As seen on TV… India by train
Retrace the days of the Raj with rail holiday specialist, Ffestiniog Travel
Joanna Lumley’s personal journey through India may have come to its end on ITV (catch up on all three episodes of Joanna Lumley’s India’ here) but viewers intrigued by this intoxicating destination have yet more TV treats in store, with Michael Portillo’s new series – Great Indian Railway Journeys – scheduled to start on BBC Two this autumn. Accompanied by a copy of Bradshaw’s ‘Handbook of Indian, Foreign and Colonial Travel’, first published in 1913 at the height of the British Raj, rail enthusiast Portillo journeys across India, riding on some of the world’s most exhilarating trains as he learns more about the history of these imperial railways and their impressive legacy.
Travel back to the days of the Raj on your own Indian odyssey with rail holiday specialist, Ffestiniog Travel, during a 21-day escorted tour of the three magnificent UNESCO-listed railways that served the former British Hill Stations: the Kalka Shimla Railway, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and the Nilgiri Rack Railway. One of Ffestiniog Travel’s collection of Connoisseur Rail Tours – designed to appeal to those with a specific passion for trains – Indian Hill Railways combines engineering excellence, fierce gradients and spectacular scenery, as well as free time to relax and explore independently, if so wished, to create a truly memorable itinerary.
This fascinating holiday starts with a two-night stay in the Sikh holy city of Amritsar, visiting the stunning Golden Temple and the Attari-Wagah frontier post, where the energetic and unusual ‘lowering of the flags ceremony’ that takes place on the India/Pakistan border each evening is an experience not to be missed. Travelling across the Punjab by rail to Ambala, the group then continues by road to Chandigarh and its famous Rock Garden, a striking 25-acre site, brimming with 2,000 statues, waterfalls and amphitheatres.
Visit the extensive workshops of the Kalka Shimla Railway before travelling by privately-chartered carriage on this remarkable line to Shimla, the former summer capital of British India, where sightseeing highlights include Rashtrapati Niwas (Viceregal Lodge), once the residence of the British Viceroy of India. Board a private steam charter to Shogi, using one of the original KC Class engines that were built for the line, camera at the ready as wonderful scenery and photo opportunities unfold. Vibrant Delhi is the next destination, reached by fast Shatabdi Express train, and is the group’s base for three nights. Tick off landmarks such as the India Gate, Rajpath and the famous Railway Museum, travel by rail to the sublime Taj Mahal and distinctive Red Fort at Agra, and enjoy some free time before setting off on the next exciting instalment of the tour.
After an overnight journey on the Rajdhani Express to New Jalpaiguri in West Bengal, join an optional afternoon visit to the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway’s (DHR) depot at Siliguri, followed by two days on the great line itself. Travelling by private steam charter in first class carriages, visit the DHR’s workshop before continuing on to Kurseong, a magnificent route that climbs to over 7,000 ft. using zig-zags and loops, with fabulous views. Day two continues from Kurseong, where the train winds its way up the main street and through several villages before reaching the summit at Ghoom and descending into Darjeeling. The next two days are spent at leisure, either sightseeing – Ffestiniog Travel includes an optional full-day excursion to the Teesta Valley (renowned for its tea production) and Kalimpong hill station – or exploring further on the DHR, before a farewell trip on the ‘Joy Train’ from Darjeeling, round the Bastasia Loop, and a visit to the DHR museum.
Next, fly south to Chennai (via Mumbai) and travel onwards by rail for an overnight stay in Coimbatore before departing early next morning for a wonderful ride on the metre gauge Nilgiri Rack Railway. Ascend the astonishing escarpment into the beautiful Blue Mountains for a two-night stay in Ooty, the last day of which is spent visiting Dodabetta Peak, the Botanical Gardens, a tea garden, and Coonoor railway station and shed, before returning to the hotel for a farewell BBQ.
Departing 18 February 2018, Indian Hill Railways costs from £4,995 pp (two sharing) including flights (London) to Amritsar (via Delhi) / from Mumbai, 19 nights’ B&B (in Amritsar, Chandigarh, Shimla, Delhi, Siliguri, Kurseong, Darjeeling, Chennai, Coimbatore and Ooty), 16 lunches and 12 dinners, all rail journeys, transfers and excursions as per the itinerary, and the services of a tour leader from London and throughout the holiday.
Ffestiniog Travel is owned by a Charitable Trust, the profits from which go to support the world-famous Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways. Established in 1974, the company offers escorted tours and tailor-made itineraries – including short breaks and group holidays for special interest clubs and societies – across the UK, Europe and worldwide.
For more information on Ffestiniog Travel’s tailor-made rail holidays, ticket-only service and escorted tours – in the UK, Europe and worldwide – call 01766 772 030, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ffestiniogtravel.com.
It has never been so easy to book with Ffestiniog Travel. All its escorted tours can now be booked online via the website www.ffestiniogtravel.com at the touch of a button.
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