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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Top 11 Motorcycling Holidays in India

I am sure a lot of my readers are aware that I am a huge motorcycling travel aficionado. For those who aren’t, I wish to tell them that I have covered the entire Indian country on my motorcycle (in a single trip) and have covered over 2,00,000 (2 lakh) kilometers exploring different parts of India on my motorcycle. Travelers who are coming from New Zealand that are considering a motorcycle tour around India will be surprised at how much there is to see. This post is a list of my top 11 favorite motorcycling routes across India. Each have been ranked too (1 being the best).

Astounding views galore in the Western Himalayas of Ladakh
1) Ladakh and Kashmir
This route from Manali to Ladakh and Kashmir is one of the top 10 motorcycling routes in the world and hence it comes as no surprise that it is my most favorite motorcycling holiday in India. The high mountain passes, one of the highest motorable roads in the world (Khardung La), the rarified atmosphere, the rich Buddhist culture and a feeling of being in heaven is what makes this ride a truly once a lifetime experience. While planning a ride here, one is spoilt for choice. The Khardung La top, the sand dunes of Nubra Valley, the high altitude lakes like Pangong Tso, the path along the Zanskar river in Zanskar valley, the Buddhist monasteries of Lamayuru, Alchi or Hemis or the beauty of Srinagar, they all look equally inviting. If you want a more relaxed and planned holiday, you can look up Kashmir tour packages.

Typical route: Manali –> Rohtang La –> Tandi/Keylong –> Sarchu –> Tanglang La –> Upshi –> Leh (from Leh one can take separate routes to Khardungla and Nubra, Pangong and Tso Moriri and Hemis) –> Lamayuru –> Kargil –> Drass –> Zozi La –> Srinagar –> Patnitop –> Chandigarh

Ideal Riding Season: April to August

Beware of: Acute Mountain Sickness

Motorcycle's view of the Satluj River and the Snow peaks in Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India
2) Spiti Valley
The Spiti Valley route in Himachal Pradesh, not too far away from Ladakh, doesn’t get as much traffic as its neighbor, but isn’t any way behind in terms of natural beauty and awe-inspiring roads. In fact, the Hindustan-Tibet highway that leads into Spiti valley ensures your adrenalin keeps flowing on the ride. It is on this ride that you will get to go to the highest villages of the world. While Kaza, Tabo, Spiti and Pin valley make up for the real remoteness, the Baspa and Kinnaur regions act as great supporting pedestals with its apricot and apple orchards, satluj river views and snow capped shrines.

Typical Route: Shimla –> Baspa –> Kinnaur –> Recong Peo –> Kalpa –> Kaza –> Tabo –> Spiti –> Keylong –> Manali

Ideal Riding Season: April to October

Beware of: Acute Mountain Sickness

The extremely dense and quiet Vazhchal Forest roads to Chalkudy - perfect motorcycling terrain
3) Valparai and the Vazhachal Forest
This is possibly the best monsoon ride in the country. This route connecting Pollachi in Tamil Nadu to Chalakudy in Kerala is covered with some of the best cloud forests, tropical rainforests and evergreen forests in the country. This region receives so much rain that a lot of water can be always seen, be it stunning waterfalls and innumerable dams and reservoirs. And since this area is either part of the Anaimalai tiger reserve or the Vazhachal forest reserve, wildlife sightings are also pretty common.

Typical Route: Pollachi –> Valparai –> Vazhachal –> Athirapally –> Chalakudy

Ideal Riding Season: All year around

Beware of: Wildlife confrontations

Picturesque Arabian Sea view from Cabo de Rama fort
4) NH 17
This is undoubtedly the best coastal ride in India and is very similar to the 101 highway in the United States. This ride, which runs all the way from Mumbai in Maharashtra to Trivandrum in Kerala can be either done in one complete shot or in parts. This route ensures that you always play hide seek with the coastline and cross countless pristine beaches of mainland India (across Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala). Maravanthe beach on this highway will be your motorcycle’s favorite parking spot.

Typical Route: Mumbai –> Ratnagiri –> Goa –> Karwar –> Maravanthe –> Mangalore –> Bekal –> Cochin –> Alleppey –> Kollam –> Trivandrum

Ideal Riding Season: Winter months of October to February

Beware of: Heavy truck traffic in certain city junctions

Winding himalayan roads and the steep drop next to it
5) Western Arunachal Pradesh
This route on the eastern Himalayas is as beautiful as its western counterpart, but possibly more tough due to the lack of roads. Western Arunachal Pradesh’s laid back lifestyle, snow covered roads and unique tribal culture make this high altitude route a very interesting one.

Typical Route: Bhalupkong –> Dirang –> Bomdila –> Tawang

Ideal Riding Season: March to May or October and November

Beware of: Landslides triggered by heavy rains

Sunset on sand dunes is indeed a very pretty sight!!
6) Great Indian Thar Desert
Riding in a desert is definitely a fantastic experience and if the desert keeps on coming at you, then it can certainly give you a high. It is such a high that ones gets while traversing the Great Indian Thar Desert via Barmer, Jaisalmer and Bikaner. Apart from riding in the sand dunes, this ride takes you through some of the most sparsely populated regions of our heavily populated country. Riding through erstwhile kingdoms is also a plus.

Typical Route: Barmer –> Jaisalmer –> Bikaner

Ideal Riding Season: October to February

Beware of: Pushing your motorcycle through the fine sands of the dunes

The largest salt desert in the world - Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, India
7) Rann of Kutch
Riding across a salt desert might not sound that amusing to you, but if I tell you that you don’t need to press your brake here, then may be, you will listen to me. The salt desert of Kutch is a very wide expanse of land with hardly any obstructions. If the ground below you is hard enough, you can even try and break the land speed record here. But, keeping speed aside, the specialty of this place is its beautiful star lit sky. I love to ride in the night here while following the stars.

Typical Route: Surendrangar –> Dhrangadhra –> Little Rann of Kutch –> Great Rann of Kutch

Ideal Riding Season: December to February

Beware of: Soft ground. This can send you into a tailspin.

Chugging along with the World Heritage “Toy Train” to Darjeeling, West Bengal, India
8) Darjeeling and Sikkim
A true beauty of the Eastern Himalayas, this Himalayan route allows you to ride along the chugging Himalayan Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and weave through some unbelievably steep and winding roads. The hill culture, a heady mixture or Hinduism and Buddhism and the heavenly sights of the Kanchenjunga are some fine attributes of this route. For a relaxed and planned family or couple holiday, look up Sikkim tour packages.

Typical Route: Siliguri –> Darjeeling –> Kalimpong –> Gangtok –> Pelling –> Yuksom

Ideal Riding Season: All year around

Beware of: Landslides during the heavy rains

Noh Kalikai Falls, Cherrapunji, Meghalaya
9) Meghalaya
Who would not be interested in a ride through the wettest place on the planet? A unique culture, extremely pretty women, some of the highest waterfalls in the country, the cleanest village in India and the living root bridges of Nongriat are more than enough reasons to make Meghalaya a special motorcycle ride in North East India.

Typical Route: Guwahati –> Shillong –> Cheerapunji district –> East Khasi Hills

Ideal Riding Season: October to February

Beware of: Landslides

The famous hairpin bends of Kolli Hills - 70 in all
10) Kolli Hills
How about getting into the Limca Book of Records? Have you ever ridden 70 continuous hairpin bends? Well, Kolli hills or the mountains of death will ensure that you get a feel of both. This tropical hill station located in the Eastern Ghats of Tamil Nadu is also famous for its Agaya Gangai waterfall, its old Shiva temple and Pineapple farms. This makes for a great weekend ride from Bangalore.

Typical Route: Salem –> Rasipuram –> Kolli Hills

Ideal Riding Season: All year around

Beware of: Accidents on the small ghat roads

Dark Clouds over Tranquebar
11) East Coast of Tamil Nadu
The East Coast highway of Tamil Nadu may not be as eye-catching as the NH 17 of Western India, but it certainly has a lot of color, flavor and culture. Whether it is the flamingos at the Pulicat lake, the Sea shore temple at Mahabalipuram, the French settlement at Pondicherry, the famous Natarajar temple at Chidambaram, the unknown Danish colony at Tranquebar, the churches at Velankani or the Adam’s bridge at Rameshwaram, the ECR has a lot of such jewels to showcase.

Typical Route: Pulicat Lake –> Chennai –> Mahabalipuram –> Pondicherry –> Cuddalore –> Chidambaram –> Tranquebar –> Nagapattinam –> Rameshwaram –> Tuticorin

Ideal Riding Season: December and January

Beware of: Unseasonal cyclones that can cause serious damage to the coastline



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