Last month I embarked on one of the most awesome and eye opening trips of my travel career so far – a week aboard the Maharaja’s Express!
I’ve always wanted to visit India. See a new part of the world and of course eat ALL of the curry! But I was, for whatever reason, a little nervous to venture there. There were also so many places I wanted to see, that planning a trip of this kind just seemed impossible. Until I discovered The Maharaja’s Express – a luxury train with an itinerary that ticked all my sight-seeing boxes all whilst travelling in comfort, style and pure luxury. What could be better?!
I had a little google ahead of our journey but couldn’t find a lot about the Maharaja’s Express online, so I thought it would be useful to put together a post and show you just what it’s like to live like a Maharajah for a week and travel through the golden triangle of India!
The Maharaja’s Express is one of a four fleet strong group of luxury trains that tour India and is considered one of the most luxurious in the world. Having never stayed or travelled on a train in this way before I didn’t really know what to expect but I was well and truly blown away.
As we boarded we were greeted with drummers, a long line of colourful traditionally dressed staff, flower garlands and a red carpet rolled out just for us! We stepped on board and were introduced to our Butler Dash who showed us to our cabin down the long corridors of our home for the next 7 days on The Maharaja’s Express.
We were staying in a Junior Suite and the first thing I noticed was the size of our room – a lot bigger than I expected with a full sized wardrobe, ample bed space, table and chair and attached en suite which was also perfectly sized containing a toilet, washbasin and shower. It was bigger and better equipped than some hotel rooms I’ve stayed in t int he past – I was extremely impressed! We unpacked and settled into our cabin flicking through the satellite TV channels on our wall mounted TV knowing that our butler Dash was just a phone call away should we need anything and all. Bliss!
Being the traditional British folk we are it was soon time to investigate the bar and lounge areas on board the Maharaja’s Express and see what’s on offer! There are two bars on the Maharaja – the Safari Bar and the Raja Club both with fully stocked free flowing bars, board games, books and lots of comfy sofas. With local and branded spirits, beer, wine and fizz all on offer you won’t be spoilt for choice and drinks are all included.
We settled ourselves in the Safari Bar with a round of G&T’s and a pack of cards as the scenery swished by the windows around us. The staff never let our drinks go empty and we’re incredibly attentive, much to our delight, making for some very relaxed and fun evenings on board.
The food on board the Maharaja’s Express was exquisite. With the kitchen headed up by John Stone, a seasoned cruise professional chef, the menus were varied and did not disappoint.
From traditional Indian Thalis to delicate western dishes it’s impossible to go hungry aboard the Maharaja. Fresh eggs and bacon in the morning with a hot cup of Earl Grey Tea was the perfect way to start the day for me, finishing with a Thali of traditional freshly cooked Indian dishes and sundries all washed down with a glass of red wine or of course an ice cold Kingfisher!
Each day the courses were different and John was always there to greeat you on and off the train and tempt you into the restaurants with his daily special! The food isn’t too spicy but you can ask for it hotter or milder, and the western dishes are delicious too if you fancy a break from all the spice. The Thalis are a great way to try out some different Indian flavours and find your new favourite!
The staff on board the Maharaja’s Express are a true testament to the luxury and quality this train stands for. Always greeting with a smile and nothing is too much trouble, they’re with you every step of the way to make you feel safe, comfortable and well looked after.
From bringing you a hot cup of coffee in the morning before your trip out, to helping you with your bags back to the cabin after a long day while you relax with a glass of fizz in the bar! You can call them at any time with any query and they’ll do their best to help. Our Butler Dash was a real star and made our time aboard the Maharaja a real dream.
Aside from the luxury of the train we’re here to actually see some of India! Our itinerary was jam packed and we saw so much, so here are my highlights and a run down of what’s on the Indian Panorama Itinerary!
The pink city! Our first stop was Jaipur and the Amber Fort – a wonderful introduction to India.
We got caught up in a procession on the way to the fort with flowers, flags and a whole lot of drums before hopping on our buggies and hiking up the hill towards the Amber Fort. Our guide allowed us to get off so we could join the procession and get a real taste of India on our sight seeing tour – what an amazing way to start the trip!
The views from the Amber Fort were stunning and our guide was incredibly informative with our headphones all the way round allowing you to listen to the information whilst taking photos and exploring close to the group.
After the fort we got to explore some more of Jaipur and do some haggling in the markets. Such a fun and varied first day!
The Taj Mahal – something we’d all been waiting for. It’s hard to describe this part of the trip as it seemed a bit like a dream. To stand in front of one of the wonders of the new world when I’d only ever seen it in pictures was overwhelming. We had plenty of time to explore, take photos and walk around the grounds in the morning before making our way to a very special breakfast.
Eating outside with a delicious spread of food, free flowing Moet and breathtaking views of the Taj Mahal itself – we really did feel like VIPS and it was possibly the most amazing breakfast I’ve ever had! With sitar players and palm readers it was a wonderful morning and hard to say goodbye to as we stepped back on the train. Certainly the best way to visit the Taj Mahal in style which really does have to be seen to be believed in all it’s beauty.
This one required a very early start and a strong coffee from our butler as we were off on a tiger safari! Just a short drive from the station and straight through into Rajasthan National Park, we were soon speeding along with our expert guide on an exhilarating safari attempting to track down a tiger!
Sadly we weren’t lucky enough this time on our run to see tigers but we did see beautiful deers, warthogs, monkeys and peacocks – the national bird of India! Such an incredible experience and certainly an excuse to come back to India and try again! They provide blankets to keep you warm and masks to protect you from the dust, but it’s a good idea to wear a scarf and bring your sunglasses too and an extra cardigan. Oh, and don’t forget your camera!
Another highlight for me was the stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site in Khajuraho with a rather interesting cluster of temples!
We visited the site late afternoon and stayed until just before sunset which made for some glorious and tranquil views. But the most interesting part of this stop was the nature of the Khajuraho temples which are said to be the birth place of the Karma Sutra. This piece of information makes for a very interesting tour indeed and our guide was extremely witty! We spent our time walking around the temples, learning about their history and taking in the true beauty of this part of India….all whilst trying not to blush too much!
Aside from the splendour of the Taj Mahal, our trip to Varanasi really was a highlight for me. Visiting a tiny traditional hand woven silk factory and learning how they create stunning wedding gowns in old style mills. Followed by a river cruise down the Ganges which truly blew me away.
Sailing passed the live cremations and witnessing the Ganga Aarti ceremony which takes place every night to say thank you and goodnight to Mother Ganga was a once in a life time experience. We sat on our open top boat and watched the ceremony take place right in front of our eyes. The dedication to their religion the Hindus share is astonishing and something I never thought I would see in my lifetime – beautiful singing, lights, dances and so much love with boats floating in around the ceremony and thick crowds of people lining the steps.
After lighting a floating candle, making a wish and sending it down the river we sailed back to our train completely humbled by our experience in Varanasi – A must see part of India.
When our trip came to an end it was quite sad. Saying goodbye to the new friends we’d made on board, our little cabin and the staff of the Maharaja wasn’t an easy task. We’d seen so much together, spent so much time with one another, it seemed strange to go back to our normal lives after such an adventure.
On our last night we were given saris and traditional Indian dress before a delicious dinner from John and an Indian party on board! With delicious Indian food, traditional music and dance lessons from the staff it was an incredible way to round off our Indian adventure on the Maharaja’s Express and we also got to take home our beautiful saris as a parting gift.
The Maharaja’s Express is such an incredible way to experience India in style. Having never travelled by train in this way before I’m a total convert. It was such a wonderful trip that I’ll never ever forget. The hustle and bustle of beautiful India coupled with pure luxury and kind service aboard the Maharaja truly does make for a once in a lifetime trip.
Take a look at the routes and cabin options on the Maharaja’s Express website HERE
India, you’ve been incredible – I hope we meet again another day!