“Hit the road Jack and don't you come back
no more, no more, no more, no more….”
The lyrics of the famous song Hit the Road Jack by Ray Charles is the first song that comes to mind when I think of Road Trips. The context, however, is completely different: neither do I mean for me/anyone else to never come back from a Road Trip nor does it bring back memories of being scorned enough by someone to be rude to them. It’s just that when you have an SUV parked outside your house and a bunch of great friends always looking for adventure, a Road Trip is the first thing that comes to mind. Well now that you know my fascination for Road Trips, let me share with you my pick of Road Trips that you must Explore:
Summer is the perfect time to head to the hills and Manali has been a very popular choice as it provides a host of options for things to do from Sightseeing to Adventure Sports. The summer months of May and June are the best time for adventure sports enthusiasts to engage in a wide range of activities such as Trekking, Hiking, Paragliding, Hot Sulphur Water Bath at Manikaran, Rafting, etc. Also, in the month of May, a large number of devotees flock the Hadimba Devi Temple for an annual festival. The closer you get to Manali, the cooler the temperatures become. While the average distance is approximately 536 kms that will take about 10 hours to complete, you may also want to make a stop at Chandigarh for sightseeing. While in Chandigarh, you must see the Rock Garden – perhaps spend a couple of hours before heading up to Manali. The scenic beauty of Manali with its valleys, mountains, waterfalls, Beas River, etc., actually make the destination even better than the journey.
Though the tourist season for Ladakh opens up by mid June, the best time to visit Ladakh is the first 2 weeks of July. While the Srinagar-Leh Highway opens up by the end of May, the Manali – Leh Highway opens up around mid of June and navigating through that may be a challenge till June end. The chances of Rohtang and Bara-lach la being closed are higher in June than in early July. Being stranded as you wait for the snow to be cleared is a very frustrating experience. I would therefore recommend that you head to Ladakh via Srinagar and return via Manali. The gradual increase in altitude on the route via Srinagar (as compared to the Manali route where there's a sudden increase) offers travelers enough time to get acclimatized to the high altitudes. The chances are that in case you don't get a chance to acclimatize, you may fall sick. If you come back via Manali, you will be able to better enjoy sightseeing options like Tso Moriri as your body would've already been acclimatized. Also, if you go via Manali (towards Rohtang Pass to Leh-Ladakh), you would need to get a permit from Manali SDM in case you have a non-Himachal Pradesh vehicle. This rule, however, does not apply to vehicles to vehicles that come from Leh-Ladakh towards Manali making the return journey via Manali a hassle free one. Leh-Ladakh is not a place to travel with young kids or family. The 1000 plus kms that you cover to reach Ladakh is absolutely worth it! Once you are in Ladakh, you will be compelled to use the clichéd phrase to describe the sights and sounds – Heaven on Earth. The top places that you must explore/visit are Pangong Tso, Thiskey Monastery, Zanskar Valley, Khardung-La Pass, Magnetic Hill, Cut Hands Monastery of Chumur, and the Hall of Fame.
Munnar with its idyllic weather, green plantations and scenic natural surroundings is an obvious choice for people looking to get away this summer. Apart from staying at local plantation homestays, learning about tea, and walking around the town, the place also has some options for rock climbing and paragliding enthusiasts. If driving from Chennai, one can plan for a short break at Trichy before proceeding further. Munnar is easily accessible from Bangalore as well.
While the drive from Vishakapatnam to Araku Valley is undoubtedly scenic with rolling hills and curvy roads, the train ride is an experience that your kids will remember and cherish forever. The train takes one through multiple tunnels in the hills before one reaches their destination. While this trip can be made during summers, it may be more enjoyable once the monsoon sets in as the region comes alive with lush greenery. One can also visit the Tatipudi Reservoir and the Borra Caves to watch fascinating stalactite and stalagmite formations. Both are close to Araku.
The Pamban rail bridge was an engineering marvel in its time. Over 100 years old, this cantilever bridge is India’s first sea bridge and the second longest. It spans across the Palk Strait to connect Rameshwaram Island with the mainland. Work on the road bridge commenced in 1978. The beauty of this drive to Rameshwaram lies in crossing the bridge either by road or by train. Driving past with vast expanses of the sea on either side make this drive a scenic experience and worth a visit.
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