Earlier, we did an article on some of the best routes for a road trip in India. In the months following, we’ve tried new routes and felt that list needed to be added on to. So here’s our pick of some of the most scenic routes in India. While the list can definitely not be exhaustive, it’s a good place to start. All you need is to find a do-able route near you and hit the road. Not staying in the city you want to start from? Fret not, that doesn’t need to stop you from exploring the roads around. Simply, fly in or take a train to the city that you want to start from and then hire a self driven car (or cab, if you don’t like to drive). Self driven rides are becoming an affordable option in India and provide a lot of flexibility and allow one to explore even distant parts of our country by road. If you’re looking to hire a self-drive car, Mylescars & Zoomcar are some of the bigger names to start with and have a presence in several metros. There are smaller players too which are available in fewer cities but may offer a better deal so do check them out online before heading out.
Coming back to our list of places, here are some we recently tried and liked:
Chennai/Mahabalipuram to Pondicherry: A lot has been said about the drive along the East Coast Road (or ECR) that runs from Chennai past Mahabalipuram and then onward to Pondicherry. While the ECR route is very well maintained and there are points where you can catch a view of the coastline enroute Mahabalipuram, most of the stretch between Chennai-Mahabalipuram doesn’t have much to look at on account of all the vacant plots near the shoreline having been constructed on. Instead, the Mahabalipuram to Pondicherry stretch is better. While the road narrows down to a 2 lane highway making it difficult to drive very fast, the scenic beauty of the stretch more than makes up for it. On the way, one gets to see shaded tree lined avenues, glistening blue backwaters and pristine white salt fields.Chennai to Pondicherry is approximately a 3-3.5 hour drive with Mahabalipuram coming en-route. Alternatively, you can start from Mahabalipuram which is about 1.5-2 hours from Pondicherry depending on traffic. It is advisable to take this route during daylight hours as the stretch from Pondicherry to Mahabalipuram is devoid of street lighting and dividers making it a bit unsafe for night driving.
Salt Fields enroute Pondicherry via ECR. Image Source: Wikimedia Creative Commons
Mumbai-Pune: The Mumbai-Pune Expressway is one of the better maintained highways in India. During the monsoon, this route is a visual treat because of the lush, verdant green Western Ghats flanking the highway.
Monsoon Drive Along the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Image Source: Flickr
Mangalore to Karwar: Karwar is a relatively small town in Karnataka that is not as over run by tourists however, the drive along coastal Karnataka is an experience in itself. With unhindered views of the sea, warmer climates that ensure you can drive down at any time in the year and delicious seafood available through the route, this is definitely a ‘must-try’ especially during the monsoons. Distance wise this route spans around 275 KM along the NH 66 and takes about half a day. One can also make a stop at either Udupi or Gokarna and extend it to a longer holiday.
Karwar Bridge. Image Source.
Gangtok to Nathang Valley: This route will definitely appeal to most history buffs as the route forms part of the ancient Silk Route. The Silk Route is a cluster of trade routes spread across parts of India and the erstwhile Eurasia region & Africa to facilitate trade and movement of goods. It also helped facilitate the exchange of ideas, philosophies and culture. For instance, Buddhism is believed to have spread across the world through the Silk Route. Likewise, it is believed that Arabs took the discoveries in the fields of medicine and mathematics made by the Indians and Chinese and built upon it to develop streams like Algebra. The current route is one of several that originated at Lhasa, Tibet, passes through Sikkim and winds through the plains of Bengal to lead into the sea ports along the Bay of Bengal. These sea ports are located in present day West Bengal & Bangladesh. The 2 hour route from Gangtok to Nathang Valley overlaps one of these routes through the Jelep La Pass. From this route, one can catch stunning vistas of Mt. Kanchenjunga. Other points of attraction along this route are the Menmecho Lake, Mandakini Waterfall & the Thambi viewpoint which provides a good vantage point to see the entire, winding route.
Gangtok to Nathang Valley Road. Image Source.
Ahmedabad to Kutch: A 5-8 hour trip, this trip is a great way to experience the myriad colours of Rajasthan. Do watch out for the change in landscape as one nears the Kutch. One can also make a stop by the Wild Ass Sanctuary along the way. The best time to traverse this route is post monsoons and before summer sets in (i.e., Late September/Early October- March).
Road to Kutch. Image Source.
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