The experience of a road trip, and many are sure to vouch for this, is like no other. You have the freedom of driving at your own pace, exploring regions that you feel are worth stopping at and savouring at leisure and interacting with local people as you sip endless cups of hot tea at roadside kiosks. For all those avid ‘roadies’, we suggest some of the most amazing drives that must feature on your bucket list- the ones in the mountains for times when the mercury is touching merciless heights, and the rest, for the cooler months.
Manali to Leh
The perfect season for this spectacular stretch in which a thrilled Kareena Kapoor danced to ‘Yeh Ishq hai’ in ‘Jab We Met’ is on now, so, why not make the most of it? But, of course, remember that while this almost 480-km road offers some of the most gorgeous mountainscapes, it also passes through many high, treacherous passes- including those that are over 17,000 ft above sea level. So, it’s advisable to move as part of a cavalcade. Also, take guard against mountain sickness by keeping aside a day for acclimatization because of the rarefied atmosphere in upper reaches.
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Pondicherry to Chennai
Lying along the Bay of Bengal towards the South is the picturesque East Coast Road that one can make the most of, while driving from Pondicherry to Chennai. With the sun’s rays weaving magic on them, the glistening ripples of the Bay waters are a sight to behold. The road offers much more- besides the 8th century temple town of Mahabalipuram with its imposing monolithic structures; it also invites you for a dekko at the Kovalam Beach and the Cholamandal Artists Village, one of the largest artists’ cooperatives in India.
Jaipur to Jaisalmer
A drive through the land of the erstwhile maharajas is something the inveterate traveller in you is sure to love. But, of course, you must venture out here in the cooler months for that’s when each city, nay village, that lies along the way comes alive with magical festivity and colour. It’s almost a ten-hour journey and one can make the most of it with stops at the dargah in Ajmer, temples in Pushkar, the resplendent palaces of Jodhpur, and yes, even for some delightful dune bashing around Jaisalmer.
Mumbai to Goa
Catch the seasoned ‘road-runners’ talking and they will never stop gushing about this stretch- replete as it is with the serene-looking, gentle hills as they unfold myriad shades of brown and green at every turn. A surreal, magical world is on offer soon after you enter the Western Ghats. Keep the windows of your car down to let the wind play joyously with your hair.
Bengaluru to Ootacamund
Replete with Nature’s bounty, the road from Bengaluru to this charming hill station that, incidentally, was set up by the British to escape the searing heat of summer, is a delight. While this lovely little place in the lap of the Nilgiris, or the Blue Mountains, is the icing on the cake, the journey is no less charming- with a drive past the historic town of Mysore, crossing the Bandipur National park and, of course, negotiating the 36 hair-pin bends cutting through the hills, thrown in for good measure.
Kolkata to Digha
Enjoy the changing hues of the landscape as you drive from The City of Joy towards Digha and let the magic of the invigorating air and scenery around envelop you into its folds. Little wonder then, weekends often see Kolkatans taking their cars out not just to head towards this delightful seaside resort town but also savouring some of the most exotic views along the way.
Baghdogra to Darjeeling
Nothing can beat the electrifying sense of beauty and serenity that unfolds as one drives through the lush tea gardens and scenic meadows of the Himalayan foothills. The serpentine road towards Darjeeling, famous for its vistas that seem straight out of a beautiful painting, takes you out past pine forests, narrow passes and delightful waterfalls. Driving alongside the toy train that goes back to 1881, will be an experience unmatched.
Delhi to Dharamshala
Leaving the cityscape of Delhi behind and moving past several historical towns on this 478 km stretch introduces you to a variety of wonderful experiences, sceneries and, of course, food. Moving closer to Little Lhasa- as Dharamshala is also referred to- the fatigue of the journey is immediately forgotten as some of the most gorgeous mountainous landscapes start appearing on the horizon. The pine-scented, crisp, nippy air is exhilarating and you can stop along the way to admire views of the lush deodar forests.
Shimla to Kullu-Manali
Negotiating dangerous serpentine bends, overlooked by high mountain peaks, this almost 250 km long road journey is among those considered not for the faint-hearted. But the thrill of driving down the road that has high, rocky mountains on one side and deep gorges with streams flowing down on the other is unmatched. Going past the playful Kullu River that moves along like a “frolicsome infant”, as she is often referred to, is worth every (anxious) moment spent on the journey.
Guwahati to Cherrapunji
As you head from Guwahati towards the Scotland of the East, Shillong, let the curtains go up on the delightful mise en scene set up by Mother Nature. The three hour drive must also include a stopover for some Chinese food that Shillong is famous for, before you move on towards Cherrapunji that lies around 55 kms away. This is the abode of clouds and the fresh smell of mountain air is electrifying as you drive, feasting your eyes on dense forests and pasture lands, and some of the most amazingly scenic waterfalls.