Hit the road and try some great self-drive holidays armed with our route maps and tips
A sturdy four-wheel drive on good roads with a map of food-centric pit stops, is all you need for a great vacation-on-wheels. “Road trips across India are amazing because the country has an uncanny knack of throwing surprises at you,” says Rishad Saam Mehta, author of the travelogue Hot Tea Across India, as he shares his list of best driving holiday routes in India that include the Konkan coast (with pristine beaches and once-proud forts dotting the coastline) and the Orchha-Khajuraho route (to absorb the culture of places like Gwalior, Orchha and Varanasi). A foodie himself, he recommends downloading the Foodspotting app and stopping at local chai shops/dabbas along the way. We look at other interesting and slightly offbeat routes:
Route: Asangaon-Khardi-Igatpuri-Ghoti Naka-Bhandardhara
I knew it was pretty and isolated, but what piqued my curiosity was the prospect of riding through the new Kasara Ghat section on the way there,” says Argho Mukherji, a senior official at Mavcomm Consulting and an avid biker, of the little hamlet in the Ahmednagar district, 185 km from Mumbai. Hit the road to Nashik (NH3) early and “have breakfast at Dutt Snacks, a little Maharashtrian eatery just off the highway, in Sai Nagar, on the outskirts of Mumbai,” Mukherji advises. Though the road to Kasara is scenic, once you turn to Bhandardhara at Ghoti Naka “the roads worsen,” he says, cautioning drivers to watch out for tractors and cattle.
The MTDC Resort is your best bet as far as lodgings go. It isn’t fancy, but it overlooks the river. You could include a visit to the Randhawa Falls nearby for a picnic or pitch a tent for the night. “If you do plan to set up camp, take along a local guide (`500 to `1,000 a night) who knows the terrain,” advises Mukherji. Lake view cottages at the MTDC Resort are `4,200 a night. Details: 024 24257032
Rukhla, Himachal Pradesh
Rukhla is an isolated apple-growing village 70 km from Shimla, and makes for an 11-hour drive from Delhi. After Shimla, the road is a series of winding mountain passes with spectacular views. It’s also a great route for wildlife enthusiasts as it passes through the Shimla Reserve forest sanctuary and the town of Kufri has a zoo that is worth a visit. “Don’t bother looking for Rukhla on a map because you won’t find it,” says Pablo Chaterji, managing editor of Motoring magazine. Once there, you can lounge under an apple tree, go for a walk among the pinewoods and orchards, have a cup of chai while sitting 6,500 feet above sea level or enjoy a picnic by the Giri and Chagaounti streams. Though there is a forest rest house in Rukhla, Chaterji insists the best place to stay is at the home of Jagjit Singh Chauhan and his wife. “They’re a gracious couple and Mrs Chauhan’s cooking is the sort that cures terminal illnesses,” he declares. `1,500 onwards for room and board.
Research your route in advance. Besides the basic road safety guidelines, “keep your trip short with a few buffer days for resting. Carry twice the amount of cash you estimate you’ll need, in case of emergencies. And ensure that your car is in good condition, and yo
u have a spare wheel,” says Mehta, adding that you must keep a cell phone and car charger with you. If you don’t want to use your own car, visit websites like Selfdrive.in, Carzonrent.com, Avis and Eco, to hire a self-drive. “For those on a budget, the Nissan Micra is great. For a family, choose a Toyota Corolla,” adds Mehta.
? The Icefields Parkway of Canada, along the heart of the Canadian Rockies ? The Atlantic Roads of Norway, set amidst hills and lakes of Western Scandinavia ? La Ruta Del Che in Bolivia, cutting through the valleys on the Andes ? The Alaskan Highway, through the Yukon Region and the deep northern territories of America
Get app-savvy, starting with Google Maps of course, but you could also try Waze or Scout. Audible — which lets you choose from 60,000 audio books — is great, while the cool Spotify lets you stream over a million songs into your device. Keep apps like AAA, which will let you summon help without making a call, at the ready. Finally,
Car Finder AR is a neat app that helps you find your
car in case you forget what your rented car
looks like or where you parked it.
Great roads make the drive from Bangalore to Dharmasthala a delight, says Chaterji — including the drive via Hassan and Belur. This picturesque little temple town in Karnataka, about 275 km from Bangalore, houses the Manjusha Car Museum, a vintage museum filled with Dodges, Rolls-Royces, Cadillacs and more — a must dekho for car enthusiasts. Don’t let its modest appearance deceive you. “There’s a great collection inside, including a whale skeleton,” he says, adding that there is an art museum in town as well. All the accommodation in the little town is run by the Manjunatheshwara Dharmothana temple trust and is simple, but spotlessly clean. Sannidhi is a VIP guest house with both AC (`800 a night) and non-AC (`600 a night) accommodation. Details: 0825 6277121