Taking a road trip is one the most immersive ways to travel because the journey is an integral part of the entire experience. Here are 7 road trips—ranging from offbeat routes like Pondicherry to Kovalam to world-famous tracks like Manali to Leh—that really ought to be on your bucket list! Text by Rajasvi Gandhi
The fantastic Manali to Leh road trip traverses over five high-altitude passes and incredible cold-desert topography which is why it’s considered one of the most dramatically scenic driving routes in the world. Drivers can expect to travel for hours without running into signs of civilization in some of the only truly remote frontiers of India. The journey is arduous, the weather unpredictable and the road, passable at best. Not for the faint-hearted but tremendously satisfying, completing this road trip is often worn as a badge of honour amongst motorcyclists who, along with everything else also have to deal with the vagaries of the nature. Distance: 478 km. Pit stops: Keylong, Sarchu.
Despite being India’s smallest state, Goa is the country’s classic beach destination attracting both, Indian and international travellers. The better route to take from Mumbai is still the old coastal highway—National Highway 17 (now rechristened NH 66)—which traces along the western coast through quaint little Konkani villages facing the Arabian Sea. The standard route via Pune on National Highway 4 is quicker but less scenic. Distance: 615 km. Pit stops: Mahabaleshwar, Panhala.
Lansdowne is one of India’s oldest and smallest hill stations. The drive from Delhi to Lansdowne is pleasant and scenic. This cantonment town located in the Garhwal Himalayas still displays ample evidence of its pre-independence colonial heritage. Its quaint charm borne from the town’s pervasive sense of remoteness and quietude is as much reason to go here as is the excellent drive from the plains. It’s pretty sedentary but for those looking for a quiet weekend drive from Delhi with a bit of boating and bird watching thrown in, Landsdowne makes a compelling proposition. Distance: 254 km. Pit stops: Meerut bypass.
The Old Silk Route which passes through East Sikkim is a part of the network of ancient trade routes that connected India and China to the Mediterranean Sea. This mesmerising road trip starts at Pedong, and travels through Zuluk, Lungthung and Nathang Valley. It continues up to Nathula Pass (4,310 mt), which is located on the Indo-China border and serves as a trade link between India and China. This pass is open only to Indian citizens and travellers need a special permit to travel in this region. The Gangtok—Nathula highway crosses the Tsomgo Lake and the Baba Harbhajan Mandir. Some of the most interesting places on the route are Lingtam, Rishikhola, Zuluk, Nathang Valley, Nathula Pass, Lungthung and, of course, Gangtok. Distance: 158 km. Pit stops: Villages such as Zuluk and Lungthung have homestay facilities available.
This amazing road trip from Guwahati to Tawang traverses over the Sela Pass—the second highest motorable road in the world (4,170 mt). The road from Tezpur to Tawang is mostly snow-covered throughout the year. There is a lot to see in the town of Tawang, such as the Gompa Monastery, the Sangester Lake, and the beautiful Nuraneng Falls. An Inner Line permit is required for travellers wanting to visit Tawang. Distance: 488 km. Pit stops: Bomdila, Dirang.
This long, eventful and offbeat road trip passes through Tiruchirappalli, Madurai and Kanyakumari before reaching the seaside city of Kovalam. It covers various destinations, and is perfect for experiencing the culture and beauty of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The roads in this region are mostly well maintained and the highlights of this long road trip include the Meenakshi Temple and Thirupparankundram Temple in Madurai; the cuisine; and the beaches—the last leg of the trip from Kanyakumari to Kovalam hugs the coastline for the most part. Distance: 636 km. Pit stops: Madurai, Tiruchirappalli.
A road trip from Jaipur to Jaisalmer is ideal for experiencing the vast and remote stretches of the Thar Desert, and for exploring the medieval Indian temples and castles (such as Amer Mahal, Khwaja Dargah, Mehrangarh Fort, Jaisalmer Fort, etc) on the way. Jaisalmer has a wondrous old world charm, and is a haven for foodies, shoppers and nature lovers alike. While this trip becomes harder to undertake during the summers, cold weather adds to its beauty. Distance: 569 km. Pit stop- Ajmer, Jodhpur.