Driving Travel Destinations in India
Flying off to far flung locales or picking out those romantic hideaways can be exciting only the first few times. This time around, why not a romantic drive?
Leh to Khardung la, J&K
The road is the highest motorable road in the country and makes for one of the most magnificent drives. The Border Roads Organisation is responsible for it, considering that it is strategic as well.
For at least two-thirds of the distance, the road is paved; for the rest it is kachcha, but fairly easy going in a large vehicle, though it could get treacherous during heavy snowfall.
More importantly, it's what's beyond the road that is important.
Travellers will be forgiven for thinking they are in the sky, looking out of a vessel, since one can look down on many snow-capped mountains.
Further ahead is the beautiful Nubra valley, home to the beautiful and politically sensitive Siachen glacier. It is a must stop/must see point for its sheer geographical importance and the glorious views.
Distance: 40 km
Major attraction: Siachen glacier http://www.travelpackagesindia.us/
Bomdila to Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh
Running well above 12,000 feet, the road is dizzying in more ways than one. It's not much of a road, but then again, the state of the road is hardly a contributing factor for the drive.
The Sela pass at 13,940 ft is among the most spectacular and the highest in Arunachal Pradesh. What makes the drive most memorable are the snow-capped mountains, rivers and streams, valleys and panoramic views; even more thrilling are the views of the snow-tipped mountains visible from across the Chinese border.
Distance: 180 km
Major attraction: Sela Pass
Puri to Konark, Orissa
It might not be much in terms of distance, but the scenery more than makes up for this lacuna.
The ambitiously named Marine Drive connects the two. It is a smooth road during most seasons and offers tantalising glimpses of sea and sand on the one hand, paddy fields broken by palm and coconut fringes on the other.
Along the way are temples such as Beleswar and Ramachandi.
Major attraction: Views of the sea and the temples
East Coast Road (Chennai to Cuddalore), Tamil Nadu
A toll road for most part, it is difficult to imagine what a spectacular drive it is when heading out from busy and noisy Chennai. For the most part, the sea is a constant companion, but not a static one.
With every kilometer, the sea changes it appearance depending on the local conditions -- untamed sand and surf, fishermen hamlets and some pretty resorts alternate to make the drive interesting.
Hidden along the road are also lovely, calm beaches where it is possible to rest and relax without being run over by hordes.
Distance: 160 km
Major attraction: Dakshina Chitra, Mahabalipuram and Pondicherry.
Mangalore to Karwar, Karnataka
Possibly, Karnataka's best kept secret.
The road is by no means perfect, and the going could get more than a tad difficult at times, but scenery and the flavours unravelling at every kilometer is bound to eclipse everything else.
The road is a one blissful exploration encompassing beaches hidden behind hamlets and thick fringes of swaying coconut farms, unspoilt and beautiful seaside havens such as the peaceful Malpe and rather fascinatingly rough St Mary's Isles, kitcshy Gokarna and Murudeshwar, and the spectacularly sublime Devbagh outside Karwar.
Distance: 320 km
Major attraction: Beaches, heritage and temples
Kochi to Kumarakom, Kerala
It's a toss up about what to see on this lovely stretch of road. Shaded backwaters and thick forests offer grand views, while charming villages and hamlets flit by, generously sprinkled with thattukadas or roadside chai stalls.
Along the way, there are plenty of places to stop, either to take in the views, to indulge in lotus eating or check out the fauna, including the avian variety, of which there's plenty, especially at the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary.
Distance: 85 km
Major attraction: Kumarakom lake and bird sanctuary. http://www.travelpackagesindia.us/
Vizag to Araku Valley, Andhra Pradesh
Heading out of hot and humid Visakhapatnam, the road might seem like much initially but once humanity gives way to the hills and the valleys and as the road climbs higher and higher, the romance sets in.
Rolling hill slopes, carpeted with greenery, and valleys dipping gently to accommodate streams, all seem poetic.
Topped by tribal villages and the mysterious Borra Caves at the end, the drive is a unique experience.
Distance: 120 km
Must stop/must see: Borra caves
Mumbai to Malshej Ghat, Maharashtra
Leaving behind the metro's busy, noisy roads, the road snakes through smaller towns and villages. However, as one approaches the ghats, the roads become less crowded and a sense of serenity prevails.
The thickly forested slopes and beautiful valleys make for a fascinating drive. The area is rich in avian species so don't forget to put aside time for bird watching.
Distance: 155 km
Must stop/must see: Views of ghats, valleys and birds.
Barmer to Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
This is one for speed junkies.
One straight road, it goes through the Thar desert and provides breathtaking views of the desert. Such is the notoriety of the desert that in peak summer, the road gets so hot it causes tyre-bursts at high speeds.
Distance: 160 km
Must stop/must see: Unending vistas of desert, desert national park. http://www.travelpackagesindia.us/
Sasan Gir to Somnath, Gujarat
From forest to the seaside, this is one lovely ride.
Not just all kinds of vehicles, but you are likely to encounter lions and lionesses on the road, making it both terrifyingly and wonderful at the same time.
The big cats are especially known to favour the evenings, just after sunset so choose your time. And at the end of it, the glorious sea is well worth the drive.
Distance: 70 km
Must stop/must see: Big cats, forested roadsides and the sea.