In 2022, we drove dozens of cars and rode half a dozen motorcycles, and went to some of the most unfrequented places in India. Here are some that blew our minds off with their sheer beauty, and must be on your travel list for 2023. Many of these are quite approachable—near major cities, so renting a vehicle is easy and there are enough hotels around. Text and photos by Vikram Chaudhary:
Bengaluru to Gudibande (90 km, NH 44)
Situated 90 km north of Bengaluru, Gudibande Fort is one of the cleanest places in Karnataka, free of plastic waste (because very few tourists go there). While the fort is an hour’s trek from the main road, the road around the beautiful and blue Bhairasagara Lake will take your breath away.
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Coorg to Wayanad (120 km, local roads)
Kerala is a cluster of geographically contiguous villages, with people everywhere. But the road from Coorg in Karnataka to Wayanad in Kerala is different. This 120-km road passes through tea estates, coffee plantations and the western border of the Nagarahole Tiger Reserve, and is impossibly quiet.
Delhi to Fazilka (400 km, NH 9)
The famous India-Pakistan border at Attari-Wagah (near Amritsar) can get very crowded. The Sadqi-Sulemanki near Fazilka in Punjab holds the same retreat ceremony as at Wagah, has few people in attendance, and you sit close to the drill being held by the BSF of India and the Rangers of Pakistan.
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Guwahati to Pasighat (560 km, various highways)
It’s a crowded road in a densely populated state (Assam), but as you cross the 5-km Bogibeel Bridge from the south of the Brahmaputra River to the north (towards Arunachal Pradesh border), it gets empty and scenic—as you go from 398 people per sq km in Assam to 17 people per sq km (Arunachal).
Leh to Umling-la (300 km, local roads)
Move over Khardung-la, we now have Umling-la—the highest motorable road in the world. A solid 36-hour ride/drive from Delhi (and eight hours from Leh) can take you there. It’s near the LAC with China and you need an inner line permit to reach here, which can be easily obtained online or in Leh.
Mumbai to Pawna (120 km, Mumbai-Pune Expressway)
There is a beautiful lake district just two hours east of Mumbai (and two hours west of Pune) to the south of the expressway. Lying in Mulshi and Vehle tehsils, roads here are exceptionally good, mostly empty, and take you to lakes including the Pawna, Mulshi, Temghar, Hadshi and Salter.
Udaipur to Jawai (150 km, NH 27)
Located in the remote southwest Rajasthan (150 km west of Udaipur), Jawai is famous for its leopards and crocodiles, and sightings are almost confirmed in jeep safaris organised by the locals. The home of these carnivores is a geography rarely seen—here you will find oldest surface rocks in India.
(This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it shows that India offers far more than what you see on the map.)