The Southern Splendour - a package across the famed tourist destinations in South India - on the opulent Golden Chariot was formally launched here on Monday. The first seven-night/eight-day trip of Karnataka's luxury train will chug off from Bangalore on March 15.

“Most international luxury trains have two circuits. Similarly, the Golden Chariot will have Southern Splendour covering Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala, and the Pride of the South covering Karnataka and Goa,” said Vinay Luthra, Managing Director of the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation, (KSTDC), which owns the train.

The first run has 35 confirmed bookings, and travellers will visit Chennai, Mamallapuram, Puducherry, Tiruchirapalli, Thanjavur, Madurai, Thiruvananthapuram, Alapuzha and Kochi. After the first run, the train will undergo maintenance work before embarking on regular journeys from October 4.

The occupancy rate of the train, now in its second year, has gone up from about 35 per cent in 2008-2009 to about 40 per cent in 2009-2010 despite recession, the H1N1 scare and terror threats.

The Silver Chariot tour to cater to the mid-segment traveller was also launched on the occasion.