Talk to any travel enthusiast and they will tell you that Bangalore is one of the few cities that is most conducive to ‘weekend travel’; efficient bus services and reasonably good highways contribute tremendously. Heading out only 250 km from the city offers you great and diverse escapes. No wonder it’s a hit with driving enthusiasts. Given that Bangalore graduated from a sedate, midsized town to a metro, the only thing that one needs to be cognizant of, is the traffic. If you are driving out, be sure to leave the city before 6am to beat the bustle. Here are some of the best routes off the city.
1. Sullivan’s Nilgiris
Route> Bangalore –Mysore- Bandipur-Masinagudi- Kalhatti-Ooty-Coonoor-Kotagiri (310 kms)
If you love a hilly drive with neatly lined tea gardens for company, choose this over others. The 310 kms can easily be stretched to over 10 hours in all if you stop for wine tasting, seeing the Channapatna Toy town and Kokkare Belur before reaching the heritage city of Mysore. Time dependent, get your wildlife fix along the forests of Bandipur and Masinagudi. After this, your tryst with the Nilgiris starts, first with the untouched Kalhatti falls, the legendary hill station Ooty and the offbeat farm stays of Coonoor. End the journey at Kotagiri, where British officer, John Sullivan started his research of the region in 1819. Book yourself at La Maison(www.lamaison.in) for a cocktail of French and Tamil hospitality.
|The Coonoor Tea Estates
2. Along the Coast
Route> Bangalore – Mangalore – Gokarna/Goa (about 600 kms)
Add some zing to one of the most coveted drives off Bangalore, by veering off to coffee country, Sakleshpur, before hitting Mangalore on the west and then driving north right uptil Goa. Driftwood shops in Sakleshpur, thick coffee copses, organic honey and the temple trail of Halebidu-Belur are some of the highlights till the first 250 kms. Then comes the dramatic coastline with gems like Mangalore’s Anatomy and Pathology Museum, Udipi’s Sri Krishna Temple, surfing pit stops at Mulki’s Ashram Retreat and Shaka Surf Club, Maravathe beach, rainforests of Agumbe and Murudeshwar’s towering Shiva statue along with the draw of scuba diving at Netrani Islands close by. The drive remains equally exciting right till the end with boho gems like Gokarna and Karwar just before you hit South Goa.
|A windy evening at Murudeshwar
3. Coffee Trail
Route>Bangalore-Hassan-Halebidu-Belur- Chikmagalur (275 kms)
A weekend at a sprawling coffee estate with copious cups coming your way and a good book – that’s Chikmagalur for you. And if you feel a little restless, there is always the highest peak of Karnataka, Mullayangiri, to drive up to! What lies in store along the way, is the Hassan-Belur-Halebidu temple trail. The Hoysala Kings built exotic temples in the area, only a handful of which remain till date. If you are a history aficionado, you cannot miss this.
4. Karnataka’s forests and waterfalls at their best
Route> Bangalore – Chitra Durga-Shimoga-Jog Falls-Dandeli (580 kms)
Throw in a little bit of history at the fort town of Chitra Durga, before getting completely immersed (quite literally) in the best monsoon trail in south India. This is the time when the waterfalls in the region swell up to roaring monsters, plummeting down valleys; the scene is both thrilling and scary! Sathodi, Magod and the Jog Falls are the most famous along the route and the stops are worth your while. Drive through the splash of green along the Sharavathi forests before hitting the Dandeli and Anshi Tiger Reserve. Dandeli’s Jungle Resort is your best bet for wildlife spotting.
5. Heritage Trail
Route> Bangalore –Hampi -Anegundi-Sandur (555 kms)
Trace the Vijayanagara footprint on Karnataka’s heritage trail with a drive to the ruins of Hampi from where you can detour to the lesser known Anegundi and Sand
ur. While everyone is well aware of the UNESCO World Heritage site, amp up your trip with the lesser known gems that are not too far away. At Sandur, be immersed in the royal hospitality at the refurbished palace of the Ghorpade family – Shivavilas Palace (www.shivavilas.com).A long weekend is perfect for these three destinations with plenty of sightseeing opportunities in the triangle.
Hire A Car
Carz On Rent – The most reliable option for renting cars, the company offers high end and more practical options. An interactive website is easy to use and book from. (www.carzonrent.com)
Eco Rent A Car – This company, too, has a wide range of luxury to mid sized practical cars at a reasonable cost. Book online for convenience. (www.ecorentacar.com)
Avis – Yet another reliable name for hiring cars, Avis’ model is the same as the other companies. Valid license, a deposit fee, per day/weekly rate and you are ready for a getaway. (www.avis.co.in)