Panaji: The Maharaja Express – a luxury train operated by IRCTC – may operate on a new route from Delhi to Kerala next year to facilitate tourists to enjoy the beauty of the monsoon in southwest India, a minister said on Saturday.
Railway minister Suresh Prabhu, who was in Goa to launch a series of projects undertaken by his ministry, said that a special holiday train would also be introduced in December, considered the peak tourist month in Goa.
“We will start this train (Maharaja Express) also from Delhi, Mumbai, Konkan, Goa, maybe up to Kerala. The idea will be that a lot of people will be able to enjoy the Goa monsoons. It is not the peak season, but we can get more tourists here so that they can get better hotel prices here,” Prabhu said.
Prabhu said that currently the Maharaja Express, which travels on five routes as of now, is non-operational during summer due to the scorching heat and that the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) would operationalise the new route along the Konkan region.
The Maharaja Express is one of the most luxurious trains and a single journey can cost up to Rs.2.5 lakh ($4,000).
Prabhu also added that in order to cater to the rush of tourists during December — a peak tourist season — the Indian Railways was contemplating a special holiday train which will operate on the Delhi-Mumbai-Goa route.
This holiday season, treat the traveller inside you with offbeat destinations nestled in the lap of refreshing natural landscapes.
1. Ponmudi Hill Station, Kerala
Ponmudi offers so much to travelers who love to explore the winding paths and surely have a thing for long drives. Set in the Western Ghats of Kerala, it is a picturesque hill station that is surrounded by lush greenery and a sheen blanket of mist. Trekking is one of the most adventurous activities that one may wish to delve in, here.
The place has started getting traction in recent years, which has resulted in the creation of cottages and resorts in the hilly area. A hill so close to the city, Ponmudi hills makes it a perfect choice for travelers who look for small weekend getaways.
Those planning to visit Ponmudi, the time between November and March is highly recommendable.
2. Silent Valley National Park, Kerala
Another natural piece of wonder located in the godly lands of Kerala, Silent Valley National Park is the finest destination for every nature lover, ever existed. It offers the opportunity to be exposed to wild jungles and its wilderness enveloped by numerous adventurous activities.
Apart from the purest marvels of nature, this place offers rich history and grandeur and remains the largest tract of evergreen rain forests in the North-eastern corner of Palakkad district. The flow of river Kunthi that descends from the Nilgiri hills makes it a natural splendor and one may want to keep watching it, forever.
It is recommended to visit this park between December and April, as heavy rains from June till November makes it difficult to explore the beauty of this place.
3. Sandakphu, West Bengal
Situated at the peak of West Bengal, Sandakphu is the highest point of the Singalila Ridge where tourists can enjoy the dazzling peaks of Everest and Kanchenjunga as the first sunlight strikes the surface. River Teesta that flows through this place makes it a perfect destination for water-sport aficionados.
To enjoy all of these, one must trek around 8-10 km from Maneybhanjan. It will take around 12 hours to reach the finishing line. Although it sounds tiring, the activity will certainly make you feel refreshed when you finally reach the peak – the beautiful vantage point from where you can clearly view the natural wonders.
Best is to visit this place between October and January.
4. Jawai Hills, Rajasthan
Also known as the Leopard hills, Jawai is located in the Pali district of Rajasthan and is home to leopards and other wild animals such as chinkaras, jackals, hyenas, etc. It is also a place where you will find migratory birds aplenty. Apart from these, there is a Kalka Devi temple, where one can find the maximum leopards roaming around the caves and stairs.
Here one gets amazing options of Safari rides to relish the inner view of the wilderness and also peek into the lives of local people who live there. A wonderful place to find solitude, Jawai is a perfect destination for tourists who wish to chill and adventure, away from the hustle-bustle of the cities.
The best time to visit Jawai is between October and April to avoid humidity and enjoy chilly nights.
5. Sar Pass, Himachal Pradesh
When speaking of winter breaks, it is the thought of hill stations that first crosses our mind. One such hill station that meets all your trekking desires is Sar Pass. Perfectly nestled in the Pir Panjal mountain range, Sar Pass is completely surrounded by high-rise mountains, waterfalls, and lush green forest.
Although very tough, it is still one of the best routes and longest treks (5-7 days) in Himachal Pradesh that offers great campsites with views never-seen-before. You can start the trek from Kasol, also known as Mini Switzerland, and relish the nature all across the way till you reach the zenith.
October is the best time to visit Sar Pass, but since it’s a winter trek, there is no harm in planning for the later months. (IANS)