5 Iconic Rides in India

29th Sep 2020
Photo of 5 Iconic Rides in India by PANKAJ KUMAR

A land as diverse as India offers many opportunities for riders across the country. Motorcycle riders of North India have for ages, taken advantage of the proximity to the mighty Himalayas. If you reside in South India, it’s likely that you’ve explored many beaches, temples and magnificent ruins. The North-Eastern part of the country has some epic routes, too marvelous to skip. And who can ignore the lure of the salt plains, the dense jungles and the lonely deserts in Western and Central India?

Day 1

1 : The Spice Route: Mumbai to Kanyakumari

Route: NH66 {Mumbai – Goa – Karnataka – Kerala – Tamil Nadu (Kanyakumari)}

When to ride: Monsoon

Kilometers: 1700

Photo of Mumbai, Maharashtra, India by PANKAJ KUMAR
Day 2

2 : The heart of India: Riding through Madhya Pradesh

Route: Nagpur – Pench Tiger Reserve – Kanha National Park – Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve – Khajuraho – Gwalior – Indore

When to ride: Winter

Kilometers: 1630

Photo of Madhya Pradesh, India by PANKAJ KUMAR
Day 3

3 : Mystic Meanderings: Find yourself in Arunachal Pradesh

Route: Kolkata – Siliguri – Bongaigaon – Guwahati – Tezpur – Tawang

When to Ride: Winter/ Summer

Kilometers: 1400 Kms

Photo of Arunachal Pradesh, India by PANKAJ KUMAR
Day 4

4 : Dune Blasting: Gujarat and Rajasthan

Route: Surat – Ahmedabad – Bhuj – Mount Abu – Udaipur – Jaisalmer

Take yourself off the map with this fascinating ride. Ride through state highways, turn off the road for some sand dune blasting and then, as the day ends, watch the sun set over salt flats (and sand dunes!). It doesn’t get much better than this. This ride is the perfect getaway. Start your ride from Surat and halt for the night at Ahmedabad, for the next day you will hit some truly open roads. The ride from Ahmedabad to Bhuj will take you past the ‘Little Rann’ of Kutch. The bleak landscape hides a surprising amount of wildlife, and is the world’s last refuge of the Indian Wild Ass. The sanctuary is also a great place for birding and is home to some interesting migratory species of birds. Proceed on to Bhuj, and from there to the great Rann of Kutch, the world’s largest seasonal salt marshes. The salt flats themselves can be ridden on, with care! Make sure take follow existing trails, or else you risk sinking into the marsh itself. As your continue your ride, stop off at Mount Abu and Udaipur, before you make your way to Jaisalmer, where the sand dunes await!

When to Ride: Late Winter

Kilometers: 1700

Tip: Called the ‘White Desert’, temperatures in the Rann fluctuate between a searing 49 degrees in summer to near-freezing temperatures in winters. Don’t let the cold deceive you; keep yourself hydrated at all times.

Day 5

5 : The call of the mountains: Delhi – Leh

Route: Delhi – Chandigarh – Manali – Rohtang La – Baralacha La – More Plains – Tanglang La – Leh

When to Ride: May – October

Kilometers: 1050

Photo of Leh by PANKAJ KUMAR

Don’t let the rains stop you from the sheer exhilaration of making the pilgrimage to the southernmost tip of Mainland India. Riding down the western coast of the country on NH66 (erstwhile NH17), you will be astounded by the sheer lushness of the greenery. While for the most part, this highway doesn’t run right along the beach, it does offer some breathtaking views along the way.

A special mention along this route is Marwanthe Beach in south Karnataka. The road has the beach on one side and the backwaters run along the other, making for a memorable few kilometers. Once in Kanyakumari, walk down to the numerous promenades to experience a beautiful, glowing sunset… and then wake up at 5 AM to watch the sunrise as well!

Winter in the heart of India is truly magical. Start your ride from 0 (Zero) milestone in Nagpur, the centre of the country, and strike out into the wilderness of Madhya Pradesh. The forests of MP are the homeland of the majestic tiger, not to mention thousands of other species of flora and fauna to thrill the natural enthusiast in you. These ancient forests were the setting for Kiplings ‘Jungle Book’ and some of the whimsy and spirit of the forest will definitely enter your ride. Continue on to Khajuraho, visit the temple complex and then on to Gwalior, where you can visit the Sun Temple – an exact replica of its namesake in Konark (Orissa). The last days of your ride will find you in Indore, where you can catch some well-deserved R&R before finding your way home. The colourful diversity of Indian heartland can be experienced up close and very seldom would you have a dull moment during the ride. It’s a good idea to carry a camera in your tankbag or even attach your mobile phone to a mobile mount for a quick photo moment.

Tip: In the Indian heartland, day temperatures and night temperatures can form startling contrasts – from 35 degrees in the day to 5 degrees in the night. Research about your locations and pack accordingly.

This ride is not for the faint-hearted. The north-east of India remains largely unexplored and is slowly taking over as the ultimate form of adventure tourism – whether on 2 wheels or 4. Head north from Kolkata to Siliguri, the true jumping-off point for the ride. From Siliguri, you will experience a variety of terrains and weather as you navigate on to Bongaigaon and then on to Guwahati. Guwahati is well worth spending a couple of nights in. Take in the sights and sounds of the city, explore the local food, culture, and cuisine before moving onto the toughest section of the ride. On your way from Guwahati to Tawang, you will face true tests of endurance and skill, navigating small rivers, high climbs, and even wooden bridges. Tawang’s beauty is unrivaled, and you can visit a number of scenic attractions ranging from lakes, waterfalls, and passes, to the famous Tawang monastery.

Tip: You will face all kinds of weather and terrain on this ride. From mountains covered in tolling mists, to clear skies on flat and shallow water basins; from slush and mud to smoothly paved tarmac; from the mudflats of the Brahmaputra to the high-altitudes of Assam and Arunachal; get ready to experience it all in a span of 12-15 days!.

The Mecca of bikers, the Manali Leh highway is the one ride that cannot be left off this list. Start your ride from Delhi in order to acclimatize yourself to riding into the higher altitudes. Take a pit stop at Manali to see to your bike, and then head off into the mountains. This route covers not only the most scenic, but also most challenging passes in the world. En-route, you will need to navigate the Gata Loops, a series of 21 hairpin bends that lead to the 3rd highest motorable pass in the world – Naki La. The road through More Plains is another section of the highway that has to be experienced to be believed. The eerie yet beautiful landscape is a clarion call to bikers all over the world. Spend a day in Leh city to visit some of the most beautiful monasteries in the world, before heading up to Khardung La – the world’s highest motorable road where you are likely to experience your moment of motorcycling Nirvana!

Tip: The Manali Leh highway is famous for its serenity. However, this means that should you need any help, there is very little in the way of civilization to turn to. Weather can be treacherous up in the mountains. Make sure to carry enough food, clothes, medicines in your saddlebags / tailbag to keep you well fed and warm in case of any eventuality and carry all your immediate necessities in your riding gear, rather than in your luggage.

There are many other routes in India that offer perfect riding adventures. How many of them have you ridden on?