The phrase “the journey is the destination” was made for India.
When crossing the subcontinent, every step of every journey is filled with sights, sounds and sensations that will consume your senses and shake up everything you thought you knew about travel. Traveling by road might seem a particularly ambitious proposition. Driving on highways that throng with handcarts, cattle, camels, monkeys and people requires nerves of steel and the patience of a Buddhist master. But a road trip in India is perfectly possible if you pick your routes – and your vehicle – wisely.
The first thing to know is that you don’t need to drive yourself. Hiring a car with a driver is easy, and in the foothills of the Himalayas, you can hire “jeeps” with drivers who are quite happy to power over mountain passes on tracks only marginally wider than their vehicles.
With the hassles of navigating India’s hectic roads, many travelers opt to explore India by motorcycle or bicycle – a self-drive experience that will immerse you deep in the rural communities that a lot of visitors pass by.
So grab your sense of adventure and get ready to hit the road with this guide to the best road trips in India.
1. India’s Golden Triangle
Best for Mughal monuments
Delhi–Delhi; 1120km (690 miles); allow 5 days
Short and sweet, the loop from Delhi to Agra and Jaipur packs a lot of wonders into a few days of driving. Begin the adventure in Delhi, where the ruins of eight cities tell the story of India’s greatest Islamic empires. Hit the city’s highlights, including Red Fort, Humayun’s Tomb, the Jama Masjid and the bazaars of Chandni Chowk, which have changed only superficially since Shah Jahan’s time.
With your own vehicle, it’s easy to swing by the sacred cities of Mathura and Vrindavan, where Krishna frolicked with milkmaids in the Hindu epics. After these peaceful stops, steel yourself for a mix of the stressful and sublime in Agra, where the glorious Taj Mahal more than lives up to its reputation, as compensation for the hassles and scams. Find more Mughal magnificence at nearby Fatehpur Sikri, the abandoned city founded by Akbar. Once you follow NH21 to Jaipur, you’ll share every fort, palace and mystical observatory with a crowd, so make the most of your experience with a detour….
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