Fear is always an element when you step onto the open road. Crossing oceans or mountains can be rough; but, with a little bit of preparation, there is no reason to fear traveling through India. This article will compile a list of ten must-do road trips in India for both beginners and veterans alike. The goal is to not only get you from point A to point B, but also to experience the culture and natural beauty that India has to offer.
Kanyakumari to Darjeeling
Distance: 1850 km
This road trip begins in the southernmost tip of India, Kanniyakumari or “Land’s End”. It is a beautiful route that combines the beautiful backwaters of Kerala with the very different experience of witnessing one of India’s holiest cities in Varanasi. Enjoy a cruise on Kerala’s backwaters and then head north until you reach Deccan Plateau, eventually passing through two UNESCO World Heritage Sites (the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort) along the way. From here, you can begin a drive to the Himalayan region of Darjeeling. This is a long and winding road trip over an area of Nepal that has given its name to luxury hotels, known for its tea plantations and beautiful natural surroundings. By now you might be wondering about that last part – “heaven on earth”? Well, Darjeeling has it. The views are something else and the town itself is a mix between old British heritage and modern Indian culture.
Agra to Jaipur
Distance: 1443 km
This is a long drive that begins in one of India’s most popular cities, Agra. Although it’s a fairly short route, you will get to see some of the most famous monuments in the country and meet some fantastic Indian people along the way. Along this route you will also pass through Delhi. All in all, this road trip is worth it for the diversity alone! However, by no means should you feel that this is a short trip. The countryside you will pass through is very beautiful and worth seeing. Although there isn’t too much of it, a stop at Taj Mahal for sunrise would be something to see. After that, you’ll be on your way to Taj Mahal by the end of the day – if you’re up for it that is!
Delhi to Jaisalmer
Distance: 1026 km
This road trip is worth planning a bit in advance. Although not as long as others on this list, it still takes about 11-12 hours to complete. In Delhi, you will have your fill of everything Indian culture has to offer. Go shopping, dine at some street food stalls or get lost in the labyrinth of narrow streets inside the old city. Once you are done with this, head out into Delhi’s outskirts and visit some of the small market towns along this route. Make sure you stop for lunch as by the time you reach Jaisalmer, it will be too late for dinner.
Goa to Kerala
Distance: 2152 km – a bit longer than the average road trip in India!
A big loop; a lot of driving. It’s not quite as long as the others on this list, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it! The stage that makes this so is a city-to-city drive through beautiful Goa, before reaching Kerala near the end of your journey. The country side is spectacular – you will see lakes and green hills from your car. Near the end, you can stop over and see some of the famous Indian temples in Kerala.
Agra to Coorg
Distance: 624 km
Coorg is an area of Karnataka that borders the Nilgiri Mountain range and is known for its tea plantations and wildlife. The drive will take you south all the way through Western Ghats, stopping for a few hours at Ooty (which serves as a gateway to South India), Coimbatore (known for its steel industry) and finally Mysore, home to several Hindu temples including the world famous The Lalitha Mahal – a wedding hall built in 1876 with 500 rooms. From here, you can continue west and reach Coorg in less than 6 hours. This is a beautiful drive with the scenery changing from flat lands to hilly areas at every bend.
Mumbai to Puri
Distance: 1056 km
This road trip is actually a detour off the main route of Mumbai-Puri (1240km). However, it’s such a fantastic route that it deserves mention on its own. It begins in Mumbai, one of India’s biggest cities along the coastline and then continues north into smaller towns with less people. You will pass through beautiful countryside with tribes villages and farms before reaching more populated areas once again around Puri. Puri is known for its beaches and is also home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site called the Shore Temple, which is one of the main attractions of this road trip. If you want to see another UNESCO World Heritage Site in India, you can stop over at Ellora Caves near Aurangabad while you’re there. Overall, this is a beautiful route with picturesque views all around.
Bengaluru to Darjeeling
Distance: 1256 km
High in the Western Ghats, Darjeeling is often called “Queen of the hill stations”. It has a rich colonial history and is also home to one of the oldest tea plantations in the world. This route will take you through some beautiful countryside and lovely villages. In Bengaluru (Bangalore), you have a few options – head straight for Mysore, or visit a historical fort that is well worth taking a look at on your way there. Once in Mysore, you will be able to visit several Hindu temples. If you are lucky enough, the famous Kerela Dance Festival will be on while you’re there! This is not the longest of road trips on this list but it is worth visiting one of the most beautiful areas of India.
New Delhi to Manali
Distance: 1836 km
This is a long drive with a lot of mountain scenery and changing weather conditions, so make sure your car is in good working order before beginning the journey! You’ll start out in New Delhi and head west into Kangra Valley, a beautiful area known for its natural environment. A stop at Kullu Valley will be worthwhile as well, where you can relax in a valley full of snow and peaks. By the time you reach Manali, it will be around 5pm and it is very unlikely you’ll make it to camp before sunset. However, this drive is worth every minute of it!
Delhi to Shimla
Distance: 1232 km
Although Shimla is a popular holiday destination for people from all over India, this drive takes its place because it has wonderful mountain scenery and a quaint colonial town that many people forget about. It is also one of the few towns in India that has modern Indian shops along with old-fashioned British and European stores. It is best to take a car to Shimla as it will make your journey more comfortable. While you are there, you can take in the water falls and visit the beautiful Lake Manu (which is perfect for seeing birds and wildlife).
Goa to Agra
Distance: 616 km
This road trip is another great alternative way of getting from Goa to Agra. It starts off in Panaji (Panjim) on the west coast of Goa. If you feel like stopping over at some place along the way, there are some great beaches along this route that you will pass through. You will cross the border into Karnataka and drive through the state until you reach Hampi. This is a popular tourist attraction with beautiful temples, old forts and ruins in different cities all around the area. If you aren’t tired of driving by this time, don’t worry as this isn’t your final destination! After another hour or so of driving, you will reach Sravanabelagola where there is the giant Goa statue. This statue has been carved out of a rock by hand and it is said that it was built to help King Dharmashoka (of Gaya) see further when he ascended to his throne after an eye disease took his sight away.