National Geographic Traveller (UK)

Routes through the south


Trains in the south tend to be newer, cleaner and more punctual than those in the north, with a range of options available for many routes. Here are four trains that showcase everything from the mountains to the sea, with plenty of jungles, farms and villages in between


Bangalore to Mangalore

This train traces a glorious stretch of railway through the heart of Karnataka state, connecting the city of Bangalore with the port hub of Mangalore. Known as the Green Route, it’s an explosion of forests, rope-like creepers, clusters of wonky palms and skinny waterfalls with rainbows forming in their spray. Over 10 hours, the train slips into around 60 tunnels and thumps across more than 100 bridges over coffee plantation­s, thrashing rivers and valleys thick with growth.

Top tip: Book seats in the Vistadome carriage, which enables passengers to experience 360-degree views from rotating seats.


Chennai to Rameswaram

Departing Chennai at 7:15pm, this train travels down the southeast edge of India to Pamban Island, home of the Ramanathas­wamy Temple, one of the four main sites of Hindu pilgrimage. A comfortabl­e sleeper experience, this service allows plenty of time to eat dinner on board and to observe the twilit city before the railway’s lights-out rule comes into force at 10pm. On waking, passengers can nurse frothy coffee in the open doorway and prepare for the journey’s highlight: a spectacula­r sea crossing as the rising sun throws a sheet of gold across the water. Passengers will feel like they’re rolling through the waves as the train takes around five minutes to complete the stretch, pulling into Rameswaram in time for breakfast.

Top tip: Book a berth in a second class carriage with air conditioni­ng, then find a seat in general class for the crossing.


Thiruvanan­thapuram to Kanyakumar­i

In just under three hours, the Island

Express clanks its way down the Malabar coast, from Thiruvanan­thapuram in Kerala to Kanyakumar­i in Tamil Nadu — the southernmo­st tip of India where the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal converge in a blend of different-coloured sands. Inching its way through wet, lizardgree­n jungle where giant leaves slap at the barred windows, the train lets passengers peek into rural life where kids play cricket with planks, saris hang out to dry in fields, and the smell of roadside cooking drifts in and out on the breeze.

Top tip: Buy a ticket in general class where the windows are open so you can feel the breeze.


Mettupalay­am to Ooty (Udhagamand­alam) Completed in 1908, the single-track Nilgiri Mountain Railway is a hit with domestic travellers looking to escape the heat: honeymoone­rs, families and students on long weekends often fill up the wooden benches, sharing hot samosas and singing Hindi movie hits. Climbing to an altitude of 6,200ft in the Western Ghats of Tamil Nadu, the steam train still uses a rack-and-pinion traction system to pull passengers past farms, tea estates and banana plantation­s, the cool scent of eucalyptus increasing at every twist and turn. Top tip: Reserve a ticket at least two months in advance as the train fills up quickly.

Clockwise from top left: A boat passes under the railway bridge connecting Pamban Island to the mainland; a train passes through

the tea country of Coonoor, Tamil Nadu; lemons on sale at KR

Market, Bangalore

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