Forget California 101 or South Africa’s Garden Route; go drive from Bangalore to Goa, via coffee estates of Chikmagalur and the Konkan coast
If long drives are your idea of travel, few places get better than coastal roads, and if there are hills on one side, it’s cherry on top. Foreign travel is not recommended—in the wake of the pandemic—but India has a lot of such roads. We recently drove from Bangalore to Goa, via the coffee estates of Chikmagalur and then the Konkan coast, which made us forget South Africa’s Garden Route or California’s Route 101.
Bangalore to Chikmagalur: A 240-odd-km drive, it’s a four-lane highway, and the distance can be covered in about five hours. A scenic place on the way is the Yagachi dam and reservoir, on the Yagachi River, near Belur (famous for the 12th century Chennakeshava Temple, a fine example of Hoysala architecture).
Chikmagalur to Mangalore: A 150-odd-km drive, it’s possibly one of the most scenic roads in this part of India. The route takes you via coffee estates. Coffee, in fact, has an interesting history in India. Legend goes that a 16th-century Sufi saint, named Baba Budan, introduced the coffee plant to India by smuggling seven raw beans from the port of Mocha, Yemen, while coming back from Hajj (Islamic pilgrimage). Those days, Yemeni people didn’t allow anyone to take beans out of their country, so the Baba hid seven coffee beans in his beard, and later planted these on the slopes of the Chandragiri Hills in Chikmagalur district. Those seven beans have grown into thousands of acres and trillions and trillions of beans now, which you can smell everywhere in Chikmagalur. Also, Indian coffee is unique because it’s grown in the shade (coffee is planted in the shade of tall trees) instead of under direct sunlight; the major species are Arabica and Robusta.
Chikmagalur also has another gem, the Mullayanagiri Peak (1,930 metres above sea level, the highest in Karnataka). You can drive up to a parking lot, a 500 metres walk away from the peak. Nearby are Jhari waterfalls, and the best time to visit these falls is right after the monsoon (August-September).
Mangalore to Goa: This road, a little over 300 km, is by the Konkan coast, with Western Ghats on one side and Arabian Sea on another. Driving non-stop, it takes about seven hours, but we suggest you take 10. The reason is it’s so scenic there’s no point driving non-stop—the journey is more beautiful than the destination. The road is also a food enthusiast’s delight—it takes you to Udupi (famous for the Tuluva-Mangalorean cuisine). Maravanthe beach, 100-km north of Mangalore, is a visual delight. On the way is the famous Gokarna beach (once an alternative to ‘crowded’ beaches of Goa, unfortunately Gokarna itself has become as crowded).