Climb the mountains of India and Sri Lanka by steam and heritage trains on two early 2024 escorted tours that combine stunning rail journeys with culturally rich UNESCO status sightseeing experience.
Rail tour specialist Ffestiniog Travel returns to the Indian Sub-Continent for the first time since the pandemic on tours that ride India’s UNESCO Heritage Mountain Railways – Darjeeling, Kalka Shimla and Nilgiri – and boards the nostalgic Viceroy Special train in Sri Lanka to journey through a country that boasts amazing, diverse landscapes from mist clad mountains to golden Indian Ocean beaches.
Maria Cook, General Manager, said; “Ffestiniog Travel has been touring this region for over 20 years and these timeless train journeys never fail to leave an indelible travel memory on our travellers. We are looking forward to returning to India and Sri Lanka and working with our local ground handlers once again, who are essential in helping us create unforgettable holidays.
“These tours particularly depend on the hard work and devotion of the people who maintain these incredible and cherished railways that climb to great heights – mostly steam-hauled. The Darjeeling Railway’s Ghum (Ghoom) station is the highest railway station in India at 2,258m (7,407ft), Ooty on the Nilgiri line is second at 2,210m (7,251ft) and Shimla on the Kalka Shimla Railway third at 2,086m (6,844ft).
“It is an amazing feat when you consider that the Kalka Shimla railway celebrates its 120th anniversary in 2023 and pre-dating this was the narrow gauge Darjeeling Railway which began operating in 1881 – the Nilgiri Railway opened in 1908. The privilege of travelling on these railways is thanks to the hard work of the local people who battle to maintain complex rail routes across arched bridges, snake-like twists and turns and hairpin bends in harsh environments that are subject to climatic uncertainties.”
The 75-year old Viceroy Special train is Sri Lanka’s only steam train and has been providing chartered journeys for over 37 years – taking travellers on an old-fashioned nostalgic, yet comfortable, steam trip through Sri Lanka’s lush landscapes from Kandy to Rambukkana. Diesel power helps the train reach greater elevations that deliver breathtaking views as it climbs to the summit at Pattipola at 6,226ft – the highest altitude achieved by a 5’6” broad gauge mainline track anywhere in the world.
Travellers on this tour can expect rail journeys that deliver fierce gradients and stunning scenery. Travel back to the days of the Raj on a 19-day escorted holiday that rides the three most exceptional railways that served the former British Hill Stations in India: the Kalka Shimla Railway, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and the Nilgiri Rack Railway. Away from the tracks encounter some of India’s most iconic sights including the Sikh holy city of Amritsar and its Golden Temple and the Atari-Wagah border post, Delhi’s top landmarks including India Gate and the famous Taj Mahal and Red Fort at Agra. Enjoy journeys in a private heritage carriage on the Kalka Shimla Railway and two privately chartered steam train journeys on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway as well as a ride on the wonderful ‘Joy’ train to the summit at Ghoom, before flying south to explore Coimbatore and the Blue Mountains onboard the Nilgiri Rack Railway. It is a tour that delivers a sensory explosion of sound, smells, sights and spectacular rail journeys.
Departing 11 February 2024, this 19-day escorted Indian Hill Railways holiday costs from £6,850pp (two sharing) including flights, hotel B&B, 16 lunches, 12 dinners, all rail journeys (including private steam charters), transfers & excursions, and the services of a UK tour leader.
The rail journey is an integral part of this 12-day holiday to Sri Lanka. Ride one of the world’s finest rail routes onboard the vintage Viceroy Special steam train and the Viceroy II which adds a touch of old-fashioned nostalgia, charm and comfort to the journey. Experience the many wonders of this beautiful country along the way, from UNESCO World Heritage Sites, stunning, contrasting scenery, amazing wildlife and some of the best beaches you will ever encounter. From Colombo into the hills to Kandy, through diverse landscapes and geographical elevations, mountains and valleys to Nuwara Eliya and onwards across the impressive Demodara Nine Arch Bridge, the amazing railway spiral near Badulla and the summit at Pattipola, which at 6,226ft is the highest altitude achieved by a 5’6” broad gauge mainline anywhere in the world. Highlights en route include a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Sri Lanka’s former medieval capital Polonnaruwa, the Dambulla Cave Temple and the Old Town of Galle and time to see wonderful wildlife at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage and on a jeep safari at Minneriya National Park.
Departing 16 March 2024, the price £6,040pp includes flights, hotel B&B, all rail journeys including private chartered carriages, private coach travel, all excursions, a welcome dinner and 9 lunches and the services of a UK tour leader and a local English speaking guide.