There are numerous ways to experience India's gorgeous and diverse landscapes. Taking a road trip, especially an epic one, is one of the best things you can do. Our top five road journeys in India include mountain passes, parched desert drives, and breathtaking coastlines.
Rajasthan is incredible during the monsoon. A 13-kilometre drive from the Pink City to the majestic Amer Fort for an evening of cultural rendition of history and folk legends is a sublime way to kickstart your Rajasthan trip. If you are an unconventional traveller, head to Shekhawati, a major ancient caravan trade route. People often find themselves lost in the royal musings within the havelis that are filled with elaborate frescos, intricate jali carvings and legacies. Drive along to Pushkar—one of the oldest cities in India&mdashto indulge in timeless architectural heritage, temple trails and mythology. Follow the next leg of the drive to Kumbhalgarh Fort and witness India's great wall, built to ward off the invading Mughal armies. An alternate route to experience the magnificent desert state is beginning your journey from Churu, a gateway to the mighty Thar. Drive further along and find yourself in Bikaner, the city of dunes and gorgeous sunsets. Retreat in Jaisalmer, where the fort awaits you with its countless secrets.
For those who equate Goa with booze and parties, beginning your drive the traditional way at Palolem is a promising start. With long stretches of powdery sand beaches flanked by coconut palms and beach huts, Palolem is synonymous with leisure. Leave the waves on a high and head to the Cabo de Rama Fort. The view atop this forgotten gem transports you back to Goa's yesteryears. Ride to Margao and get a taste of the local life. Further north, find yourself amid architecturally abundant churches and cathedrals left behind by the Portuguese. Drive past them to reach Panjim and walk around this charming town. If walking is not your thing, take a cycling tour here and roam freely between the beaches, some more churches, and colourful streets. Re-energise and drive on to the charismatic Aguada Fort. Sit on its fortifications before starting an exploratory trail of the beaches that lie ahead. Cover Candolim, Calangute, Baga, Anjuna, and Vagator one by one, and camp at your preferred one, each more astounding.
Make a road trip from Delhi to Jaisalmer. This long journey is best attempted with a week to spare because there are many unique locations to explore on the way and back. If you have a lot of energy, travel early to get to Bikaner avoid Narnaul and take the longer route through Sikar for better roads). Detour to some of Shekhawati's exquisite havelis at Mandawa and Nawalgarh (Jhunjhunu and Ramgarh, too, if you have the time) on both the up and down travels, rewarding yourself with a historic stay or two. Another long day of driving from Bikaner to Jaisalmer. Along the road are Khichan, which attracts over 20,000 Demoiselle cranes from August to March, and Pokhran (a fort surrounded by rocks, sand, and five salt hills).
Drive down from Dhanuskkodi to Kanyakumari. Begin your journey with spectacular views of the Gulf of Mannar at the Indian "Land's End" in Dhanushkodi. Exit by the Pamban road bridge, which allows for another wonderful photo opportunity, and continue on decent tar until Tuticorin, after which the journey to Kanyakumari will rattle every bone in your body. Following that, you're in for a visual treat. There are palm tree lengths that transform into breathtakingly artistic vistas at sunrise and sunset. On your way back, if you take the more comfortable Tirunelveli route back to Madurai, you'll be entertained by hundreds of thin white windmills.
Take the road from Leh to Turtuk. Naturally, every driving itinerary to Ladakh includes a trip from Leh to Khardung La over the world's highest motorable pass. Then it's on to Diskit for the breathtaking vistas of the Nubra Valley. The common wisdom here demands tourists explore Hunder's dunes on Bactrian camels. Still, we suggest the road much less travelled to the Balti village of Turtuk from Diskit on some of the most inhospitable wind and road conditions anywhere on the planet). Turtuk, home to one of India's most distinct Himalayan civilisations, only opened to domestic visitors in 2010—the Karakoram range is nearby, and Siachen is just around the corner. A glacier stream runs through the picturesque town, whose trees produce the region's best apricots.