts will love this city, especially the stunning blue city views from the top of the Mehrangarh Fort. A 16th-century fort, the Mehrangarh Fort is one of the tourist places in North India that’s known for its beautiful Rajasthani architecture. There’s a turban tying lesson where guests can take part in, before heading to the Jaswant Thada, a cluster of magnificent white-marble cenotaphs. As a group, we decided to cut our tour a bit short and headed out on a tuk-tuk to go down inside the blue city.
- Needless to say, it was the most thrilling and exhilarating ride I have been on. The tour ends at Umaid Bhawan Palace, one of the world’s top hotels and home to the royal family of Jodhpur, where we were entertained underneath the stars outdoors by traditional Indian music and dance. A recap of the day will be:
Maid Bhawan Museum
Clock Tower & Sadar Market
Umaid Bhawan Palace
- Your Palace on Wheels India tour will not be complete without a visit to Agra, home to one of the most loved monuments in the world, the Taj Mahal. The Palace on Wheels itinerary has saved the best for last, choosing the Taj Mahal as its final destination. Agra is also home to other tourist places in India such as the Agra Fort. Thus, your day will start with a visit to the fort, which consists of a massive red sandstone fortress.
- A UNESCO World Heritage site, the fort is famously known as Shah Jahan’s prison, the Mughal emperor behind the Taj Mahal. From the Agra Fort, the tour will take you to the Taj Mahal, where you can spend the rest of the day exploring the splendor of this ivory-white marble mausoleum. The major stops for the day:
Agra Red Fort
Taj Mahal City
Palace on Wheels India: Tours
The sightseeing tours are among the main reasons why travelers to India will choose to book Palace on Wheels train when visiting the tourist places in India. Although the Palace on Wheels price is a bit expensive as compared to booking a traditional Rajasthan Tour or Golden Triangle Tour, the fantastic tour experience is definitely worth the cost.
Upon boarding the train, you’ll be given a pin, which serves as your entrance ticket to the places that you will be visiting. Unlike when you travel to the country on your own, you’ll no longer need to queue, purchase paper tickets, or book any tours in advance. You simply have to show your pin and you’ll be good to go! I call this a smart luxury experience.
During the tour, guests are organized into groups and there will be a guide from the train as well as a local guide who will be with the group at all times. If you need to go for a toilet break or need some food or water, simply ask your guide and they will gladly accommodate your needs.
The guides are very knowledgeable and accommodating and are sometimes entertaining. Every day during the tour, there will be large buses that will be waiting at the train station and will take the group to explore the best tourist places in India.
Palace on Wheels Train: Service on Board
India is known for its hospitality and this is clearly evident onboard the Palace on Wheels India. Aside from the carriage captain, there’s a pair of dedicated stateroom attendants or butlers in every cabin. Locally known as the khidmatgars, they are responsible for taking care of the guests’ needs.
This includes wake-up calls, tidying up the room, turndown service, and ensuring that the guests in their assigned cabin were able to wake up in time for their tours. The wake-up call will also come with a cup of tea or freshly brewed coffee delivered into your cabin if you would like.
At the end of the day, the khidmatgars will be happily waiting at the train station to welcome guests into the train and attend to your every need, including carrying your belongings back to the room. Onboard, your assigned butler will serve a steaming cup of chai masala along with a plate of delicious cookies. During mealtime, there’s a team of servers who will attend to the guests, serving multiple courses on silver platters. The team of servers is very friendly and professional and will even serve you extra food despite your protests.
Palace on Wheels India: Accommodations
When booking a Palace on Wheels India tour, the train will be your home for a week. The accommodations in the train are similar to the lavish accommodations at high-end hotels in India. Everything will be provided for a comfortable stay. There are 40 cabins in the train with either single or double beds. The beds are comfortable and you can have a good night’s sleep, enough to prepare you to explore India during the day. Typically, the train was moving at night, and I had no problem with the clicky-clack sound, but this may vary per person.
All the rooms are air-conditioned. There’s also a Wi-Fi connection, although it’s not fully reliable especially if the train passes through areas that do not have any 4G coverage. The room is decorated in the Rajasthani architecture, similar to the palaces in the past. These decors are a reminder of the royal times of Rajasthan when the Maharajas would use the train to travel across the country and the colors are typically royal blue, gold, red, green, and white.
Palace on Wheels Train: Food on Board
The never-ending food at the Palace on Wheels train starts from breakfast until dinner with set meal times. The menu features a wide range of dishes, from Indian to Western and Chinese delicacies. If you’re allergic to something or have any food restrictions, inform them when booking your ticket and they would be glad to prepare separate meals for you.
At breakfast, you can choose from made to order eggs, toast, bacon, Indian bread, sweet pastries, yogurt, and fruits. Breakfast meals are served with a cup of fresh juices, coffee or tea, depending on your choice. Most of the lunch meals during the tour will be taken at the restaurants and hotels in the cities you are visiting. What’s even great is that these lunches are enjoyed at some unique properties that open up to beautiful views. For instance, in Jodhpur, lunch was served at a luxury hotel that has a gorgeous pool and guests were allowed to take a refreshing dip in the pool after the meal. Sometimes, lunches will also be served on the train with menu choices similar to dinner.
Most of your dinners will be on the Palace on Wheels train and are almost always a feast! Each night, a set menu is prepared consisting of Indian and International dishes served by a team of gracious waiters traversing from the kitchen to the dining area. The dishes served are all delicious and cooked fresh. There are plenty of delectable Indian dishes that are not that spicy, which is ideal for all kinds of travelers. Of course, there are desserts at the end of every meal consisting of traditional Indian sweets as well as homemade ice cream served with masala tea or coffee.
The coffee, tea, water and juices that are served during your meals are included in your package. You will only pay for alcoholic beverages or soft drinks. Moreover, the coffee or tea that your personal butler serves to your room is also free, along with those little treats of delicious cookies and snacks.
Palace on Wheels Cost: Train Ticket Price
The Palace on Wheels price starts at $3,500 USD in the low season and could go up to $12,600 USD during the peak season. It is considered the cheapest luxury train in India. If you are traveling with a friend or your partner, you can share the cost of the room. Depending on the cabin that you will choose, the Palace on Wheels price should be between $7,000 USD and $12,600 USD in total.
The Palace on Wheels cost covers the tours, accommodation, food and all the services you receive during the entire duration of the tour. The train operates during the months of September until April and tends to get fully booked fast. So if you want to explore India on board the Palace on Wheels, you must plan ahead and book your train ticket at least two months ahead.
Palace on Wheels: Why it is a Must
I know most people are excited, yet anxious to travel the world. But some people feel more comfortable if someone else is handling a majority of the logistical issues. Things like language barriers and transportation to and from hotels and attractions. That is why the Palace on Wheels train tour package is a must. But why else is it a must?
- As mentioned before, the one-time packing and unpacking make this train ride an easy decision. For me, that is one of the best parts
- You can do more and see more of the country of India in much less time with a bigger enjoyment factor. The Palace on Wheels tour covers 1860 miles and most of that is done overnight. This allows you to see more Indian Tourist places during the day.
- With everything that is included in the Palace on Wheels, you will be saving money taking this luxury train in India as opposed to going hotel to hotel, which has to include additional transportation costs and food. Overall the price is a fair price for the experiences you will have. I call this a smart luxury experience.
Palace on Wheels Versus Maharaja Express
Aside from the Palace on Wheels train, there are other luxury trains in India that will take you on a unique luxury adventure across the country. One of these trains is the Maharaja Express. Just like the Palace on Wheels India, the Maharaja Express is also run by the Indian Railways in association with the Rajasthan Tourism. So what are the differences between these two luxury trains in India?
Launched in 1982, the Palace on Wheels is older compared to the Maharaja Express, which started its operations only in 2010. Most of the journeys offered by both of these luxury trains in India revolve around Rajasthan and covers most of the tourist places in North India, from Delhi to Agra. However, the Maharaja Express has more varieties as it covers more destinations, including Varanasi and Mumbai and offers five different trips. Being relatively new, the Maharaja Express is more expensive compared to the Palace on Wheels. The onboard facilities are more modern and are far more superior. In fact, the Maharaja train is equipped with a pneumatic suspension system, an innovative feature that provides a smooth and constant train ride experience, allowing passengers to have a sound sleep at night.
To compare the price, the Palace on Wheels price for the eight-day trip above starts at $3,500 USD while a three-night trip in the Maharaja Express starts at $3,850 USD per person. Because of the expensive price, the Maharaja Express has been voted the most expensive train in the world, while the Palace on Wheels train is voted the 4th luxurious train in the world and is considered the cheapest luxury train in India.
Deciding which train to choose for your luxury tour in India will depend on how much you can afford, luxury versus affordable luxury. If you would not mind spending more money for a more modern train ride experience in India, the Maharaja Express is recommended. However, if you would prefer to discover the best tourist places in India on a journey filled with romance and elegance of a bygone era while onboard the replica carriages of the coaches used by the Maharajas, then go for the Palace on Wheels India journey.
Palace on Wheels Train: Conclusion
The Palace on Wheels has everything you need for a luxurious train journey in India. If you’re traveling to the country for the first time and you think you cannot manage to explore the country on your own, the Palace on Wheels is highly recommended. It’s a great way to discover and explore the country’s stunning ancient architecture, while also learning about the people and its interesting culture and history. The Palace on Wheels journey may be one of the most fascinating holidays you get to experience in your entire life. The intense and unique experiences that you will gain from this holiday are priceless. After this trip, perhaps, you will be more excited to explore the country at your own pace or onboard another luxury train, such as the Maharaja Express.
Disclosure: As is common in the travel industry, I was provided with accommodations, meals and other compensation for the purposes of review by the Ministry of Tourism – Govt. of India. While it has not influenced my review, PointsandTravel.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. All Photos were taken by the author/or were given permission from the photographer. Affiliate links are located in this article.