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Photos and story by Dave Brett

India is a challenging country and I wanted to take my time to unearth the raw beauty of the country. So I took a 10-day train journey on the historic Palace on Wheels, which was a great way to experience a unique part of India.

I’ve always been fascinated by great railway adventures, enjoying life in the slow lane and seeing the shift in landscape as you watch the country roll by from your window seat. And I traveled with 60 other passengers, so it was a nice environment to meet new people and make friends.

Both on the train and off, India taught me that patience is a virtue. I was able to escape a busy life in London and quickly learned to slow down, take my time and appreciate the moment. India creates many magical moments where you have to be patient.

Stop 1

New Delhi

Before embarking on my train journey on the Palace on Wheels, I spent a day exploring New Delhi and sleeping off jetlag. I chose to avoid the bustling city and instead opted for a hidden respite from it all: the President’s residency of Rashtrapati Bhavan. The place is a gem right in the heart of the city, and within it are the Mughal Gardens: a stunning collection of flowers along with rows and rows of manicured lawns, fountains, canals, and trees designed by the Mughals in a Persian aesthetic. I booked a month in advance – the gardens are popular amongst the locals, and space is limited.

Stop 2


It’s said that the tradition of pink buildings in Jaipur began when the Maharaja (Sawai Ram Singh) wanted to impress Prince Albert during his 1876 royal tour of India. It worked; Albert was impressed enough that a law was passed the next year making it illegal for buildings to be painted any other color than Jaipur Pink. Buildings are still frequently painted to keep the color of the city alive.

To take it all in, head to the top of Amer Fort with a Jeep along the cobbled streets (the heavy elephants aren’t really fond of the climb). From this high vantage point, you can take in the landscape of Jaipur and the surrounding area. Walk around and explore; you could easily spend a day here.

Stop 3


It was an early 4:30 a.m. wake-up as we loaded into the safari truck with our local guide, wearing blankets and drinking tea to keep warm from the cold morning. The sun started to rise in the distance, bringing warmth as we entered the Ranthambore National Park. Our hope was to spot a Bengal tiger in the wild, and the morning gives you the best chance at this as you might be able to spot a tiger waking up. And we were lucky: We spotted a tiger giving a massive morning yawn, walk into the park to seek some shade. It was a magical moment I will never forget, well worth the early wake-up. After that we headed back to the train in time for breakfast.

Stop 4


Chittorgarh is a city in Rajasthan known for the honey-colored 7th-century Chittorgarh Fort: a vast hilltop complex composed of the remains of many sandstone temples and monuments. It gives you the sense of going back in time, as the detailed carving work on the sandstone has remained greatly intact: it seems like time has stood still for these structures. Located within the fort is Vijay Stambh, also known as the Tower of Victory, which is built from red sandstone and white marble. Here you will find many hungry monkeys so keep an eye on your food…and your camera. These monkeys are not afraid. The tower offers city views from the top, and its nighttime lighting makes it a magical spot after sunset.

Stop 5


Udaipur was one of my favorite stops on the Palace on Wheels. The city is delightfully set around a series of artificial lakes, and it all reminds me a lot of a European waterside town, not unlike Lake Geneva. Udaipur is also known for its lavish royal residences that you can meander around to your heart’s content. The city is full of areas to discover by boat, but I think the best way to explore is to jump into a tuk tuk and go for a spin. Take in all the colors of the buildings and the unique smells from the spice vendors, and be sure to taste all the incredible foods that you stumble on during your journey.

Stop 6


Jodhpur surprised me more than any other place. Once you get to the fortress on the hill you can start to appreciate the pure size of the place – it’s a mega structure. One of the largest fortresses in India, this behemoth took around 500 years to build, around 1459. This era saw the height of the city’s wealth, as demonstrated in the Mehrangarh fort museum featuring old royal pieces like luxury Palanquins and battle armor. The museum allows you to really picture what this place must have been like.

To this day the fortress still looms over the city of Jodhpur as if to continue to protect it. If you look closely at the walls you can still see cannonball marks from the attacks that took place at the fort. To think what went on between these walls, and then to actually see the wealth and history: It is breath-taking.

Be sure to head into town and see all the different colors of the buildings from below.

Stop 7


Jaisalmer is one of the only living fortresses to be found in India. To best describe a “living fortress”, I’d say that most forts in India have turned into museums for visitors. But in Jaisalmer, for example, the locals built houses and shops to actually live within the perimeters. This makes it an interesting fort to walk around, taking in a day in the life in the back alleys, hidden cafés, and unique gift shops. You could easily get lost for hours, so be sure to leave yourself time to do so.

Jaisalmer is also famous for its desert landscape and sunset camel rides. As the sun starts to set, desert heat disappears and cooling winds return, making this the perfect time to enjoy the rugged terrain.

India offers you a journey of vast landscapes, spices that thrill, and colors that enrich your imagination. Traveling by train across this incredible country taught me to appreciate moments more, to dare and try new things every once in a while, and to appreciate learning new things about other cultures from locals who are willing to share these experiences. India is a highly nuanced country to visit, but one of the most rewarding ones. You just have to give it time, jump into the deep end, and learn to explore with an open mind. This way you can discover the true love and fascination that many travelers enjoy about incredible India.