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The Palace on Wheels: A Week in Wonderland

13 February 2015

On board the Palace on Wheels, travellers get a glimpse into the lives of the former Maharajas of India. The beautifully restored luxury train is comprised of fourteen saloon cars. Each car was originally built to be a personal carriage of a former ruler of India's Rajput states, and are named accordingly. The saloon carriages have been restored and decorated to reflect the cultural ethos of each royal state, and give travellers a real sense of the royal history of the train. The Palace on Wheels has two restaurant cars, The Mahārāja and The Mahārāni, serving beautiful food inspired by cuisines from around the world. A bar and loungecarriage is opulently decorated and perfect for enjoying a perfectly mixed cocktail, or fragrant coffee while India's landscape passes by the window. The luxury of the train is echoed in the spa saloon car, where guests can enjoy a massage or choose from a range of spa treatments. The moving palace can accommodate just over one hundred guests, with four private rooms to each saloon car, each private room is elegantly decorated and fitted with an en-suite bathroom and shower. There are two saloon attendants for each eight guests, which is more than enjoyed by royalty. The saloon attendants are there to ensure maximum comfort during the journey, and give travellers a taste of the royal Indian lifestyle.

Delhi - Jaipur - Swai Madhopur - Chittorgarh

Amber Fort

The Palace on Wheels train begins its journey in New Delhi, where guests are treated to a traditional Rajasthani welcome.

The first stop on the journey is Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, also known as The Pink City. Jaipur was founded in 1727 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II and today has a population of 3.1 million. The first excursion of the day is an elephant ride up to The Amer Fort, also known as the Amer Palace, beautifully situated overlooking the Maota Lake. The fort, as it stands today, is the result of over one hundred and fifty years of improvements and additions to the original structure. Guests also visit City Palace to experience the ostentatious lifestyle of former rulers. The City Palace is still home to Jaipur's royal family.

The Jantar Mantar is the next stop of the day, the largest Indian observatory of its kind, built by Sawai Jai Singh. The site consists of thirteen astronomical instruments.

The Palace on Wheels then arrives in Swai Madhopur. The adventure begins before dawn with a visit to the Ranthambore National Park, the largest in northern India. One of the best places to catch a glimpse of one of India's majestic tigers in its natural habitat. Among the other wildlife you may spot are wild boar, leopards and hyenas. The park is also home to over three hundred species of birds.

The next stop is a visit to Chittorgarh to see the beautiful hilltop fort. The grandest fort in Rajasthan, and although it stands mainly in ruins, it is easy to feel a sense of history resonating from the walls.

Udaipur – Jaisalmer – Jodhpur – Agra

Udaipur

Udaipur and the Lake Palace Hotel is the destination on the fourth day. Once a summer palace of Maharana Jagat Singh II, built two and a half centuries ago, this is the perfect place to experience the luxury of royalty. The stunning former palace floats on Lake Pichola, and is reached by a short boat ride across the lake. Inside the palace visitors find beautiful, original artisan work, ornate marble and paintings all of which have been there for hundreds of years.

Jaisalamer is a city founded in 1156, and is the site of the magnificent Golden Fortress, located in the Thar Desert. After a visit to the spectacular fortress travellers take a camel ride on the famous Sam Sand Dunes as the sun begins to set. The evening is filled with traditional music and dance performances.

Ringed by a high stone wall, Jodhpur rises out of the Indian desert and is the second largest city in Rajasthan. Visits to the Jaswant Fort and the Mahrangarh Fort immerse visitors in the royal past of India. Guests then visit the Umaid Bhavan Palace, where a grand feast is held.

The last stop is the iconic Taj Mahal. Meaning 'crown of palaces', the world-famous monument was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1632 as a mausoleum for his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The white domed marble structure took twenty two years to complete and employed around 20,000 craftsmen and artisans from all over the empire. The Taj Mahal attracts over three million people each year and its imposing beauty is the perfect place to conclude a royal tour of India.

The Palace on Wheels is one of the world's great railway journeys. India is a country steeped in rich culture and history and experiencing its royal past is a wonderful way to appreciate the sights and sounds of the nation.

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