Photo source: Vijai Sai
While India provides a huge variety of landscapes and terrains which often become the canvas for making a list of places to visit, there are some particular roads that should be on every motorcyclist's top priority of exploration!
These are places you don't just travel to, but ride on, because here its not about the destination, but the journey to the destination itself!
In the truest sense, there are so many roads that are absolutely beautiful, and if we were to start listing them, they would run into pages! But well, we gotta start some where! We have made this list based on our team's best experiences on riding. It need not (or rather should not) be the be-all end-all of beautiful rides and the never-ending quest for exploring :)
1. DHORDO TO DHOLAVIRA, GUJARAT
The 296 km long ride from Dhordo in the Great Rann of Kutch to Dholavira takes you through some of the most beautiful areas of rural Kutch culture. Both Dhordo and Dholavira are remote areas with very little public transport available. So, your best way to explore this route is on your motorbike! The ride may have you face to face with some of the rare species of animals in the Little Rann of Kutch. Be sure to keep an eye out for a Neelgai, which might just be crossing the road (happened to us).
Dholavira, an island in the salt plains is an absolute beauty for both its archaeological site of Indus Valley civilisation and for the ride over the bridge connecting it to the main land.
Not to be missed: Riding on the bridge to Dholavira on a full moon night, and enjoying a moment's silence with the White Rann reflecting the moon light.
Photo Source: Varun Rao
2. RISHIKESH TO BADRINATH, UTTARAKHAND
The 297 km stretch along NH-58 from Rishikesh to Badrinath is one of the most gorgeous roads to ride on a bike. The roads are in good condition, except for small patches which are highly landslide prone. But the highlight of this route is not as much the road, as is the company you have. River Ganga! Yes, through out this beautiful stretch where you see mountains till as far as your eyes can reach, some covered in green, some with snow-capped peaks, and others brown and barren, Ganga is your constant company flowing in all her might and glory alongside the road. The twisty, winding roads may have you away from Ganga, but not for long, as at the next curve, she will again be right there.
The little villages and towns, most of which we know for the huge number pilgrims they attract, add to the beauty of this ride, giving us glimpses into the culture and lives of the remote people in these areas. This beautiful route is landslide prone in some areas, and is best avoided during the monsoons.
Not to be missed: Take the cable car ride from Joshimath to Auli for some brilliant views of the Himalayan ranges. This is the second highest and longest cable car in Asia. If you are game, you could even try skiing here, provided you are here in the right time of the year.
Photo Source: Kabeera
3. MUMBAI TO MANGALORE
If you want something off-beat, this is it! Chuck the NH-66, but be prepared for roads not like the NH-66. What you get in return is however worth the bargain! Some of the most pristine beaches, unexplored roads of Maharashtra, the sea keeping you company, hardly any traffic, and innumerable ferry rides.
The route has 4-5 ferry crossings, and you can choose how many you want to take. The more number of them you take, the longer you are on the road less taken :D The narrow country roads pass through some of the less known, yet mind-blowing beautiful beaches in India.
Don't hurry through this route. Its best to take 5-6 days or even more if possible, to make the best of this route. Your motorcycle and you will get a new meaning to your relationship after the many ferry crossing you take together, and the miles of introspection you will do, engulfed by the sea and the western ghats!
Not to be missed: At least 2 ferry crossings, and the beautiful stretch of Maravantha with sea on one side of the road and Souparnika river on the other!
Photo Source: Shubra Acharya
4. TAWANG TO GUWAHATI
Tawang is often called one among the most beautiful destinations in the Himalayas. Nestled in the remote areas of Arunachal Pradesh, the ride to Tawang is an absolute pleasure. Being in the rain prone area, the route can be trecherous with landslides, slush and loose gravel. Bhalukpong marks the beginning of this memorable journey to Tawang, lined with Gompas, river running on on side and hills on the other. Bomdila, a picturesque village and the famous Sela Pass (which is snowed out almost round the year) require some good motorcycling skills to ride past!
Not to be missed: Dont miss Shungetser Lake (more famous as Maduri Lake), Tawang Monastery and a visit to the apple orchards!
Photo Source: Thrillophilia
5. SHIMLA TO MANALI VIA KUNZUM PASS, HIMACHAL PRADESH
Riding from Shimla to Manali via the Kinnaur valley is an experience in itself. It is all about the route and less about the destination, although there is plenty to do and see enroute. There is a much shorter route from Simla to Manali, but this 613 km ride is what will give you memories to last a lifetime. Unlike the Manali-Leh highway, this route gets much less travellers and hence tourism hasn't developed the way it has in its more famous counterpart, which is exactly why this should be on your list of places to ride!
Age old monasteries, lush green valleys, apple orchards, quaint little villages, serene lakes and stunning views of the mountains, coupled with challenging roads, sometimes rocky, sometimes slushy, but mostly adventurous makes for a perfect road trip on a motorcycle.
Not to be missed: Don't miss the view of Mount Kailash from Kalpa, or riding to the last accessible village to Chitkul, or a visit to village Nako which looks like a postcard in itself!
Photo Source: Lonely Planet
6. MUNNAR TO ALLAPUZHA, KERALA
One absolutely stunning 176 km ride, this route from Munnar to Kochi and then towards Allapuzha will give you a glimpse of everything the Western Ghats have to offer- wildlife sanctuaries, thick jungles, winding roads, tea plantations, lakes, backwaters, houseboats and the Arabian Sea!
The terrain changes quickly, neving boring the rider in you!
Not to be missed: Don't miss paragliding in Vagamon and a stay on a house boar in Allapuzha or Kottayam!
7. LEH TO SRINAGAR, JAMMU & KASHMIR
Riding on this route transports you from one heaven to anotherin 434 kms on NH-1D! The brown mountains of Leh pave way for the lush green mountains of Kashmir with snow capped peaks. The ride is alongside the Indus River for a long stretch and you ride over the dreaded yet beautiful Zoji La pass where you see the Amarnath base camp at a distance below , and the less famous Fotu La and Namki La. The best time to ride this stretch is between June and October.
Not to be missed: Don't miss viewing Tiger hills and a stop at the beautiful quaint little town of Alchi and Lamayuru.
Photo Source: Varun Rao
8. GANGTOK TO NATHU LA, SIKKIM
The 56 km long stretch from Gangtok to Nathu La is part of the ancient Silk Route connecting Lhasa in Tibet with the plains of Bengal. A perfect day trip from Gangtok, Nathu La is open only for Indians due to it being a border area. It is infact one of the few border areas without no-man's land!
The best time to visit Nathu La is from March to November, between Wednesday and Sunday only. The roads are in absolutely terrible conditon being highly landslide prone, with many water crossings for the most bit, but there in lies the beauty of this ride!
Not to be missed: Don't miss visiting the famous Changu Lake, also called Tsongmo lake en route Nathu La.
Photo Source: www.footloosegypsy.com
9. MANALI TO LEH
Considered the Mecca for motorbikers, this 473 km ride along NH-21 is one of the most beautiful and challenging roads to ride on. It has 5 high altitude passes, each one offering panoramic views of the Himalayas. Vistas of snow clad peaks, lakes on the way, plains and water crossings are the flavour of this road.
The best time to ride here is usually between May and October, and it is best to keep 3 days to over the distance in order to enjoy the beauty of the place.
Not to be missed: Don't miss stopping at vantage point to see the gata loops and riding on sand in Morey plains.
Photo Source: Mohan Kumar K N