Rainy Routes: Eight Monsoon Road Trips Perfect For The Season

India is at its most verdant in the rainy season. These routes, recommended by Rishad Saam Mehta, will introduce you to vistas you have never seen before
Sadolxem bridge is situated over the Talpon river Canacona, Goa
Sadolxem bridge is situated over the Talpon river Canacona, GoaShutterstock

Grass pushes through from cracks in the tarmac, dust and debris accumulated over months gets washed away from sculptures carved by ancient artists many millennia ago, waterfalls turn from tired trickles to tempestuous torrents and the countryside, drab and dreary, turns verdant and vibrant. When the monsoons arrive in this exquisite land called India, the entire country celebrates because the rains bring hope and joy and the promise of bloom and bounty. Then there is that fragrance of wet earth that wafts through the air—the distinct scent of this sublime season complemented by the refreshing taste of hot masala tea and fritters at roadside dhabas.

Monsoon road trips stand apart as exciting adventures that enthral drivers and passengers alike with the views coming in through the windshield.

The biggest cluster of the African-origin Baobab trees is found in Mandu
The biggest cluster of the African-origin Baobab trees is found in ManduPhoto: Getty Images

Indore To Mandu

The deserted monument city of Mandu is the main attraction of this road trip during the monsoons, but you can take in a few sights along the way too.

Also, spend a day or two in Indore. It is known for its street food if that is something that excites you.

Instead of driving straight to Mandu, first drive to Omkareshwar, which is 80 km south of Indore. Here the draw is the temple with a jyotirlinga that is on an island in the Narmada River, accessible via boat and bridge.

From Omkareshwar, head 103 km west to Mandu, known as Mandavgarh in the 10th century. The ruins of the ancient city are everywhere and they are especially resplendent during the monsoon season. The Jahaz Mahal or ship palace was built between two lakes to give it the appearance of floating on water.

Look at Hoshang Shah’s tomb here and it will ring with familiarity. This is because it is said to have served as a template for the Taj Mahal. Rani Roopmati’s Palace, which was built next to the Narmada River has great views. The tragic romance between Rani Roopmati and Baz Bahadur is one of the most poignant lores of love from medieval India.

The highlight of Jagdalpur is the magnificent Chitrakote Falls, situated on the river Indravati
The highlight of Jagdalpur is the magnificent Chitrakote Falls, situated on the river Indravati

Raipur To The Bastar District (Jagdalpur)

NH43 is the main highway running all along the route from Raipur to Jagdalpur—a distance of 300 km—and it is an adventurous track passing through forests as well as curving across hills. During the monsoons, the route is almost unbearably verdant.

The last 75 km from Kondagoan onwards marks the beginning of the tribal areas. All along your way, you will see plenty of commemorative edifices that the tribal community puts up in memory of those who have passed on and these are quite a work of art.

Jagdalpur is the headquarters of the Bastar District and this sparsely populated region is replete with forests and a natural beauty that is unsurpassed.

Make Jagdalpur your base for a few days to explore the Bastar district. The highlight of this region is the magnificent Chitrakote Falls, 40 km west of Jagdalpur. During the monsoons, they are at their boisterous best.

Enterprising locals will take daring tourists impossibly close to the base of the falls in their dugouts, which are basically canoes made from hollowed-out tree trunks. The village of Barsur is home to an ancient Shiva temple. It stands opposite a Ganesha shrine where there is a huge idol of the elephant god carved out from a single block of stone. Both these ancient monuments gleam during the monsoon season.

Also worth a visit are the Tirathgarh Waterfalls. These falls are lesser known than Chitrakote Falls but are no less impressive. They are so rapturously beautiful that they merit a visit in their own right. The cascade of water tumbles down a series of naturally rock-cut steps into a serene pool, which gurgles down over a series of shallow drops.

There are 200-plus steps down to the pool. Once at the bottom, make your way through knee-deep water and cross over to the other side where you will discover a pathway leading even further down to where the falls drop unrestricted for about 300 feet.

But do gauge the flow and the force of the water before attempting any of this. Finally, Dantewada is a town worth visiting for its weekly tribal market.

On NH 48, the Bombay-Bengaluru road, about 45 km south of Kolhapur and 10 km past Nipani, there is a right turn towards Amboli via Shippur and Uttur; and this is the road that you should take to Goa during the monsoons.

Scenic waterfall at Amboli Ghat, Goa-Kolhapur road
Scenic waterfall at Amboli Ghat, Goa-Kolhapur roadShutterstock

Get to Amboli before 11 am because the place is so popular—thanks to the scenic hill roads with their impromptu waterfalls—that tourists are attracted to this place like bees to honey.

The waterfalls and the translucent mist that drifts in and out over the ghats give the whole place an otherworldly feel. Sometimes the clouds are lower than the hills and it seems as if the waterfall is sourced from the heavens above.

There is a clutch of dhabas and tea stalls in front of the main waterfall, which is the chief attraction, but there are plenty of other waterfalls that are secluded and peaceful. A word of caution though, the rocks can be very slippery so do watch out. Also, it is really jarring to see the trash generated at the dhabas and stalls, please do not contribute to that.

There are a few temples around Amboli village to visit, but if that isn’t your scene, just spend some time in the open green fields. It’s peaceful here, away from the noise of the waterfalls. Especially during the monsoons, there are little streams running about and cattle grazing in the fields. All around there are villagers who are quite friendly and up for a chat.

Beautiful view of the 22 hairpin bends leading to Yercaud from Salem
Beautiful view of the 22 hairpin bends leading to Yercaud from Salem

Bengaluru To Yercaud

In a state where the hordes rush to Ooty and Kodaikanal at every opportunity, Yercaud is a hidden hill station and quite unique during the monsoons. It is quiet, peaceful and perfect for nature trails. It also has bison and colourful spiders, the size of quarter plates.

Best of all, it is just a 230 km drive from Bengaluru and the last 30 km are twisty hill roads that are resplendent in green during the monsoons.

The route goes along NH 44 from Bengaluru to Salem. Then it turns east for about 3 km on SH 188 and then heads north towards Yercaud, 30 km away. SH 188 is single-laned, so the going is slower, especially once you hit the Yercaud hills.

David Cockburn was the collector of Salem from 1820 to 1829 and he developed Yercaud, not far, but more pleasant as a place to escape to. Cockburn developed Yercaud by introducing the cultivation of oranges, pears and coffee. The Grange—the grand old mansion that has stood since the 1820’s—was also built by him.

Like most hill stations that the British developed, this too has a green lake aptly named Emerald Lake that occupies the centre of the little town with recreational boats for hire.

The Annamalaiyar Temple, which is about 7 km from Emerald Lake is beautifully carved and a fine example of South Indian temple architecture.

It is not uncommon to come across bisons standing in little clearings amongst the silver oak trees.

In the jungle away from the centre of the hill station by the side of the road, spiders spin huge webs between tree trunks and they lay still in the centre of these silver strands waiting for prey.

Lady’s Seat is another good viewpoint and during the rainy season, thanks to the low clouds, it is really ethereal. Watch out for pythons though.

The Kiliyur Falls are 2.5 km from the lake and during the monsoons, they are wild and boisterous. There is a route to go down to the base of the falls but proceed with prudence and precaution.

Known for majestic waterfalls, Amboli Ghat is also known as the 'Cherrapunjee of Maharashtra'
Known for majestic waterfalls, Amboli Ghat is also known as the 'Cherrapunjee of Maharashtra'

Goa Away From The Sea

In Goa, when it rains, it really pours, and the sea is strictly out of bounds. But if it’s monsoon drives, lush forests and waterfalls that you’re after, then Goa’s certainly your scene.

On the drive from Amboli Ghat to Goa, backtrack a bit from Amboli and take Maharashtra SH 180 and 130. This road will take you past many waterfalls as it crosses the Tilari Ghat section and then—just as you cross into Goa—the Chorla Ghat section. This route is 160 km from Amboli Ghat to Panaji.

To foray further from Panaji, drive south to Margao on NH 66 and then head southeast to Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary.

This sanctuary, named after a tributary of the Zuari River, comprises moist-deciduous forests interspersed with semi-evergreen and evergreen forests, and is home to an abundance of fauna including great pied hornbills, giant squirrels, black panthers and king cobras. During the monsoon, the sanctuary is overbearingly green and teems with swollen streams and waterfalls.

South of Netravali is Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, located in the Canacona taluka of Goa. Set up in 1968, the Cotigao Sanctuary has eight hiking trails that crisscross the park. Be prepared to get your feet muddy though, and watch out for leeches.

There are also six watchtowers around the sanctuary to help spot wildlife and they are at least 25 metres off the ground.

The road from Pune to Malshej Ghat is an explosion of green
The road from Pune to Malshej Ghat is an explosion of green Photo: Getty Images

Pune To Saputara Via Malshej Ghat

Imagine a sci-fi movie with a kid whose hormones have gone haywire and have caused him to evolve into a giant. Next, take it for granted that he has access to spray-paint cans of fluorescent green and that he’s gone on a rampage painting everything green. What you get is the verdant Maharashtra countryside during the monsoons.

The road from Pune to the Malshej Ghat is an explosion of green in all its hues and shades. Waterfalls are common, clouds make the sky dramatic, and there is a surreal touch to the land that is soothing and beautiful. The monsoons give Maharashtra a stunning makeover. Added to this fantastic package are superb tarmac roads, well-behaved traffic and almost no slow-moving three-wheelers or cattle carts.

A hundred and thirty kilometre north of Pune on NH 60 and NH 61 (from Otur) is Malshej Ghat. During the monsoons, this place undoubtedly becomes Maharashtra’s biggest and most popular natural water park.

Thousands of cusecs of water come cascading down hundreds of waterfalls at every nook and cranny of the winding hill road. Indeed, during the weekends, a large number of people from Mumbai, Pune and Nashik gather here to celebrate the rains and have chilled showers in the delightfully icy water.

If you’d rather do without the multitudes, then head here on a weekday for seclusion. There are plenty of tea-and-bhajia stalls here and it is at times painful to see the amount of trash lying about by way of paper cups and plates. You can do your bit by carrying along your own cups for this trip and disposing of trash responsibly.

Nohkalikai Falls, Cherrapunjee, is the tallest plunge waterfall in India
Nohkalikai Falls, Cherrapunjee, is the tallest plunge waterfall in India

Shillong To Cherrapunjee

Meghalaya is often touted as the Scotland of the East and it is probably the rolling green moors bordered by gentle hills outside Cherrapunjee that have earned it this sobriquet.

The road from Shillong to Cherrapunjee is SH 5, which is also called the Sohra-Shella road. About 20 km short of Cherrapunjee, there is a right turn onto a country road that is a sort of scenic route to Cherrapunjee. The route is dotted with waterfalls—Mawsawdong, Lyngksiar, Wei Sawdong, Sohpung and Lyngngai, to name a few.

You can base yourself in Cherrapunjee for treks around the region. This is also the land of the living root bridges—roots of the ficus elastica—that villagers have trained to grow across streams. Live tree root bridge walking is an activity unique to Meghalaya and something that needs patience and skill and should only be done under the watchful eye of a guide. Never try to venture out on these root bridges on your own.

Other places worth visiting around Cherrapunjee are the Mawsmai Caves and the Nohkalikai Falls. The former are limestone caves that will remind you of "Alice in Wonderland" and the rabbit hole. There are places where you need to squeeze through, but it is amazing that the caves are so spacious at most places.

The falls are 7.5 km from Cherrapunjee by road but 5 km from the main market if you decide to walk. The falls themselves are stunning because in the monsoon they are swollen with water.

Another sight worth visiting is the Ka Khoh Ramah that is a gigantic monolithic rock formation and the views from here out to the plains of Bangladesh are stunning.

A word of caution here—this region receives a lot of rainfall that can lead to flooding. In fact, houses are built on stilts in areas susceptible to flooding. Check weather conditions before setting out on this road trip.

Araku Valley is also referred to as the Ooty of Andhra Pradesh
Araku Valley is also referred to as the Ooty of Andhra Pradesh

Vishakhapatnam To Araku Valley

A raku valley in Andhra Pradesh lies 120 km north of Vishakhapatnam and is reputed to be one of the most non-commercialised tourist spots in South India. Its vivid greenery is broken only by the silver shimmer of its many waterfalls during the monsoon season.

The drive from Vishakhapatnam goes through the lush Andhra plains for the first two hours and then, after the Jungle Bells Resort that comes up after 80 km, starts climbing into the hills that make up the Eastern Ghats.

The latter part of the drive is marked with forests that have jackfruit trees bordering the road.

At Bowdara, which is about 58 km from Vishakhapatnam, turn right to detour onto NH 516E for about 5 km and visit the Thatipudi Reservoir. Come back to the Bowdara Junction and continue for 16 km, and go past the Haritha Jungle Bells Resort, and a further 14 km north for the Borra Caves and the Gosthani Waterfalls.

Discovered by William King, a British geologist in 1807, these caves are the source of the Gosthani River and are a million years old. The stalactites within are imaginatively named based on their forms—Rishi’s Beard, Shiva-Parvati and Cow’s Udder.

The Araku Valley is dotted with coffee plantations and one popular point here is the Galikonda viewpoint.

Safety Tips

Drivers need to adapt to wet conditions and here are some pointers to help you do so and keep you safe.

First Rains

The roads become slippery with the first rains of the season. The water combines with all the dust to form a slippery layer of grime that renders the road friction-free. Be gentle on the brakes and slow down around corners.

Gently Does It

Hard braking and hard acceleration on wet roads is like inviting trouble. Keep twice the distance than you usually would between your car and the car ahead. Also, dry your shoe soles on the mat and check that your car’s pedals have rubber pedal pads.

Dip Those Headlights

Don't drive with your headlights on high beam since it is dangerous as you tend to dazzle the oncoming traffic.


Tarmac gets eaten up during the rains. The dangerous areas are signal junctions and crossroads where there is always gravel and potholes. Slow down as you approach these. Also, watch out for sudden craters.

Kindness Is Attractive

Be mindful about pedestrians and two-wheeler riders while driving through puddles so that you don’t drench them with muddy water.

Gauge Yourself

If there is a section of road where the conditions are difficult, then there is no shame in not attempting it. Always err on the side of caution. This is especially vital when faced with flooded causeways or fast-flowing water crossings.

Rishad Saam Mehta is a travel writer and the author of three books: "The Long Drive Home," "Hot Tea Across India," "Fast Cars & Fidgety Feet." He is happiest exploring places at the wheel of a car.

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