Everyone uses a different adjective for India. An experience for some, a revelation for others. Some love it, some hate it, while others are amazed. You will never evoke two same reactions about India from people who’ve been to this incredible country. Where landscapes, languages, people and cultures change every few hundreds of kilometres, it’s impossible not to be in awe.
And when you explore this magnificent country by road, you are in for one grand adventure like never before. Self driving road trips are doubly fun, you have your own schedule, no rushing, and you can take life as it hits you – one mile at a time.
The golden quadrilateral:
One ambitious, yet epic road trip would be The Golden Quadrilateral – essentially a network of highways that connect Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai – the four big metros of the country, roughly forming a Quadrilateral of sorts.
The golden quadrilateral – over 7000 KMS, 13 states and 95 cities – for that insatiable road trip appetite of yours!
Lap 1: Delhi – Kolkata:
Strap up your seat-belts and get on the Yamuna expressway, while you say hello to the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world, and as you take in it’s ethreal beauty, indulge in some petha – a famous sweet made from gourd. Let the road beckon you again, and take you to Lucknow – on the banks of river Gomti. Sign up for heritage walk that takes you back in time, soak up the Nawabi andaaz, dig into some lip smacking Awadhi cusine, Lucknow is a city that allows you to relax.
Next stop – Varanasi! Varanasi or Kasi isn’t a place – it’s an experience. The oldest inhabited city in the world on the banks of the holy Ganga, this thriving city is not for the spiritual alone. Dig into the little Korean cafes that will surprise you, visit the ghats for a ethereal experience.
Take a slight detour onto Gaya on your way to Kolkata – truly Zen, and a UNESCO world heritage site which will leave you spiritually richer.
And arrive at Kolkata, the city of joy, stalled in time with it’s colonial buildings, trams, yellow taxis and home to some of the most progressive art and literature.
Leg 2 : Kolkata to Chennai:
Kolkata to Puri – The famous Jagannath temple and just 40 KMS away is the breathtakingly splendid Konark Sun temple. Sample some authentic Odiya food that is full of flavour and zing.
Next stop Vizianagaram-Visakhapatnam – the city of destiny, this port City is a delight. Visit the Vizianagaram fort and indulge in mouth watering Andhra cuisine (warning – beware the spice!)
Drive ahead to Vijayawada – home to the new capital of Andhra Pradesh, where you can nourish your spirituality further by visiting the Kankadurga Temple or visit the ancient Undavalli caves and be enchanted.
Hit the road again and drive straight to Chennai not before you pitstop for some amazing snacks at Nellore. Chennai or Madras is a city that is stalled in it’s culture yet kept up with the times. Acquaint yourself with never before seen culture at one of the thousands of temples that this city is home to! With a heavy British influence that still lingers, and it’s own cultural identity, this is a true melting pot.
Or drive further up to Pondicherry, and you’ll be glad you chose to drive to this French town. With freshly baked bread from one of the many cafes that waft to tickle your senses, the Aurobindo ashram, and flawless beaches – here you have the power to stop time!
Lap 3- Chennai to Mumbai:
Hit the road again to stop at India’s garden City – Bangalore. If you are feeling extra adventurous, you can branch out and drive to Hampi – which should be on every person’s list – Golden Quadrilateral or not!
As you let the road guide you again, stop at Kolhapur, a small but bustling city. Dig into appetizing Maharashtrian cusine, and just stroll through the charming lanes of this temple town.Next stop Pune – seat of the mighty Marathas whose bravery and resilience can be seen in the forts and museums you can visit here.
Take the road to Lonavala, a breezy hill station before you reach Mumbai – India’s New York.
Lap 4: Mumbai to Delhi:
As you go towards Gujarat, you can already feel the vibrancy hit you. If you aren’t taking a break and driving towards Goa (which is highly recommended for a holiday within a holiday), pull over at Surat – it’ll surprise you like no other. A major trade center, it is crowded yet pleasant. Proceed towards Baroda, and soak in this cultural capital of Gujarat – with it’s scintillating palaces and food that will overwhelm you.
Fasten your seat belts and proceed to Rajasthan – the land of Kings – halt at Udaipur, a city of lakes and palaces. This is one city that has so much to offer, and is sure to leave to spellbound with it’s palaces, lakes and palace in the lake. Zoom ahead to Ajmer – where a culture of entirely another fabric will envelope you. Season in mystic Sufism that this city is a centre of, while you proceed to Jaipur, India’s pink city. Hawa Mahal, Jal Mahal, Amer Fort, Albert hall – the Traveler in you is bound to feel exhilarated!
As you take on the last stretch of road between Jaipur to Delhi, you will sure have a mixed bag of memories, a car boot load of souvenirs, and a truckload of moments!
There is so much more to India, and it is simply impossible to put them into one exhaustive list. The golden quadrilateral is, we promise, a challenging but life changing trip. However, everyone will agree on one thing – that self driving road trips from India are what can be best described as undescribable!