rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » Getahead » IN PICS: India's most SPECTACULAR highways

IN PICS: India's most SPECTACULAR highways

Last updated on: July 12, 2012 18:18 IST

IN PICS: India's most SPECTACULAR highways

     Next

Next
Pablo Chaterji

Pablo Chaterji lists the ten most exciting Indian highways that you can drive on.

Yes, it's true -- driving in this country requires nerves of steel and a level of calmness that Zen masters aspire to. Yes, an animal/human being/vehicle or all three simultaneously will suddenly try and cross the road just when you're not expecting it. Yes, even if you're the world's best driver, people on the road will do their best to reduce you to a gibbering wreck.

Does this mean that you should put your car or bike in cold storage and decide to stay at home forever? Absolutely not!

Gather up your spirit of adventure (and courage), fill up the tank and find one of these roads -- driving and riding pleasure are guaranteed.

1. Mumbai-Pune Expressway

An oldie, but a goldie nonetheless. When the Expressway was first thrown open to the public, we were all stunned -- here was India's first truly world-class express highway. No small engineering feat, the road made the trip from Mumbai to Pune an absolute breeze (although these days, it's not uncommon to encounter huge jams due to landslides or broken-down trucks).

It has it all -- long straights on which you can let your car loose (two-wheelers are only allowed on a limited stretch), sweeping bends and tight ghat sections where you can have some serious fun. For best results, head out really early, to beat the traffic, and try and get hold of a convertible sportscar! There are enough rest, food and fuel stops along the way (the potato vada at Kamat's restaurant in Khandala is highly recommended), and you'll arrive at your destination with a smile on your face.


Image: Mumbai-Pune Expressway
Photographs: Wikimedia Commons

     Next

IN PICS: India's most SPECTACULAR highways

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

2. Hassan To Belur/Halebid

A slightly off-beat road, to be sure, but a great one nonetheless. Hassan is a fairly large 'small' town about 130 km from Bangalore, and the drive there is itself rather good fun. From Hassan, there's an inside road that leads to the twin temple sites of Belur and Halebid, and it's a truly wonderful drive.

There's hardly any traffic on it, and the surface is smooth, with lots of twists and turns to keep things interesting. You're likely to get lost, because there aren't many signboards along the way, but when the road is that good, who cares? At the end of the drive, you'll have the architectural marvels in Belur and Halebid to keep you company. For more driving pleasure, continue from Halebid to the temple town of Dharmasthala, which also has a fantastic vintage car museum.


Image: Hassan-Belur/Halebid Highway


Prev     Next

IN PICS: India's most SPECTACULAR highways

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

3. Bhiwandi to Nashik

We'll be honest -- the small town of Bhiwandi, on the outskirts of Thane, near Mumbai, is the sort of place to which you would 'send your mother-in-law on holiday', to paraphrase the immortal words of Sir Ian Botham. It's dusty, grimy, full of godowns and, well, not much else -- but the highway from there all the way to Nashik, India's wine-capital, is fantastic. The surface has recently been re-done, adding to its allure, and with a fast, nimble car or bike, there is a great deal of fun to be had.

You have long straights combined with sweeping corners, and a really nice one-way ghat section lets you attack the tight corners with gusto. Once in Nashik, wind down with a chilled glass of Chardonnay (but watch out for Vasant Dhoble).


Image: Bhiwandi-Nashik Highway


Prev     Next

IN PICS: India's most SPECTACULAR highways

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

4. Vadodara to Ahmedabad

The joke is that most Gujaratis won't use this express highway because they have to pay a toll. Even if that's true, it's a good thing because you have more of the road to yourself -- and it's a great road. Approximately 90 km in length, it's not exactly a world-tour, but with its smooth surface and arrow-straight nature, you can go very fast on it (you didn't hear that from us, though).

It's not unheard of for the distance to be covered in considerably less than an hour, to give you an idea. Enjoy it, but with caution!


Image: Vadodara-Ahmedabad Highway


Prev     Next

IN PICS: India's most SPECTACULAR highways

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

5. Masinagudi to Ooty Via Kalhatty

If you like hair-pin bends, prepare to be transported to heaven -- the Kalhatty ghat has 36 of them, squeezed into a mere 20 km. Setting out from the small town of Masinagudi, inside the Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary in Tamil Nadu, the road is narrow, but smooth, allowing for spirited driving, with the forest on either side.

The ghat section begins normally enough, but rapidly becomes extremely steep, and you need to be a skilled driver to not burn your clutch on the hair-pins. Buses going over the side are quite common -- drive with care. Once you reach Ooty, stretch out and relax in the still-pleasant hill station.


Image: Masinagudi-Ooty Highway via Kalhatty


Prev     Next

IN PICS: India's most SPECTACULAR highways

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

6. Maneybhanjang to Sandakphu

This one's slightly unusual, in that you can't actually drive on the road by yourself -- the only people allowed to drive are those that own and drive the vintage Land Rovers, which ferry people to and from the village of Sandakphu, 12,000 feet up in the clouds. Maneybhanjang is near Darjeeling, and the trip from there to Sandakphu is one you won't forget in a hurry -- it takes close to eight hours to drive a mere 35 km, over a terrifyingly steep, broken road that criss-crosses India and Nepal.

The views are breathtaking, though, none more so than from Sandakphu, from where you can see four of the five highest mountain peaks in the world. The route is also a paradise for trekkers.


Image: Maneybhanjang-Sandakphu Highway
Photographs: Anirban Biswas/Wikimedia Commons

Prev     Next

IN PICS: India's most SPECTACULAR highways

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

7. Kaziranga to Tawang

If you're in Kaziranga, one of the loveliest national parks in the world, you can consider yourself lucky to begin with. Get hold of a sturdy car, preferably a four-wheel driven SUV, and point its nose in the direction of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh -- this will round off the experience in no small measure. It's a two-day drive, and you'll have to break journey in a place called Dir#8736 en route, you'll cross the lovely Orchidarium near Bhalukpong.

Dirang to Tawang is where it starts to get really interesting -- on the way to the snow-bound Sela Pass at 14,000 feet, you'll drive up a perilously narrow road with huge drops on either side, with black ice on it. Once through the pass, you drop back down to Tawang, at 10,000 feet, and its beautiful, 400-year old Galden Namgyal Lhatse monastery. From Tawang, there's another fabulous drive to Zemithang, on the border with Tibet -- the current Dalai Lama came through here when he fled to India.


Image: Kaziranga-Tawang Highway
Photographs: Ahinsajain/Wikimedia Commons

Prev     Next

IN PICS: India's most SPECTACULAR highways

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

8.Yamuna Expressway

All right, so this road hasn't even been formally thrown open for public use as yet and, given the political machinations in Uttar Pradesh, it could be a while before that happens. Those lucky enough to have got sneak previews say that it's manna from heaven for drivers -- smooth, wide and pedal-to-the-metal throughout.

Apart from its practical considerations (vastly reducing the driving time from Delhi to Agra), the road is bound to see plenty of exotic machinery being blasted up and down. You too can get a sneak preview, by the way, if you know the right people -- we'll just leave it at that.


Image: Yamuna Expressway
Photographs: Him2586/Wikimedia Commons

Prev     Next

IN PICS: India's most SPECTACULAR highways

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

9. Manali-Leh

A true test of grit and character -- this route is the stuff of legend, and if you haven't done it at least once, you cannot claim to be a true road-tripper. Plans are apparently afoot to construct a proper highway, which will ruin the experience, so get there quick.

Taking along a bike is the best way to fully experience the mind-boggling landscapes (and near-moonscapes) that you'll come across, and you'll have to be prepared for all manner of hardships -- breakdowns in the middle of nowhere, freezing temperatures, rain, landslides and mountain sickness, to name but a few. Once you enter the town of Leh, though, the sense of achievement you'll feel will be worth it. The other route, from Srinagar to Leh via Kargil, is just as spectacular!


Image: Manali-Leh Highway
Photographs: Aman Gupta/Wikimedia Commons

Prev     Next

IN PICS: India's most SPECTACULAR highways

Prev     More
Prev

More

10. Mumbai-Goa on NH17

This is another classic road. A lot of people driving to Goa now take the Mumbai-Pune-Kolhapur-Sawantwadi route, which is longer, better surfaced but a bit boring; NH17 still has more character. It's best done during the monsoon, when the surroundings are an impossible shade of green. The road is a dual carriageway, so overtaking must be done with care, but the right car or bike in the right hands will provide plenty of thrills.

Any number of roadside eateries will keep you refreshed, and for a bit of added adventure, you can veer off NH17 into one of the smaller roads, which tend to be great to drive on as well. Or you can drive straight down to where the road ends -- Kanyakumari


Image: Mumbai-Goa on NH17
Photographs: en.wikipedia

Prev     More
Source: