Where are You Driving to this Weekend?

Want that peaceful, easy feeling? Five picturesque drives you should take now.  
Mumbai to Divegar road trip
The stretch from Mumbai to Divegar offers one of the prettiest coastal views in the country, strung with fishing hamlets and small tourist towns. Photo: Debabrata Sarkar

From Kolkata – Bakkhali

(133km, approximately 4-5 hours of driving time)

Fish market, Kolkata

The busy fishing jetty at Fraserganj is worth a visit. You can hire a boat from here to Jambu Dwip, an island that’s not just scenic but hosts a fair bit of wildlife. Photo: Debabrata Sarkar

Coastal West Bengal seems largely unexplored apart from a couple of beaches that everyone seems to land up at. Bakkhali is one of the lesser known beaches and is quite the idyllic coastal village. The beach extends for miles, and the seafood is fresh and extremely affordable. Take a cycle rickshaw ride to the other side of the island and walk around another beach, this one lined with casuarina trees. The busy fishing jetty at Fraserganj is also worth a visit. You can hire a boat from here to Jambu Dwip, an island that’s not just scenic but hosts a fair bit of wildlife. The boat ride is particularly interesting as it follows the tumultuous journey that a river makes to the sea.

The drive from Kolkata takes you through lush green countryside, with acres of paddy fields lining the narrow, single-lane highway. You also come across a small ferry ride across the river at Namkhana, which runs fairly frequently. There aren’t many pit stops along the way apart from the odd chai-shop, so make sure you have stocked up well for the drive.  There are limited staying options, so you should book a room in advance. Stay option: Hotel Deepak, Fraserganj, Bakkhali.

From Chennai – Tarangambadi or Tharangambadi

(283km, approximately 6-7 hours of driving time)

The East Coast Road, or the ECR, has continued to inspire tales of great road trips over the years and Puducherry (a.k.a. Pondy) is just the destination to kick back for a weekend. However its popularity has also meant a tremendous amount of traffic to a not-so-relaxing getaway these days. The solution, fortunately, is a bit further down the road at a small fishing hamlet called Tarangambadi (formerly known as Tranquebar).

Unlike the French-influenced Puducherry, Tarangambadi used to be a Danish colony. The town was pretty badly ruined by the tsunami a decade ago, but has been restored with government aid.  Tarangambadi hasn’t quite made it to the tourist map yet, plus you can completely skip the ECR to get here via NH 45, which is a dual carriageway for most of the distance. You do miss out on the scenic bits from the ECR and the chance to stop and check out Mahabalipuram or a French bakery at Pondy, but it’s a less stressful drive.

A hotel bang on the seafront at Tarangambadi makes up for any lost scenic beauty and the pool by the lawn serves as the proverbial cherry. You can walk around town and explore the old Danish buildings and the Dansborg Fort, which also houses a museum. The local houses also have some interesting architecture and some residents are happy to give you a quick tour as well. Stay option: Neemrana’s Bungalow on the Beach, 24 King Street, Tharangambadi.

From Mumbai – Diveagar

(189km, roughly 4-5 hours of driving time)

Mumbai drive

The best travel stories begin with spontaneous road trips. Photo: Debabrata Sarkar

The next time you want to head to a beach town on the Maharashtra coast, look beyond Alibaug and Murud. It is one of the prettiest coastlines in the country, strung with fishing hamlets and small tourist towns as you head south towards Goa. Some places have already caught on, like Ganpatiphule and Tarkarli, but there are plenty more towns that offer you peace and quiet while  still being close enough to a larger town for any amenities you might need.

Diveagar is a bit further down the coast from Murud, but it offers a cleaner beach and is far less crowded. Moreover, you can easily take a pit stop at the Karnala bird sanctuary on your way or even time your drive to reach Kolad for a splashing white-water rafting experience. The old Goa highway, NH 17, provides an engaging drive with a few hiccups along the way as it rolls through the Western ghats. However, you can also connect to it using the expressway, in case you don’t care much for the beautiful ghats. Instead, you can explore the coastal highway once you get to Diveagar and find a few absolutely awe-inspiring stretches, the kind that make you pull over and gaze into the horizon.

At the town itself, there are only a couple of temples to visit. Prop your feet up and read a book by the beach, while the sea breeze gently caresses your face. Stay option: Exotica Beach Resort, Post Dive Agar, Shrivardhan.

From Bengaluru – Masinagudi

(225km, roughly 5-6 hours of driving time)

Masinagudi, Karnataka

Masinagudi is truly a wild adventure with beautiful sightings like this on the drive. Photo: Debabrata Sarkar

The hill stations close to Bengaluru seem to attract throngs of tourists all year round, mostly with the promise of cooler weather. Ooty is possibly the most popular of the lot. However, most people don’t realise that on the way up to Ooty lies a little gem hidden behind the thick forest canopy, called Masinagudi. There isn’t much to signal what lies beyond a turn off on the road to Ooty (left from the junction when you arrive from Bandipur) apart from a tall pole with signs to various resorts.

Once you take the turn, you will spot a number of neatly camouflaged resorts trying to blend into the precious ecosystem that surrounds them. Masinagudi, despite being a fair bit beyond the Tiger Reserve boundaries, is very much in the middle of a buffer zone and teeming with wildlife. You are likely to wake up to monkeys sitting around your veranda and deer grazing beyond the lawns, apart from the odd snake cutting across your path. And, if you are really lucky, you could possibly stumble upon an elephant in the vicinity.

Masinagudi is truly a wild adventure and the drive there from Mysore is gorgeous as well. Not only do you get to cruise through a forest reserve but, more often than not, you will spot a herd of elephant or deer. Mysore provides a welcome distraction along the way with some lovely local food and, of course, the Wodeyar maharajahs’ palace. Stay option: Jungle Hut, Bokkapuram, Masinagudi.

From Delhi – Dehradun

(258km, roughly 6-7 hours of driving time)

Rajaji National Park

A sunlit moment at Rajaji National Park. Photo: Parth Joshi/Creative Commons

When it comes to weekend getaways from Delhi, you are a bit spoilt for choice.  You can set off for one of the ridiculously crowded hill stations in Himachal Pradesh, or head for a spot of adventure sports around Rishikesh, or even relive royal grandeur at the Taj Mahal or Jaipur. However, we think you should turn towards Dehradun the next time you are driving out. Apart from being a bit closer to Delhi than most other hill stations, it also isn’t quite as crazy as the popular spots in Himachal Pradesh.

Set in the foothills of the Himalayas and trapped between the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, Doon Valley doesn’t have any bad angles to view it from. Dehradun’s natural scenic beauty will take your breath away, whether you are mesmerised by the myriad shades of green in the terraced farms, splashing about under the waterfalls or simply visit the bordering Rajaji national park. In case, you’d rather have some tranquillity, stop by the Mindrolling Monastery. The grand old Forest Research Institute with its sprawling lawns is another spot you shouldn’t miss. And once you’ve built up a bit of an appetite, head to the Orchard for some scrumptious Oriental food, or Kumar Vegetarian Restaurant, if you prefer a vegetarian meal. Don’t forget to try the pastries and biscuits at the local bakeries.

There are a couple of routes to get to Dehradun; the popular one turns off from Panipat toward Paonta Sahib and onwards. Here you could take a small detour to visit the Dakpathar Dam, which has been developed as a picnic spot for families. The other option is to drive toward Deoband and on towards Roorkee, and finally to Dehradun. This is a two-lane highway passing through beautiful countryside. Stay option:  Hotel Doon Castle, Niranjanpur, Opp Telephone Exchange, Saharanpur, Dehradun.

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    Debabrata Sarkar is happy being on the road and loved getting out on two wheels make for the best trips. Exploring roads less travelled and places less visited is the way he likes to do it.

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