When the Indian subcontinent was still a collection of royal kingdoms, Rajputana – now the state of Rajasthan – was its crown jewel. Home to magnificent palaces, unconquerable forts and ostentatious Maharajas, this was a kingdom that wholeheartedly created what is now considered India’s most well-preserved luxury heritage, complete with private vintage car collection.

Revel in India’s bygone era on-board some of the world’s most luxurious trains, as they attempt to rival the opulent standards of the Maharajas. Seek out the hidden treasures of Western India on the royal blue Deccan Odyssey train, marvel at Karnataka’s World Heritage Sites on board the elegant Golden Chariot train, or partake in the royal wonders of Rajasthan on your own Palace on Wheels – India’s original luxury train.

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Picture courtesy: Ami Bhat

While 10 of the world’s most luxurious train journeys are in India, so are some of the world’s most enviable vintage car collections. Sneak a peek at the vintage car collection of Deogarh Mahal near Udaipur, hop on board a vintage car at the Umaid Bhawan Palace to embrace the heritage of Jodhpur, or better yet, get behind the wheel yourself at Delhi’s world-class vintage car rally!

Hidden treasures of Western India on-board the Deccan Odyssey

Themed after the 16th century opulent lifestyle of Indian monarchs, the Deccan Odyssey ferries passengers luxuriously – think gourmet food and rejuvenating spas – into the heart of Western India, to places otherwise off the tourist radar. In sophisticated cabins on wheels, with butlers at your service, traditional Indian thalis (a platter of several local dishes, typically including vegetables, lentils, pickles and a dessert) to indulge in and a gym to burn off the extra calories, you roll along the territory of Asiatic lions and grassland tribes, the rugged Deccan plateau and the verdant Western Ghats on one of the six routes originating in Mumbai or Delhi. The Deccan Odyssey is undoubtedly the most luxurious way to experience the surreal white-salt desert that is the Great Rann of Kutch and its indigenous crafts that have survived the test of time.

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Rajasthan’s grand heritage on-board the Palace on Wheels

Originally used to ferry the Maharajas of Rajputana and Gujarat, Palace on Wheels was refurbished as India’s first luxury passenger train – a true heritage experience. A soulful journey through the heart of what was once the princely Rajputana kingdom, you live in lavish teak cabins or regal presidential suites, feast on decadent Rajasthani cuisine and explore the rich heritage of Rajasthan at the Hawa Mahal in Jaipur, the formidable Rathambore Fort dating back to the 10th century, the walled city of Jaisalmer and Chittor Fort, one of the largest in India. On the Palace on Wheels you comfortably roll into the furthest reaches of the state, looking for evasive Royal Bengal tigers at Ranthambore National Park and laying under a sky full of stars in the Thar Desert.

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Picture courtesy: Love & Road

Iconic adventures on-board the Maharaja Express

Combining the charms of a five-star hotel with an exploratory train journey along the fascinating Indian countryside, the Maharaja Express – often considered the world’s most luxurious train – is an experience that should be on any traveller’s bucket list. Besides lavish living cabins and suites, expect breakfast in bed, a personal valet to plan your schedule on-board, a lounge bar to wind down and a series of rewarding travel experiences. These include a romantic champagne breakfast overlooking India’s foremost monument of love, the Taj Mahal, as well as a profound journey through Varanasi, an ancient pilgrimage site on the shores of the sacred Ganges, and a thrilling tiger safari in Bandhavgarh National Park in the heart of the country. Who says you can’t combine indulgent luxury with some hair-raising adventures?

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Karnataka’s World Heritage Sites on-board the Golden Chariot

Promising extravagant on-board living, an Ayurvedic spa and a journey along India’s most revered World Heritage Sites, the Golden Chariot train lives up to its name. On board, expect princely cabins styled after the different royal dynasties of yore, while en route, soak up the majestic ruins of Hampi, the ancient capital of the Vijaynagar Empire, the legends of Mysore Palace and the Portuguese remnants of Old Goa. Besides lavish meals and stunning vistas on board, this is a chance to explore the wild terrain of Kabini National Park, home to sloth bears, Asian elephants and Royal Bengal tigers.

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Picture courtesy: Ami Bhat

A fascinating vintage car collection at Deogarh Mahal

Built by the revered Mewar family of Deogarh, the Deogarh Palace – set amid the Aravali Hills between Jodhpur and Udaipur – invites travellers seeking an intimate glimpse of India’s royal heritage to live in a real palace, complete with an impressive central courtyard, miniature paintings, glazed windows and mirrored walls. One of the most prized possessions of the erstwhile family – a collection of rare vintage cars dating back to the early 1900s – is also on display at the palace. The 1938 Sunbeam Talbot still runs on an ancient engine modified with a cooling system to survive in Rajasthan’s strong sun. Curious travellers can marvel at classic Austins and Jaguars, or even hop into one – despite their age, much of the collection is well-maintained, allowing visitors to truly indulge in Rajasthan’s motoring heritage.

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Picture courtesy: Deogarh Mahal

Twentieth century living and cars at Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur

Imagine departing from the 20th century Umaid Bhawan Palace of Jodhpurin the back of a 1927 Rolls Royce to Jodhpur Airport – amid 21st century infrastructure and traffic! At the Palace Museum of Umaid Bhawan, home to several generations of Jodhpur’s royal family, the private vintage car collection spans the 1906 Overland, the 1927 Rolls Royce Phantom and the 1937 Delahaye Roadster. Besides living in what is the world’s sixth largest private residence, vintage car aficionados have a chance to tour the city in these classics.

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Picture courtesy: Graham Crouch

The 21 Gun Salute International Vintage Car Rally in Delhi

India is well on its way to becoming the world’s vintage car hub – and the 21 Gun Salute International Vintage Car Rally & Concours Show, held annually in the capital city, is evidence. In 2018, 125 vintage cars and 35 vintage two-wheelers took part in the rally, the oldest of them a 1903 Humber Humberette and the rarest of them a 1965 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud – a most unusual gathering on the streets of Central Delhi, otherwise choc-o-bloc with signs of rapid urbanisation.

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Given India’s reputation as a challenging country to navigate, India’s luxurious trains and vintage cars not only simplify the journey, but enable luxury-seekers to experience the country’s grand heritage in style!

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The Ministry of Tourism seeks to develop and position India as a “Must EXPERIENCE” and “TRANSFORMATIONAL” destination for global travellers, while also encouraging Indians to discover their own country. The Incredible India 2.0 campaign marks a shift from generic promotions across the world to market specific plans and content creation. Niche tourism products like heritage, yoga, wellness, wildlife, adventure, golf, cuisine, luxury, etc are being promoted to cater to diverse interests of consumers in different markets.

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