Nothing feels more invigorating than driving down long stretches to reach a beautiful destination
Travelling with your family is surely fun, but nothing gets better than a road trip. In other cases, all the fun awaits till you reach the destination. During road trips, it begins as soon as you get behind the wheel. From non-stop banter between siblings to jamming to all the family’s favourite songs to hearing the older folks narrate their travel stories from back in the day, there’s a lot to look forward to on the road with your family. If you have been planning one and have everybody on board, but not the destination yet, here are a few routes you must check out:
Mumbai To Sawantwadi
The drive from Mumbai to Sawantwadi with winding roads and hairpin curves is along some of the most scenic landscapes hugging the Western Ghats and the coast. The beaches are pristine with golden sand. Some of the stretches are jaw-dropping in their beauty with waves striking the dark jagged cliffs. Crumbling sea forts scattered all over the coastline will remind you that you are driving along a historically rich region which was once the bastion of the Maratha empire.
Start off early and take the Sion-Panvel Expressway to reach Panvel. Hit the NH 66—a two lane highway with dazzling green landscapes all around. This stretch is full of eateries where you can stop for breakfast, vehicle repair joints, petrol pumps and ATMs.
Stop at Chiplun, a quaint town town located on the banks of the river Vashishti in Ratnagiri district around 220 km from Panvel. Take a break to explore the Sawatsada waterfalls, ruins of Fort Gowalkot and the Walavalkar Shivaji Museum. Check out the antique furniture, old sculptures and the chandeliers at Sawantwadi Palace, home of the former royals of area, the Bhonsles. The red laterite stone structure was built during 1755-1803.
Watch local artisans painting ganjifa cards—an ancient Mughal card game. The Ain-I-Akbari has a detailed record of the Moghul Ganjifa claiming that it was Emperor Akbar, who invented the game of 96 cards with eight suits of 12 cards each. The Palace museum in Sawantwadi has interesting antique woodcraft and photographs of the royal family. You can buy lacquer woodcraft and ganjifa cards here and pick up wooden toys at Kanekar’s.
Bengaluru To Coorg
This scenic, winding route through the Western Ghats is a pretty simple route—follow SH17 to Srirangapatna via Maddur and take the bypass to Hunsur, then get onto SH88 to Madikeri via Kushalnagar. Start early and take the shortest route to the Mysore road. Make a breakfast stop at Maddur. The many eateries on the highway here have lip-smacking maddur vada and dosa. Or make a breakfast stop at Ramanagara or Channapatna. From Maddur, head to Srirangapatna where you can make a pit stop to visit the mausoleum that houses the remains of Tipu Sultan, his father Hyder Ali and his mother Fatima Begum. En route, check out the Madikeri Fort, which was originally a mud structure, which Tipu Sultan rebuilt with stone.
Abbi Falls is a beautiful waterfall, 5km away. Omkareshwara Temple was built by the Kodagu king Lingaraja in 1820. The temple is remarkable for its mosque-like style, with an impressive central dome and four minarets.
Kolkata To Puri
The east coast is a relatively unexplored option for travellers and road trippers. The sun is stronger on this coastal route, the waves rougher, and the sea seems much more blue. The distance is about 580 km and it will take you about nine to ten hours to reach Puri, so set off around 6am if you want to welcome the sunset on the beach. You can stop at Balasore for breakfast. Balasore to Chandipur is only about 15km on a good-enough (rurally scenic too) road, but it can get jammed and take up to an hour to negotiate. Give yourself a day to recover. Chandipur is a quaint one-street town, its sea receding 5-6km on low tide in a twice-daily phenomenon, which is a sight to behold.
At Pipli, pick up Odisha’s signature brightly coloured applique and patchwork. Craftsmen from the village have been making applique umbrellas and canopies for the annual Jagannath Rath Yatra for decades. Pick up handbags, wall hanging, or a lampshade or one of the trademark umbrellas from the main street. Stop for lunch at Cuttack (it’s about an hour from Pipli) and stop for lunch. With River Mahanadi on one side and River Kathojodi on the other side, Cuttack is more than 100 years old and its many roads and lanes are like a maze for any newcomer.
If you are up for more handicrafts shopping, splurge on the exquisite silver filigree jewellery, or tarakasi from jewellery shops at Shaikh Bazaar, Naya Sadak, and Dolomundai. Watch the sun set over the beach in Puri, have some freshly caught and fried fish, watch sand artists at work.
Spend some time at Raghurajpur village. A half-hour drive from Puri, the village has an artist in each family creating traditional handicrafts with local materials. Pick up wood and stone carvings, papier mache masks, and paintings on scrolls.
Chennai To Tranquebar
How can you not want to visit the ‘Land of the Singing Waves’? Drive down the famous East Coast Road from Chennai to the tranquil coastal town of Tranquebar. Tharangambadi, as it was called before the Brits mangled the name, is a sleepy beachside hamlet that used to be a Dutch colonial town and an important port during the British era. It’s about 280km from Chennai. Take the ECR to Pondicherry — it’s a three-hour drive. Stop here for a lunch — this town has some of the best (and most varied) food and you will be spoilt for choice.
From Pondy, the road is a little bumpy in places and winds through villages. It takes about two hours to reach Tranquebar. You can make make a stop at Pichavaram on the way. It’s known for huge mangrove forests, if you are so inclined, you can take a boat trip through them. Check out Dansborg Fort, the Pandya-era Masilamaninathar Temple and the Town Gate—they have all suffered the ravages of the tsunami of 2004.
Visit the Zion Church, the oldest Protestant church in India, and the New Jerusalem church. Take long coastal walks, enjoy the sun and sand, and buy local crafts.