Movies such as the Darjeeling Limited and Murder on the Orient Express inspired me to hop on luxury trains to remote locations and explore countries by staring out of a window of a moving train. During my many years of travels, I was fortunate enough to venture across China, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Italy, Austria, France on a train. I rode an overnight train in Vietnam, as well as Burma. I even took a panoramic train from Machu Picchu to Cuzco. We saw hell of a beautiful scenery through the glass roof of the train. Lately, I took the Caledonian Sleeper from London to Edinburgh. the deccan odyssey route
Over the years, I fell in love with train travel, and I felt fortunate to ride the Deccan Odyssey train across the Maharashtra region of India. This train route is considered to be one of the most luxurious trains in the World. The train costs $6,100 for single occupancy and $8,750 for a couple.
Arriving in Mumbai
We arrived in the beautiful city of Mumbai the day before our train was to take off. We had enough time to explore this magnificent city. Mumbai, also known as Bombay (beautiful bay) reminded me of other big cities situated by the sea, such as Miami, Rio, Montevideo. I immediately fall in love with beach cities like these, so Mumbai quickly became my favorite city in India. Thanks to Trinity Tours, we were hosted in the luxurious Trident-Oberoi Towers in the business center of the city. The view from the 32nd floor was spectacular.
Exploring Mumbai by bus was a fascinating adventure. We visited the Gateway of India, which is probably the most famous site in Mumbai. It is also known as the Taj Mahal of Mumbai. It was built around 1911, and it was the gate, where the British arrived to and later departed from India.
Another famous site, we saw was the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Railway Station, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This beautiful colonial building was built by the Brits and it reminded me of the architecture of Edinburgh. The station was built at the end of the 19th century, and it is one of the most magnificent buildings of Mumbai.
The Deccan Odyssey Train
On a sunny Saturday afternoon, we departed the Deccan Odyssey train in Mumbai. We were greeted by a local band at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Railway Station. They performed a local dance for us, and each of us got a blessing and a colourful dot on our foreheads. We loved the festive welcome. The Deccan Odyssey train was beautiful from the outside and even more beautiful inside. The train reminded me of the Orient Express in the movie. Each cabin was decorated with colourful silk bed covers and pillows.
Our cabin had 2 single beds, a flat screen TV, wi-fi, we had our own private bathroom, with a shower. Every compartment had a butler, who made our rooms in the morning and then prepared the beds in the evenings. He also brought us refreshments to the room, when we asked him to. The rooms had huge windows that allowed us to observe the region and the villages the train traveled through.
The train had a lounge, where alcohol, refreshments, and snacks were served between meals. It was a great place to mingle and socialize with other passengers. Also, a great place to get some work done.
There were 2 beautiful restaurants on the train as well a game room, with board games, a gym, a spa and a souvenir shop.
The spa was pretty amazing; you could have a wide variety of services, including a hair stylist and a barber. I particularly enjoyed getting a massage. The massage costs extra, but it was worth every penny.
We received breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the train. The food was excellent, and the service was great. They took notes of any food allergies and made sure to prepare something for everyone. Passengers with gluten allergy were served gluten-free bread for every meal. They always offered an Indian and a Western menu.
For breakfast, they always offered various juices, a basket of pastries, croissants, muffins and then you could order yogurt and an egg dish. Every day, they had a different kind of egg dish on the menu such as eggs benedict or omelets. They also always had an Indian breakfast option, and we got to taste some of the Indian breakfast specialties.
Lunch was often served on the train as well. The tastier option was usually the Indian option. They served delicious thalis. The western option usually had soup or a salad, a second course, which was often pasta or pizza and then a dessert. It could be cheesecake, tiramisu or any other western specialty.
Dinner was always on the train. We were offered a 3-course meal either Indian or Western. We often had fish, sometimes lamb chops. On our last night, we had lobster. The food was consistently tasty and the service was excellent. The waiters were always very kind to us, and they were serving all our needs and wishes.
The Deccan Odyssey Route
After we boarded the train at 3:30 pm. We were welcomed by a traditional dance at the railway station.
We spent the first day socializing in the lounge, drinking local wines and chatting with fellow travelers. We enjoyed our delicious dinner on board. We were amazed by all the flavourful dishes. We loved the beautiful décor of the dining rooms. It was a privilege to be on board of this beautiful train.
Day 2 – Nashik (187km)
After having our first delicious breakfast on the train, we disembarked to visit the holy city of Nashik. The city has the reputation of being the wine capital of the region. A local band and dancers were welcoming us at the station. We all got a blessing on our foreheads and hopped on our buses to see the city.
First, we visited some beautiful local temples, then we walked along the Godavari Ghats and observed several Hindu rituals being performed by the bathing locals. The Godavari River is the second longest river in India after the Ganga. It appears in many important Hindu scriptures.
We walked through a lively market. We shopped for pomegranates and other local goods. There was a wide selection of vegetables, lentils, dried seafood and cow dung cakes on offer.
After visiting the holy city, we went to visit the Grover Zampa vineyard nearby. We had an exclusive tour of India’s wine producing facilities. The vineyard is run by a woman, and they produce tasty white, red wines as well as rose. I especially liked their white wine. Apparently, they export the wine all over the World. We were taken through vines laden with Chenin, Chardonnay and Shiraz grapes and they also showed us the aged old method of making one of the best known Indian sparkling wines.
We had a delicious Indian lunch paired with various wines in the vineyard. After a fantastic day in Nashik and a beautiful afternoon in the vineyard, we returned to the train before sunset.
We had a couple of drinks and finger food in the lounge and then we were served a tasty 3-course dinner.
Day 3 – Aurangabad (185km)
After reaching the city of Aurangabad, we had breakfast on the board and then we disembarked the train. At the station, we were welcomed by a local band that sang and danced for us. Then we hopped on our buses to reach the Ellora Caves, which was one of the most famous UNESCO World Heritage sites of Maharashtra. These caves were carved into the side of a basaltic hill.
There were 34 rock-cut shrines representing Buddhist and Hindu art dating back to the 4th and 5th century AD. The most remarkable was the Kailash temple, which is the best example of rock-cut architecture and an engineering marvel. These beautiful temples reminded me of Petra in Jordan.
After spending a few hours on this spectacular site, taking photos of the statues and bonding with the locals, we headed back to the train for lunch. We spent the afternoon hanging in the lounge, socializing with fellow travelers. I went for a wonderful foot massage in the spa. Cost me about $15 for a half an hour massage, but it was all worth it. Around 7 pm, we had a delicious dinner on board of the train. This time, I tried an Indian thali. I must say, it was delicious.
Day 4 – Jalgaon – Ajanta Caves (272 kms)
We reached the Jalgaon station early in the morning. After having our usual three-course breakfast feast, we got off the train, and a local band was welcoming us with a traditional performance typical of the local town. We hopped on our usual bus to take us to the Ajanta Caves.
These caves are also famous UNESCO World Heritage site of Maharashtra. After arriving, we hiked a bit upwards, when we saw 30 beautiful Buddhist temples carved on the side of the rocks. They were similar to what we saw the day before, but they were much larger. There were many beautifully decorated caves along the side of the mountain with sculptures, paintings of Buddhist religious art, depicting universal pictorial art. These pieces are known to depict the fusion between Buddhist and Hindu faith.
We loved taking photos of the caves as well as the locals. Some locals insisted on selling stuff to us, so we had to run away from them. It was not easy to say no; they were too convincing. We returned to the train around 2 pm for lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon chilling in the lounge drinking delicious Indian white wine. Some of us got more drunk than others. It was another fun evening on the train relaxing and enjoying a delightful dinner.
Day 5 – Kolhapur (742 km)
After traveling all night long, we reached Kolhapur around 11 am. It is also known as the city of many hidden treasures. It was our first night sleeping on the moving train, and I must say, it was great fun! It felt a bit like a rollercoaster at times. I enjoyed it.
We had breakfast, and early lunch on the train around 11 am. We disembarked the train around noon. At the station, we had our usual warm welcome by a local band, and we were taken to a room, where they wrapped an orange turban around our heads. We loved having this colorful pagri. Emerging in the local culture was fun.
Once we all had an orange turban, we hopped on the bus to visit Kolhapur.
First stop was at a beautiful palace, the New Palace. There was a museum inside displaying the architecture and memorabilia of the Kolhapur rulers. It was a beautiful basalt and sandstone octagonal palace from the 19th century.
Next stop was at the Town Hall Museum; it was a neo-Gothic building with a front porch flanked by towers with steeply pyramidal metal roofs. The museum inside was less impressive than the first one. Both of these museums were more beautiful from outside than from inside.
Next stop was at a Kolhapur Chappal making unit. These sandals were made of decorated leather of all sorts of colors and style. They were beautifully decorated, and the prices were very reasonable. It was fascinating to watch how the locals were making these beautiful leather sandals.
Next stop was at a local hotel, where we had some afternoon tea and traditional dance performance called Lavanya Sandhya, a vibrant folks performance displaying the four seasons. They performed a fertility dance as well.
Last stop was visiting the walled city of Kolhapur. First, we saw the 1300-year-old Mahalakshmi Temple, a place associated with Goddess Shakti, who was known as the consort of Lord Vishnu. We walked around barefoot in the temple, visited various altars within the temple complex. We took a few photos with the local ladies. Although we were not allowed to bring our cameras inside to take photos, it was a beautiful place to see.
After visiting the temple, we sat down on the main square to watch a Mardani Khel which means masculine games. It is a traditional martial arts performance, performed by a whole family from the elder members to the youngest. Women would fight with her baby tied to her back. A man would cut a banana into two pieces placed on the throat of his son with a sharp sword. They would play with fire. We saw some freaky things, and we were perplexed by the performance.
We returned to our beloved train after the sun has set. It was a long and exciting day. We were pleased to have a delicious dinner on the train and pass out after all this excitement.
Day 6 – Goa (216 km)
We reached Goa, India’s smallest state, which was the colony of Portugal until 1961. After breakfast, we disembarked, and the local band and dancers greeted us. First, we visited a Portuguese house. Here, we sat down for a tea and had some delicious sweets and sandwiches. We took some photos inside and outside the house. It felt like we were back in Europe.
Next stop was at Ribandar, which used to be the capital of Goa. We walked around three ancient Portuguese churches. They were elegant and beautiful!
We continued our journey to the Sahakari spice plantation, where we stopped to have a Goan lunch. Along the way, we learned that Goa was a relatively wealthy part of India, where people were mostly middle-class, and illiteracy rate was the lowest compared to other regions. Life in Goa was pleasant for the locals. The economy was well off, and people lived comfortably.
Goan food has Hindu origins, but it was influenced by 400 years of Portuguese rule and includes seafood, such as shrimps, kingfish, mackerel. Lunch was served with feni, a local liquor made of cashew. Fish curry is one of the most typical Goan dishes. We had a chance to taste the fish curry and some other delicacies. After the delicious lunch, we toured the plantation and learned about all the various plants that grew there, such as cashews, vanilla, and many different spices.
At the end of the tour, we could buy some of the spices that were grown on the field in the gift shop. There is always an exit through the gift shop, as you are probably well aware. The prices were not much lower than they were at home, so I decided to get everything on eBay instead of carrying them around India with me.
Our Goa tour ended in Fontainhas, which is the Latin Quarters in Panjim with beautiful Portuguese architecture. This part of Goa is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We walked down the winding alleyways and admired the tile-roofed houses that were built in shades of many different colors. We hit the main square with a beautiful blue and white Portuguese church. This is the most photographed site of Goa, which appeared in many Bollywood movies.
We hopped on our bus after the sunset, and we rode the bus across the Goa to reach the train station. Our guide was pretty stressed because we got stuck in traffic and we almost missed the departure time of the train. We got on the train only a few minutes before departure. It was a fun packed beautiful day in Goa followed by a tasty dinner on board.
Day 7 – Sindhudurg (154 km)
On our last day, the train took us through the Konkan, one of the most scenic railway routes in the country. We could see the Arabian Sea on the West and Sahyadri hills on the East. The train took us through some beautiful hills.
After breakfast on the train, we disembarked in Sindhudurg, which lies on a rocky island just off the coast of Malvan. We were again welcomed by a local band at the station.
We went to see the traditional Thakar folk arts and crafts at the local museum and then we saw a puppet show with Hindu gods. The show was accompanied by a local musician. It was a beautiful show. After the show, we were allowed to take some fun photos with the puppets.
Next stop was at the Sawantwadi Palace, where we met the royal family, they showed us their palace and told us about the history of the family. We saw a small exhibit of the family in the palace, and then we headed over to a huge dining hall for lunch.
The hall was beautifully decorated with pictures of the royal family. There were giant crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. The food was a typical local meal served on a banana leaf. I particularly liked the cashew curry.
After lunch, we were invited to the garden, where they showed us how to make the dumplings called momos, we saw a guy doing pottery and another guy doing sand art. It was beautiful.
We also saw a dance performance by a group of women in the dining room. It was an amazing day in the palace. We headed back to the train in the afternoon to spend the last 12 hours on the train to head back to Mumbai.
When we got back on the train, everyone was given a traditional Indian outfit for the Bollywood party at night. An Indian girl came around in the evening to fix the sari on us, and we all met up in the lounge, where we partied for a few hours with the staff on the train. They rocked the dance floor. The Indian music was blasting; the strobes were on. We all learned some funny Bollywood moves. It was a great night; we will never forget.
Day 8. Mumbai (592 km)
The train was traveling all night, so it was another fun night for light sleepers. The ride was a bit bumpy at times. I enjoyed it. In the morning they collected our bags, we had our last breakfast on the train, and we disembarked in Mumbai. We received a farewell gift from the staff, and we dropped off our tips in an envelope. We bid farewell to the smiley staff of the Deccan Odyssey train. It was sad to leave them behind after spending a week together.
Overall, a week on the Deccan Odyssey train was a very memorable experience. We met many beautiful people on the train and saw some of the most incredible sites in India. Seeing India on a luxury train is the best way to explore this beautiful country. I can recommend it to honeymooners, retired people or adventurous millennials. You will surely be surprised by the beauty, the cultural diversity and the warmth of the people of India.
Some of the photos were taken by Aghil Menon of Incredible India.