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India's driving roads - On the road


One question I get asked a lot is 'What's the best driving road in India?'. There is, of course, no comprehensive answer to that question, since I haven't driven on every single road in the country, but what I can do is tell you about a few roads where you can go out and drive/ride – fast. You don’t need a supremely powerful car or bike in your garage – even your trusty hatchback or standard-issue 150cc motorcycle will do. It goes without saying that you must be properly kitted out and that you have to exercise caution at all times. There’s a difference between being fast and being stupid, and it’s not a very big chasm.


No piece about good, fast driving roads in India can be written without at least a passing reference to the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, and it’s safe to say that auto journalists based in either city would be lost without it. It’s seen better days, but is still a fantastic road on which to go out and have a blast. Leave nice and early, to beat traffic, and you’re guaranteed a good time, with three lanes on each side, long straights and a twisting ghat section for some cornering thrills. Two-wheelers are unfortunately not allowed on this road (except for one section, which meets the old Mumbai-Pune highway), and another downside is that it’s a concrete surface, not tarmac, so grip from your tyres isn't as good.


There’s a town in Karnataka called Hasan (the drive there from Bangalore is also a very nice one), and from there, you’ll find a sparingly used B-road that leads to the lovely stone temples of Belur and Halebid. It’s not immediately apparent, so you’ll have to ask around, but once you find it, driving/riding pleasure is guaranteed. The tarmac surface is clean and smooth, there are plenty of fast corners and switchbacks and, of course, you’ll have the temples as a treat at the end of the journey. From there, you can also take yet another lovely back-road to the temple town of Dharmasthala - which, quite unexpectedly, has a wonderful vintage car museum.


When you land at Udaipur airport and are driving towards the city, you’ll find a prominent right turn leading towards the fort and boutique hotel of Devigarh. Take that right turn, I implore you. It’s light on traffic and extremely heavy on the fun factor, with really long straights and a great hill section leading to Devigarh. You could also continue down that road and take the turn-off to the fabulous Kumbhalgarh fort – this road, full of twists and turns, is of the highest quality too.


Bhiwandi is a fairly depressing town near Mumbai, but the good thing about it is that it’s on the way to the hill station of Igatpuri. The highway from Bhiwandi to Igatpuri has been recently re-surfaced, and if you set out early enough, you’ll be rewarded with a speedy, exciting drive/ride. The ghat section leading to Igatpuri is particularly recommended (actually, so is the section from there back down) – it’s one-way and has some great corners. Of course, you could go all the way to Nashik, India’s wine-growing hotspot, to sample a few glasses of fermented grape juice.


All right, so this one isn’t exactly in India, but then everyone knows that Dubai is also one of the nicest Indian cities, right? It’s not very expensive to fly there either, and once you’ve arrived, get hold of a car or bike and point its nose at Jebel Hafeet, the world’s best driving road. Essentially a private driveway leading to a Sheikh’s palace, this piece of blacktop is pure driving heaven – near-deserted, beautifully surfaced and with corner after delightful corner; there are (or there weren’t, when I went) no speed cameras either. Do you need any further invitation?