Madras Mail

A journey by rail through Southern India aboard the Deccan Odyssey


Southern India is a treasure trove of relics, cities, and sites from its many civilizations that have been inhabitants there. Its varied landscapes include fascinating backwaters and rolling hills, palm-fringed coastlines, spice gardens, tea plantations, tropical forests, craggy mountain ranges, and wild forests. Journey from Mumbai to Hyderbad aboard the classy Deccan Odyssey, stopping at sophisticated cities and seaside resorts. Explore World Heritage Sites, ancient tombs, palaces, and Hindu temples. Savor spicy Indian Flavors and rich European cuisine in indulgent hotels as well as from the dining car of your private train that allows you to sit back and enjoy views of India—both tantalizing and tranquilizing—as the scenery rolls by.

Note: This rail journey is not exclusive to, nor operated by, Wilderness Travel, who acts solely as agent in booking your reservation with the operator. The itinerary, lecturers, and all other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the operator.

Itinerary at a Glance

Day 1, Oct 19, 2024
Mumbai, India

Your voyage of discovery begins at Mumbai airport, where you will be met and transferred to the iconic five-star Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel for a two-night stay.

This flagship Taj hotel offers you splendid views of the Arabian Sea and Gateway of India, alongside refined century-old hospitality. This legendary luxury hotel has played host to kings, dignitaries and eminent personalities from across the globe. Deluxe Class guests will stay in the contemporary Tower Wing, Presidential Suite guests reside in the Palace Wing. (All meals today are at your own arrangements.)

The Taj Mahal Hotel
Mumbai, India
Days 1 to 2 (2 nights)
Day 2, Oct 20, 2024
Mumbai, India

This morning take a short cruise, weather permitting, to Elephanta Island, a lush island densely wooded with palm, mango and tamarind trees. The fascinating cave complex, which dates back to the 3rd - 5th century, was designed to honor the life of Lord Shiva, one of the most auspicious Hindu gods and is now a World Heritage Site.

Return to the city for lunch at the famous seafood Trishna restaurant and in the afternoon you are free to explore Mumbai independently or visit one of the colorful local markets.

In the evening a welcome drinks reception is followed by dinner at your hotel where you can get to know your fellow travelers who will share this remarkable Indian odyssey.

The Taj Mahal Hotel
Mumbai, India
Days 1 to 2 (2 nights)
Day 3, Oct 21, 2024
Mumbai, India

This morning you'll visit the 'Dhobi Ghats', an intriguing outdoor laundry. The dhobi is a traditional laundryman who collects your dirty linen, washes it and returns it neatly pressed. The Ghats are the laundries where they practice this historic tradition. Later you'll tour in Fort Bombay and Gandhi's House, now turned into a fascinating museum depicting his inspirational life.

Mid-afternoon you'll board your private train, the Deccan Odyssey, a perfect way to experience the color, character and amazing diversity of India. Settle into your beautifully appointed cabin and enjoy the hospitable atmosphere of the Bar Car before experiencing fine Indian or western cuisine in one of the restaurant cars.

An all-day option prior to boarding the Deccan Odyssey is to take the 100-year old line from Neral to the hill station of Matheran (at 2,500 feet or 800 metres), 2 hours drive south of Bombay. As the little train climbs up into the clear mountain air one can view the scenic vista of hills and plains below. The total lack of motorized traffic at Matheran makes it an unusual and peaceful retreat.  (Guests will then join the Deccan Odyssey, at Pavel Junction after descending from Matheran).

Day 4, Oct 22, 2024
Goa, India

Goa, renowned for its beaches, temples and world heritage architecture, was the capital of the Portuguese Empire in the east and displays much of this heritage in its architecture today. Take a morning tour to view Basilica De Bom Jesus and Sé Cathedral of Santa Catarina, a towering white structure with a grand baroque interior and the most imposing church in Old Goa.

Day 5, Oct 23, 2024
Ooty, India

The Nilgiri Mountain Railway, a World Heritage Site, starts from the town of Mettupalayam and takes you on a journey full of twists and turns as this narrow gauge steam train ascends 30 kms on India's only Rack and Pinion Railway with gradients as steep as 1:12 to the town of Coonor. The final 16 kms the train picks up speed on its way to the hill resort at Ooty at 7,228 feet famous for its pretty cottages and beautiful Botanical Gardens. The steam-hauled 'Toy Train' heads through tea and coffee plantations and forest clad hills and with no less than 16 tunnels and tall bridges along with the breathtaking views make a journey to Ooty an extraordinary experience!

Day 6, Oct 24, 2024
Kochi (Cochin), India

Kochi's beautiful natural harbor and scenic backwaters give it a rich and varied history. The British, Arabs, Portuguese, Dutch and Chinese have all left indelible marks on the architectural development of this city. We will visit the Dutch Palace and the Jewish Synagogue and then see the Giant Chinese fishing nets that billow from massive teak and bamboo poles which dot the entrance to the harbor and are still in use today. The day ends in a visit to the 500-year old Fort Kochi where you will walk through the historical Dutch and Portuguese buildings.

In the evening there is the opportunity to witness a Kathakali Dance performance where the dancers are elaborately made up with paint and masks accompanied by drummers and musicians as they act out a dance drama.

Day 7, Oct 25, 2024
Trivandrum / Kanyakumari, India

The Deccan Odyssey arrives in Trivandrum in the early morning. After breakfast you'll visit the Napier Museum and the dominating Padmanabhaswamy Hindu Temple. Following lunch, you'll head to Kanyakumari which is mainland India's southernmost point, where the three seas - Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea & Bay of Bengal - meet and where the shore temple to the Virgin Goddess Kanyakumari stands.

Day 8, Oct 26, 2024
Madurai, India

One of the oldest cities in India situated on the River Vaigai, the Temple City of Madurai was the capital of the Pandya Kingdom but it was during the reign of the Nayaks that the magnificent Meenakshi-Sundareswarar Temple was constructed, which is one of India’s greatest cultural and architectural landmarks. In the evening you'll return to the temple to witness a Hindu ritual, an Aarti Ceremony before continuing your journey towards Madras.

Day 9, Oct 27, 2024
Pondicherry, India

Pondicherry, located on the Bay of Bengal, is the former capital of the French territories in India. To this day there still remains a rich French cultural heritage including the French language being widely spoken. Landmarks include Raj Nivas, the residence of the Lt Governor of Pondicherry—a handsome 200-year old building which faces Government Park with its paths and lawns, fountains and sculptures as well as the wide and vibrant beaches and beautiful promenades. Tonight, you'll have your final dinner aboard the Deccan Odyssey.

Day 10, Oct 28, 2024
Chennai, India

Chennai (formerly known as Madras), the capital of Tamil Nadu, is located on the legendary Coromandel Coast with a marvellous tradition of music and dance. This city of 4 million people has a pronounced colonial heritage dating back to the 17th century when the British East India Company built a small fort on the banks of the Cooum River and called it Fort St. George.

Arrive in Chennai in the morning where you'll tour the highlights of the city including Fort St. George and the National Art Gallery. You'll also make a visit to the 16th century San Thome Basilica, built over the tomb of Thomas Didymus, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. He is informally referred to as 'Doubting Thomas' because he doubted Jesus' resurrection when first told.

This evening transfer to your beachfront villa the Taj Fisherman’s Cove Resort & Spa for a three night stay. The Fisherman’s Cove, once an impressive Dutch Fort, is now one of the finest beach resorts in Southern India. It is located on a beautiful white sandy beach, lapped by the waters from the Bay of Bengal and offers a perfect setting for relaxation at the end of your journey through Southern India.

Day 11, Oct 29, 2024
Mahabalipuram, India

Today there is the option to visit Mahabalipuram, a beautiful coastal resort classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The rock cut temples and caves situated here are amongst the finest in the world and originated between 7th and 9th century. The highlight is a visit to the Shore Temple, which is renowned for its intricate carvings and skilled craftsmanship and is one of the oldest temples in southern India.

Day 12, Oct 30, 2024
Chennai, India

Enjoy your final day at leisure in Chennai. Relax in the lush landscaped gardens of the hotel or take one of the many scenic walkways that lead to the sea. Perhaps make time also to rejuvenate yourself with a signature spa treatment from the hotel's excellent Jiva Spa.

Day 13, Oct 31, 2024
Chennai to Hyderabad, India

Travel by air from Chennai to your final destination, Hyderabad and stay for two nights at the Taj Falaknuma Palace. Elevated 2,000 feet above Hyderabad, this elegant 5-star property features a blend of colonial and Indian designs. It houses a heritage walk with beautifully crafted objects from the world over and a first-rate spa.

Taj Falaknuma Palace
Hyderbad, India
Days 13 to 14 (2 nights)
Day 14, Nov 1, 2024
Hyderabad, India

Today you'll visit Golconda Fort (Shepherd's Hill) which was the capital of ancient Kingdom of Golkonda and is situated 11 km west of Hyderabad. The city was founded in the 12th century by Kakatiya kings and the massive fort was later built under the reign of the Qutub Shahi Dynasty (c.1518–1687). The fort is a superb example of outstanding engineering and amazing architecture. Its system of acoustics is a big attraction—the sound of clapping at the entrance can be heard at ‘Bala Hissar'—the highest point and almost a kilometer away.

From here, travel to the Qutub Shahi Tombs. Located north of the Golconda Fort, the tombs represent the most authentic and majestic display of the Qutub Shahi dynasty's architectural tradition.

Return to the city and visit Charminar. Sultan Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, the fifth ruler of the Qutb Shahi dynasty built Charminar in 1591 AD, shortly after he had shifted his capital from Golkonda to what is now known as Hyderabad. He built this famous structure to commemorate the elimination of a plague epidemic from this city. He is said to have prayed for the end of a plague that was ravaging his city and vowed to build a masjid (mosque) at the very place where he was praying.

In the evening, say your goodbyes to our fellow passengers at a Gala Farewell Dinner in the most magnificent of venues, the 101 Dining Hall of the Taj Falaknuma Palace.

Taj Falaknuma Palace
Hyderbad, India
Days 13 to 14 (2 nights)
Day 15, Nov 2, 2024
Hyderabad / Depart

After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport in Hyderabad to begin your journey home. Airport transfers are included for all guests.



Visit the Dhobi Ghats, Fort Bombay, and Ghandi's House in Mumbai
Explore Basilica De Bom Jesus and Se Cathedral of Santa Catarina in beach-strewn Goa
Ride along the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, a World Heritage Site and a thrilling journey full of twists and turns
See the giant fishing nets cast in Kochi's harbor with its incredible backwaters
Witnesss a Hindu temple ritual and an Aarti ceremony, as well as a traditional Kathakali dance performance
Tour the higlights of Chennai including Fort St. George, the National Art Gallery, and San Thome Basilica


Length: 15 days
Cost From: $16,995  
Arrive: Mumbai, India
Depart: Hyderabad, India
Lodging: 7 nights aboard a private train, 8 nights hotel
Meals: All meals included and Welcome/Farewell dinners
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Walking, Journeying by Rail
Trip Level:

15-day rail journey, cultural explorations and walking tours