Be it jaw-dropping scenery, a rich historical significance, the tradition and atmosphere of the train itself – or a combination of all three – here’s our round-up of the world’s best.
Travel bucket list idea:
Kalka, Haryana, India|
One of the great hill railway journeys of India, the narrow-gauge line to Shimla climbs 1,219m in 96km, threading through 107 tunnels and crossing 800 bridges, some of them large viaducts. The line never seems to be straight as it twists and turns around the hills, giving passengers ever better views over the Himalayan foothills and sections of line below.
Shimla was the summer capital of the British Raj from 1864 and the headquarters of the British army.
Getting there & doing it
Kalka is reached by direct train from Delhi, the overnight train known as the Kalka Mail arriving at Kalka around dawn to give good light for the connecting train to Shimla.
The Shivalik Deluxe Express is the premium service, with carpeted carriages, comfy seats, wide windows and piped music. Breakfast is served on the way up and dinner on the way down. The cheaper Himalayan Queen service has no food car.
Unless you want to photograph some of the railway’s impressive viaducts, there are few reasons to break the journey. It’s advisable to book in advance – but difficult to do using the Indian Railways website, so book via a travel agent.
When to do it
Trains depart from Kalka all year round, seven days a week, with trains timed to meet with incoming morning trains from Delhi and Kolkata.
Clear, cold winter days in October and November afford the best visibility.
Avoid the monsoon season – 4 or 5 months of heavy rains beginning in late May/June.
Round-ups that include this experience