Vanderlust
National Geographic Traveller India|September - October 2021
Indians are back on the road and we have the 9 coolest campervan circuits across the country for every traveller
PRANNAY PATHAK

Anyone with a love of the great outdoors will attest to harbouring one travel dream above many—to wake up in their own recreational vehicle, toss a brick of noodles into the boiling water, smell the coffee all over the kitchenette, and set up a lawn chair to catch the sea lapping at the shore, ravishing a view no one ever told them about. Vanlife, as the hashtag goes, has its rewards.

In India, caravan travel has been practised only sparsely, owing to inconsistent road conditions, licensing problems and the absence of trailer parks or campsites dedicated to campervans. Caravanning, for the most part, has existed in the popular imagination as eccentric travellers overlanding in old RVs or trailers hitched to the back of a 4X4.

As the search for alternative ways of travel intensified in the wake of the pandemic, state tourism departments all over the country unfurled a slew of caravan tourism drives and circuits, partnering with rented motorhome companies. But these routes have so far remained limited, both in terms of places covered and experience.

The allure of taking a road trip in a recreation vehicle outfitted with one’s preferred conveniences has perhaps never been greater, but the ancillaries on the identified circuits, continue to fall short. However, with a road network spanning five-million kilometres, spectacular vistas strewn across its landmass, and a great diversity of landscape, India promises trails for all kinds of adventure-seekers. We reached out to camping aficionados, travel, entrepreneurs, tour operators and avid road trippers in our search for the coolest circuits in the country you can cover in your camper vehicle:

MUMBAI TO KUTCH

Days: 8-9/1,030km

THE ROUTE Mumbai - Palghar - Bordi - Surat - Dwarka or Kutch

WHEN November, after the post-monsoon humidity has diffused

This route stretches along the western coast, where you are likely to have heartwarming encounters with locals and avoid crowded beaches. Do spend a night in Palghar—which actually deserves a weekend—enjoying Malvani cuisine at its humble eateries, walking along the coconut- and casuarinalined shore, and maybe even making a jog for its forts. The Gujarat leg of the drive passes the engaging cities of Vadodara, Rajkot and Jamnagar—which, buzzing with museums and redolent with Gujarati flavours, demand exploration. However, if you want to head for Kutch instead, break the journey up at Rajkot, camp overnight at Bhuj. Spend the rest of the day exploring its handicrafts and heritage buildings before resuming the drive towards Kutch. Stargazing in the salts of Kutch is quite unparalleled; the whole point of taking your campervan there is to feel the breeze without the constraints of a campsite. Furthermore, Gujarat offers really affordable licensing in comparison to other states.

DELHI TO PACHMARHI

Days: 4-5/902km

THE ROUTE Delhi - Agra - Dholpur - Gwalior - Orchha (via Jhansi) - Devgarh (Lalitpur) - Sagar - Pachmarhi

WHEN October to February; monsoons are also amenable

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