The journey of trains in India started in April 1853, with a track between Thane and Bombay when it was just seen as a mode of transport. But now, they have become one of the best ways to embrace the scenic beauty of the country, especially with Vistadome coaches offering 360-degree views. Through the windows of the trains, travellers get an immersive experience of all the destinations they cross, making the journey no less than a destination. One of the parts of India that every travel-lover should explore via train is the Himalayan region.
The North and Northeast are graced by the Himalayas, encompassed by Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Sikkim and West Bengal. The grace and beauty of the undulating mountains of the famous range is one of the major attractions in the world. In this article, we take you on a Himalayan journey via trains that offer views that’ll be etched in your memory forever.
Best trains in India to witness the beauty of the Himalayas
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
The first railway in India to be given UNESCO World Heritage status (in 1999), the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is recognised as an excellent model of hill passenger railways, traversing from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling. Operated by Northeast Frontier Railways in West Bengal, the journey takes you on an impressive ride through the Himalayas. The train has even installed Vistadome coaches, allowing passengers to enjoy a unpararelled views of the tea gardens and lush forests adorning the Himalayan ranges of West Bengal.
Train number — 52541/New Jalpaiguri – Darjeeling (Toy Train) Passenger.
Trains to Naharlagun
The train ride to Arunachal Pradesh, the largest of the seven sisters of the Northeast, promises a charming journey to the Himalayas. Naharlagun Station is the main station and the gateway to Arunachal Pradesh’s unique landscape. The train route from Guwahati to Naharlagun offers a surreal voyage where you can witness the gradual change in the terrain, from the dense forests of Assam’s Brahmaputra Valley to Arunchal’s majestic Himalayas. The trains pass through babbling brooks and meandering rivers, and then ride up the mountains, taking you to the Himalayan foothills in Naharlagun. You can even enjoy panoramic views as one of the trains has Vistadome coaches.
Train numbers — 12088/Guwahati – Naharlagun Shatabdi Express, 22412/Arunachal AC SF Express, 15818/Donyi Polo Express and Naharlagun Guwahati Vistadome Express.
The Kalka-Shimla Railway
Part of the UNESCO Heritage collection, this 96.6-km long trip to Shimla takes people on a mesmerising ride through the forests of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. The journey is filled with winding tracks, taking trains uphill and passing through tunnels cutting the mountain. You can enjoy views of the towering trees and see the landscapes of Solan, Dharampur and Kandaghat. This train journey feels almost magical in the winter, especially when it snows.
Train numbers — 52455/Himalayan Queen, 52453/Kalka – Shimla NG Express, 52451/Shivalik Deluxe Express, 72451/Kalka – Shimla Rail Motor and 52459/60 Kalka – Shimla Him Darshan (this train only has Vistadome coaches).
Trains to Katra and the Kashmir Valley Railway
It is no news that Kashmir is one of the most beautiful places in the world, so much so that it is famously known as ‘paradise on earth’ and a train ride through the valley promises nothing less. At the moment, the Kashmir Valley Railway is not directly connected to the rest of the country, resulting in Katra being the last station where trains from different parts of the country reach Jammu and Kashmir.
Trains heading to Katra witness a scenic ride in the Himalayas. After crossing Jammu’s railway station, the stretch covering Udhampur and Katra is adorned with undulating mountains and river Tawi running along the track. The government has planned to extend this to Baramulla, connecting the country to the Kashmir Valley Railway. The Chenab Bridge, the world’s highest rail bridge, will also be part of it.
The Kashmir Valley Railway runs from Banihal to Baramulla, with Srinagar Station as one of the many stops on this line. The train passes through the valley, taking you on a picturesque journey crossing bridges and forests. This route is even more beautiful when it snows.
Train numbers — 12471/Swaraj Express, 12477/Jamnagar – Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra SF Express, 12445/Uttar Sampark Kranti Express, 12445/Uttar Sampark Kranti Express and 22461/Shri Shakti AC SF Express.
Trains to Rishikesh
Famous as the yoga capital of the world, Rishikesh is where people head for relaxation, as well as, adventure in the wild. As the sacred river Ganga passes through its heart, Rishikesh is considered a holy city. Its railway station also plays one of the crucial transit points for pilgrims heading to Kedarnath and Badrinath, as the Rishikesh Station is the last railway station on the journey to these destinations. The moment trains cross Uttar Pradesh and enter Uttarakhand, the journey gets greener and livelier as the Ganga flows alongside the tracks. The train traverses through Rajaji National Park, allowing passengers to peek at the rich biodiversity of the forests. On the stretch from Haridwar and Rishikesh, you enjoy the views of the Shivalik Mountains surrounding the cities.
Train numbers — 19031/Yoga Express, 18477/Kalinga Utkal Express, 19609/Udaipur City – Yog Nagari Rishikesh Express and 22659/Kochuveli – Yog Nagari Rishikesh SF Express.
The Kangra Valley Railway
The 164-km-long historic route from Pathankot to Joginder Nagari, known as the Kangra Valley Railway, was a contender in UNESCO World Heritage’s tentative list. This British-built route was designed to connect Pathankot to Dalhousie, traversing through the majestic Dhauladhar range. The journey takes you through the Himalayas, passing through Punjab’s picturesque mustard fields and Himachal Pradesh’s pine forests and tea plantations. The route is famous for having 950 bridges and 20 tunnels, including the iconic Kangra Bridge.
While the conditions of these colonial-era bridges led to the cancellation of several trains that connected the two cities, Kangra MP Krishan Kapoor earlier in 2023 assured that the services would resume soon.
(Hero image credit: Richard Wallace, with some of the photo credit to Nikos Kavoori, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons; feature image credit: https://himachaltourism.gov.in/types/popular
Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)
– Are there any trains that operate in the Himalayas?
Yes, several trains heading to Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal have trains that run in the Himalayan region of the states.
– Are there any train routes that offer scenic views of the Himalayas?
Yes, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and the Kalka Shimla route offer scenic views of the Indian Himalayan region.
– Where does the Toy Train of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway start and end?
It starts at New Jalpaiguri Station and ends at Darjeeling Station.
– Can I travel to the higher regions of the Himalayas by train?
Many new train routes are coming up that can take you as high as Baramulla from Delhi.
– Are the train journeys in the Himalayas safe for tourists?
Yes, trains operate only when it is safe; hence these trains are safe for tourists.
– Are there any luxury train services that offer Himalayan tours?
No luxury train services offer Himalayan tours.
– Can I see snow-capped peaks from the trains during these journeys?
Yes, some of these trains offer views of snow-capped peaks on the journey.