If you are someone like me who has developed this uninhibited love for road trips, then it is likely that you have thought about places for road trip journey from Bangalore. Typically, cliched destinations like Goa, Pondicherry, Coorg etc come to mind, but these are not long trips and mostly suit a weekend away from Bangalore. That’s when I started looking for road trip destinations from Bangalore and decided to plan my own road trip. Of course with ideas from my partner in crime, my wife (Guddu), largely because she has a way around maps that I can’t fathom to achieve. (Read here about my road trip from Bangalore to Lepakshi, Gandikota and Belum Caves)
Finally, when we finished playing around with the google maps, we finalized a route that looked like a ‘protruding garland’ adorning the south India, but it was perfect for us because out of 6 destinations we picked. I had never been to any of these destination earlier while as a child, Guddu had traveled to some of these places a couple of decades ago, so both us were very excited!
Day 1, first destination: Sleepy Snag and Meenakshi Temple
We started our journey with a lot of excitement and cleared the city traffic with least resistance possible. However, 4 hours into the drive, yours truly was like a sleeping sack behind the wheel! Now, blame it on the excitement of the trip, but I couldn’t get much sleep the night before and it started to gnaw at me (red bull didn’t help). So much so, that I finally had to take an unplanned pit stop at a Cafe Coffee Day for a power nap. That apart, the road trip to Madurai was smooth. The road is amazing and the weather was on our side, plus there were some amazing countryside views.
If you are in Madurai, there are 3 things that you must do:
A) Visit Meenakshi Temple, an ancient temple with huge following. There is small water reservoir inside with steps on the side. This makes for a good calm seating within the temple (Mobiles & photography not allowed inside the temple)
B) Eat at Murugan Idly shop, the best idly I have eaten in the last 10 years. That is since I moved out of my home city (Chandigarh, North India) for the first time.
C) Have ‘Jigarthanda’ icecream, literally meaning ‘liver-cold’ in English. It’s a dessert which will sooth your senses and is extremely popular in the city. Beware to avoid the copy-cats and go to the original store only.
Day 2, second destination: Off to the ‘Dham‘
In Hindu religion, there are four very significant places of worship called Dhams. These are:
1) Jagannath Puri, east of India (Odisha), also popularly known as Guddu’s home in our house
2) Dwarka, west of India, in Gujarat,
3) Badrinath, north of India (Uttarakhand) and
4) Rameshwaram, south of India (Tamil Nadu).
Badrinath & Rameshwaram are dedicated to Lord Shiva while Dwarka & Jagannath Puri are dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
From Madurai to Rameshwaram, it’s about 3 hours road trip. The drive was exquisite as the road is smooth and free of potholes (always a luxury in India). It was almost empty given we started early. A magnificent pit-stop on the journey was Pamban bridge, a sight to behold and admire.
The property we booked at Rameshwaram didn’t disappoint. It was right on the edge of the sea with some very good views. We rested a bit and then left for Dhanushkodi.
If you are in Rameshwaram, there are 2 things that you must do:
A) Visit the Rameshwaram Temple
This is temple is the abode of Lord Shiva and I had a unique experience here. To reach the main mural in the temple, every visitor is expected to go through the path which comprises of 22 mini-teerthams (holy places) and each of these teertham is represented by a well. So the temple workers splash the visitors with water from each well as they progress on this journey. This was an amazing experience which left me wet ofcourse, but also content in many ways. There are touts who would offer to expedite your journey here in exchange for some money, but i didn’t choose to go with them and eventually the decision didn’t cost us more than 30-40 mins extra.
B) Visit Dhanushkodi
Dhanushkodi is ghost town as they call it. A town which got devasted many years ago due to a cyclone but whatever remains of it, is breathtaking. The first thing that will mesmerize you is the journey. The road from Rameshwaram to Dhanushkodi for a large part is surrounded by sea on both side. The water is absolutely clean and there are swathes of places where we got down to experience the the almost untouched beaches.
The road that leads to Dhanushkodi from Rameshwaram reaches to a point which is marked by pillar in the pic below. There is a checkpost around 1.5-2Km before that point from where the vehicles are not allowed. However I got lucky as I somehow found myself in the middle of a cavalcade of a high ranking govt. official, which meant that I got the luxury to take car right to the end where no other vehicles are allowed, a small thrill compared to the beauty of the place but a good bargain anyday.
We roamed around for a long time on what seemed to be a temporary swathe of sand just waiting to be subsumed by the sea any moment. In fact, the google map doesn’t show any signs of beach/land there. It’s the place with cleanest sea water that I have seen in India, and the sheer awareness that you are indeed standing in the middle of the sea is exhilarating! On the way back, we enjoyed the sunset and guddu savored the sea food on the small shacks lined across the sides of the road far from the tip. We came back to the hotel tand burst some crackers to reminiscence the childhood where we burst crackers a plently on the Diwali evening. After savouring the yummy south Indian delicacies, we retired into bed at peace knowing that the sea and Lord Shiva watched over us.
Day 3, third destination: The Southernmost Tip of India
We started the road trip from Rameshwaram to Kanyakumari around 11am after we came back from the temple. The journey was expected to last 7 hours, which it did but the 7 hours passed by in good stead. The weather was incredibly good, roads absolutely stunning & welcoming, and minimal traffic was a blessing. The only caution is that there are extremely few options in terms of food joints during the entire journey from Rameshwaram to Kanyakumari. The roadside dhaba culture which thrives in the north of the country is almost absent in these parts of the country, which is a pity!
If you are in Kanyakumari, 2 things you must do:
A) Sit by the beach and just let the sea own you!
The kanyakumari beach is absolutely commercial which makes it crowded with hawkers and of course throngs of people. There is plenty of seating space as well which is useful. We spent 2-3 hours sitting by the beach as we treated our ears to the splash of waves against the boundary wall and watched the statue of Thiruvalliar next to us braving the mighty waves. There is plenty of space to walk along the coastline, and there is a watch tower too which of course is another place to get stunning views of the ocean as you witness the great Sangam, which is considered the converging point of Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean.
This place is one of the best man made tourist site I have visited, yes, I would rate it higher than than the Taj Mahal, Colloseum in Rome, Eiffel in Paris. I would rate Golden Temple (Amritsar) in the same league as this memorial. It’s a perfect ode to the man who popularized the idea of India in the west and influenced millions of people with his thoughts. The memorial stands in the ocean, incredibly symbolizing the duality of choosing to live in the ocean and yet fight the harshness of crashing waves against its foundation, much like Swami Vivekananda encouraged humans to fight the transgressions of the mind and at the same time use the power of ideas and thoughts to change the world for the better.
Day 4 & 5, fourth destination: The Other Goa!
The road trip from Kanyakumari to Varkala was ‘meh’, but good in comparison to our next journey on the trip. As you move from Tamil Nadu to Kerala, you start witnessing the change in the roads, from faultless double roads to narrow one way roads. Heavy rains greeted us on the day, which made our progress slower and less enjoyable. Those rains and heavy storms which commenced during the travel, stayed with us for the next 2 days. We were in luck that we planned a 2 day halt at Varkala as road travel would have been a nightmare given the torrential weather around the area.
Varkala is a like a dream, and basically a cliff. A cliff which gives you an unobstructed view of the sea for miles while you comfortably sit with a cuppa or hot snacks given most shacks are not allowed to serve alcohol (though some might, in blatant disregard of the rules). The views are just stunning, we were mostly stuck in the room but could do shack-hopping. A brief period where rain god relented, we made the best of little opportunity to dip in the sea, the first on this trip!
If you are in Varkala, you must do:
A) Relax: explore the cliff, there are plenty of shacks with a variety of food options.
Day 6 & 7, 5th destination: Alappuzha/Alleppey
Road Trip from Varkala to Alappuzha was tiring. We were stuck in a traffic jam as one part of the road was undergoing construction. It look around 4-5 hours to cover which instead, should have been just around 2 hours!
We had a 2 night stay in this area. We spent our first night at an exquisite property which is an experience in itself. Beautiful architecture, warm hospitality, awesome food (breakfast buffet with variety of options) made our stay at this place quite enjoyable.
Second day, we made a 45 min journey from our resort to the location of our house boat. There are many ways to bok your stay on a house boat but we found MakemyTrip pretty reliable and convenient. We got a small sized room with an attached washroom. House boats are generally beautiful and similar looking, some are bigger than the others and most of them follow the same route in the water ways of Kerala. The sail for around 2-3 hours, they stop at a few places to let people take pictures and admire the beauty. Our boat finally halted around 6pm near a highway. Food was pretty decent and staff was welcoming. You are likely to find a lot of company on the boat as there are about 3-4 rooms per boat. I would prefer a single family house boat experience, but that is generally pretty expensive.
Day 8, 6th Destination : Serene Spirituality of Coimbatore
After our houseboat journey ended, we started towards Coimbatore, specificaly to Isha foundation ashram. Adiyogi was on our list and we reached there pretty late in the evening, and the length of the trip was getting to us as we felt jaded. The experience of the place woke me up a bit though. The Shiva statue is magnificent! I felt as if there is a massive wave of positive energy around the place. There is an ongoing Aarti in front of the Adiyogi statue. As you go inside the ashram for a tour, you see different avenues of meditation/worship. We could attend the Linga Bhairavi pooja which felt divine. The sheer commitment and fervour with which pujaris do the pooja is captivating. It’s beautiful to see someone dance to the tune of their passion – devotion in this case.
Just a little behind the Adiyogi statue, there are small vendor shops to grab quick bites and of course, an ashram mess with satvik food options. Overall, it’s a very scenic place and worth spending half a day or more. They have accomodation as well. We didn’t have any accomodation booked for the night so would have loved to stay there, but alas, we realized that the rooms generally run full months in advance!
Around the ashram area, we couldn’t find many options for stay. We finally landed up in a boutique hotel quite far from the foundation center. The place was just average as managing parking was difficult and kitchen was closed. We ordered food from Zomata and crashed for the night.
Day 9: Back to Bengaluru
Next day early morning, we started for Bangalore. Road from Coimbatore to Bangalore is good and we could maintain a decent average speed on the road. Finally after 6 hours of drive, with a few pit stops, we landed back at home.
This was a major first for us, a very long road trip, places never visited, a leased self drive car and first ever Diwali night spent out of home. All of this culminated in a beautiful bouquet of memories which we will cherish for a lifetime. This trip gave us many learnings as travellers, and also the much needed confidence that we can do long road trips, with some of planning, lot of resilience and a bit of luck. Our road will continue in the years to come, Cheers!
You can now follow VersatilistAqua on Instragram. Click here to follow Versatilistaqua on Insta