The state boasts of some of the most spectacular driving routes through the Himalaya. The 95-kilometre drive from Nainital to Binsar through the gorgeous Himalaya is as breathtaking as it can get. The serene route offers an unparalleled view of gorges, waterfalls and sublime natural vistas. Escape into the Himalayan wildlife en route at the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary in the remote, mighty mountains. An integral part of the Kumaon region, it boasts of 200 species of flora and fauna. Further along the treacherous valleys is the undiscovered, hauntingly beautiful, drive from Binsar to Pangot. Stop for a layover at Pangot’s Kilbury Bird Sanctuary to spot innumerable rare migratory birds. The town’s vast, lush expanse also includes several hiking trails and some beautiful rapids and streams. Drive through the terrain for about two hours to Ramnagar and treat your senses to an ethereal, natural escape at the Kaladhungi Waterfalls and the Jim Corbett wildlife circuit.
Pro Tip: The Kilbury Sanctuary is home to exotic bird species like white-throated thrushes, rufous- bellied woodpeckers and the striated prinia
Read: The Flying Tigress
The land of beaches and temples, Odisha is a treasure hidden in plain sight.
Embark on a journey and encounter India’s bygone era at the Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves. These caves uncover India’s ancient secrets in the form of carvings of royal scenes and hunting parties from Ashoka’s reign. Drive further south and find yourself in the biggest salt water lagoon in Asia—Lake Chilika. You may even spot a dolphin during the sunset boat ride. The next leg of the leisure drive brings you to Puri. A soulful dip in the Bay of Bengal is sure to wipe away the city conundrum. Stroll through the town to sample some authentic and delectable Odia food. A drive along the shoreline will take you to Konark, where a guided tour of the Sun Temple is a must. Make sure to stop at the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle Reserve on the way. Drive to Bhitarkanika National Park, a RAMSAR site for its wetlands, and catch a glimpse of salt water crocodiles and rhesus monkeys.
Pro Tip: Visit the Jagannath Temple during dawn to get a crowd-free experience
From the ghats of Varanasi to the marble splendour of Taj Mahal, this drive is a delight.
Saffron-hued skies, echoing chants and loquacious priests. Kickstart your journey at Varanasi, and let the effervescent Ganga aarti take over your senses. Situated at the Triveni Sangam—the junction of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati—is Prayagraj. Lined with Hindu temples, travellers often find spiritual solace at the Triveni Ghat. Situated on the banks of the Yamuna is the Prayagraj Fort, which is believed to have given the city its former name, Allahabad. To tantalise your taste buds drive further to the land of the Awadhi nawabs— Lucknow. Separated by the majestic Rumi Darwaza, the old city of Lucknow still retains its nawabi charm. Whether you decide to gorge on the Awadhi biryani or Rahim’s kulcha-nihari, the feast will be overloaded with secrets from the royal kitchens. Transition from the Awadhi to the Mughal legacy, with a short drive to Agra and end your journey at the lovely Taj.
Pro Tip: November to February is the ideal time to visit
Drive through the land of kings and witness their fortified grandeur.
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 fancy yourself an unconventional traveller, then 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—to indulge in timeless architectural heritage, temple trails and mythology. Follow the next leg of the drive to Kumbhalgarh Fort and witness India’s very own 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 while in Jaisalmer, where the fort awaits you with its countless secrets.
Pro Tip: Best time to visit Rajasthan is winters
Culture, history and wildlife thrive hand-in- hand here.
Get a wild start to your journey at the Bandhavgarh National Park with an open-jeep safari. Many might say you’re lucky if you spot a tiger, but we place our bets on the leopards and jackals. A 4-hour-drive from here will take you to Bhedaghat, where myriad layers of spirituality and mythology unfold at the Chausath Yogini Temple dedicated to goddess Durga. For the intrepid traveller, the Dhuandhar Falls is also a sight to behold as the waters of the Narmada River cascade down from an altitude giving rise to a daunting mist. If your personal travel style edges towards serenity, a boat ride on the Narmada River is our pick. A further drive paves way for a Unesco Biosphere Reserve famed for its flora and fauna, Pachmarhi. Enter the last leg of your journey at Bhimbetka where the rock shelter cave paintings, a Unesco World Heritage Site, transport you 12,000 years back in time.
Pro Tip: Oct-Mar is the ideal time to visit
Drive past the jaunty beach shacks to discover Goa like never before.
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 along north, find yourself amid architecturally abundant churches and cathedrals left behind by the Portuguese. Drive past them to reach Panjim and take a 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 than the other.
Pro Tip: Visit the Noronha’s Corner Food Truck in Anjuna for a true Goan feast
Serene beaches, perfectly-lined beach houses and calming long walks on the soft sand.
Begin the first leg of the drive at Varkala, where the crack of dawn feels otherworldly. A further drive along the charismatic shoreline up north will take you to Alappuzha. This lagoon-bound heaven, famous for its backwaters, has often found global mentions for its serenity. Further along, enter the old, fort town of Kochi and quickly escape to its beaches, looking upon the azure sea, and its forgotten fortifications. Part ways with this historic town only to enter another in Kozhikode. From Kappad—believed to be where Vasco Da Gama first landed in India— to the busy Kozhikode beach, this renowned Malabar town has it all. Indulge in the mouthwatering, unique street delicacies before driving up north to Kasaragod. A gem hidden in plain sight, this is the northern-most tip of Kerala and home to the Bekal Fort. Located on the Bekal beach, this fort tells tales of its colonial past while teasing travellers with its untapped beauty.
Pro Tip: Make an extra pit-stop at Muzhappilangad, Kerala’s only drive-in beach in Kannur