Mumbai to Goa
An absolute mecca for car and bike enthusiasts, Mumbai to Goa road trip is nothing short of mesmerizing – all scenic beauty, with Western Ghats from end to end – and a top choice among Mumbaikars. The Pune-Kolhapur route via NH4 can be covered in 10 hours non-stop over 590 kilometres (366 miles); with four lanes, this the preferred and safest route, but numerous toll booths along the way mean paying again and again. Thrill seekers may enjoy the Chiplun-Ratnagiri route via NH66, which takes 577 kilometres (358 miles) within 12 hours non-stop; with winding roads, narrow curves and fewer toll booths, this route goes past paddy fields and nut and coconut plantations. Both routes have ample delicious gastronomic options along the way to stay satiated.
Best time to go: September–March
Manali to Leh
This road trip is off-the-chart breathtaking and needs to be experienced for yourself. With some deadly twists and turns, the snow-capped mountains, distinct valleys, spectacular landscapes and stunning monasteries will spice up your journey. The distance between Manali–Leh is 478 kilometres (297 miles) and should be covered in two days as most of it is above 4,000 metres (13,123 feet) of altitude. Make a stopover at Keylong and further at Sarchu to relax and acclimate to the high altitude.
Best time to go: June–September
Visakhapatnam to Araku Valley
The journey from Visakhapatnam is 114 kilometres (70 miles), which can be covered in three or four hours, winds through curly roads, verdant green canyons and serene hills overlooking the magical Bay of Bengal, majestic waterfalls, forested hillsides and coffee plantations – all with a dose of camera-worthy beauty. When in Araku Valley, visit Borra Caves and Tatipudi Reservoir.
Best time to go: October–March
Guwahati to Tawang
Perhaps one of the must-take road trips to take in northeast India is Guwahati to Tawang, which covered in approximately 14 hours and 509 kilometres (316 miles). The roads are rough but well worth the trip for the mesmerizing scenery unfolding at every turn, both snow-clad mountains and lush greenery. As it’s an extensive road trip, make a stopover at Dirang in West Kameng to witness the Buddhist culture at Kalchakra and Ngingmapa Monastery, or stop at Tezpur in Assam and explore its cultural and historical attractions. Don’t forget to indulge in the lip-smacking momos at one of the many stalls on the way.
Best time to go: March–October
Chennai to Pondicherry
Over just 155 kilometres (96 miles), a trip from Chennai to Pondicherry (nicknamed as the ‘Paris of the East’) can be achieved in only three or four hours via East Coast Road. The beautiful sight of the sea on one side and the reflection of the sun on the water just add to the pleasure of the route, which goes through Mahabalipuram (make a pit stop at this UNESCO World Heritage Site to enjoy its beautiful beaches and fill up), Idaikkazhinadu (check out Alambara Fort), Marakkanam (known for large salt pans), Mudaliarkuppam (relax in the boat house and indulge in water sports) and Kalpakkam (a centre for nuclear facility). Almost every mile presents a picture-perfect photo opportunity.
Best time to go: October–February
Shimla to Manali via Mandi
Those with a passion for photography will instantly fall in love with this camera-ready road trip. Manali is merely 247 kilometres (153 miles) from Shimla, which can be covered in a seven-hour drive via NH205 and NH3. With beautiful mountains on one side and deep valley and verdant greenery on the other side, this road trip will definitely leave drivers spellbound for a long time.
Best time to go: outside monsoon season (mid-September–Mid-July)
Ahmedabad to Kutch
A trip from Ahmedabad to the Land of White Salt Desert (that is, Kutch) would take approximately seven hours, covering a distance of 400 kilometres (248 miles). Admire the beautiful landscapes, gorge on lip-smacking food and witness the exquisite art and culture of Gujarat while riding past the unique huts lining the roads from Ahmedabad to Kutch. The roads are well-developed, but start early before they get crammed with traffic. When you reach Kutch, make sure to visit the Wild Ass Sanctuary in Kutch, home to over 3,000 wild asses, Chari-Dhand, which is a bird watcher’s heaven and the nearby Hodko Village to buy exquisite handicrafts.
Best time to go: October–March
Kolkata to Digha
Almost every Kolkatan will swear by this quick weekend beach getaway from Kolkata. This scenic stretch of 184 kilometres (114 miles) is lined with verdant trees and picture-perfect landscapes that will leave drivers awestruck. Digha can be reached from Kolkata within four hours via NH16 and NH116B, and there are scores of dhabas along the way to stay fueled. While in Digha, soak up some sun on the beach, gorge on delicious seafood, enjoy the spectacular sunset on the beach or go for a pony ride in the shallow waters.
Best time to go: July–March
Darjeeling to Pelling
Lush tea gardens, majestic mountains and scenic landscapes on all sides are a sight to behold on this road trip. Darjeeling and Pelling are 72 kilometres (44 miles), which can be covered within four hours. Stop at a tea garden and sip refreshing tea for an energy boost. The roads are perfectly maintained, offering a smooth ride throughout, and they’re studded with numerous food joints.
Best time to go: March–June, September–December
Mumbai to Mount-Abu
The beautiful route from Mumbai to Mount-Abu passes from urban towns to the hilly terrain over a distance of 765 kilometres (475 miles), which can be covered within 12 hours via NH48. Not in a hurry? Go all out and experience the three different cultures along the way: Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan. But the trip is as wonderful as the destinations. Scores of dhabas and eateries line the route, such as at Vadodara or Ahmedabad, and driving into Mount-Abu greets travellers with lush greenery and misty mountains.
Best time to go: July–October
Bangalore to Ooty
This road trip calls out to nature lovers: pass miles of nature on both sides and marvel at the picturesque route, embellished with lush green mountains and scenic landscapes. Ride past the dense, calming and soul-refreshing forests of Bandipur as well as the historic palaces of the ancient city Mysore. Be greeted with untapped beauty filled with acres of tea plantations, majestic waterfalls and clear lakes. The route stretches along NH275 for 278 kilometres (172 miles), which can be covered within six hours, and it’s dotted with many eateries en-route to fill your belly.
Best time to go: October–June
The Golden Triangle (Delhi–Agra–Jaipur)
This list would be incomplete without mention of the classic Golden Triangle, which binds the three historically and culturally rich and diverse cities of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur via the Yamuna Expressway and NH8. This road trip is both remarkable and picturesque, and dhabas and restaurants dot the best maintained roads to quench hunger. Though this trip covers a distance of 449 kilometres (279 miles), which can be driven in seven hours, stretch it out to two or three days, and tick off the places in between: from the historic sites in Delhi (like Jama Masjid and Mughal Red Fort) to architectural and historical marvels of Agra (like Taj Mahal and Agra Fort) and to Jaipur, The Pink City (check out City Palace, marvel at the architecture of Hawa Mahal and historic Amer Fort and shop for traditional Rajasthan clothes and jewellery at popular local bazaars like Tripoli Bazaar and Chandpole Bazar.
Best time to go: August–March