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15 Spectacular River Road Trips in India you should do once!

Written by Poorna & Brinda

River road – A Road that runs parallel to a river.

One of the charms of road trips is the freedom it provides to  a traveller. We recently did the road trip on the world’s most treacherous river road in Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh. Tough yes. But it was a fantabulous trip!

Over the weekend, we were discussing about our river road trips. When we started counting, we realised that we have done some of the fantastic river road trips. The recent road trip in Spiti was on four river roads along Sutlej, Spiti, Chenab and Beas!

That was when we decided to start listing the river road trips that can be done in India. We were quite surprised to see that we had done almost 60 percent in this list. Poorna has done the ones along Brahmaputra and Lohit when he was serving in the Army in Arunachal Pradesh.

Driving along rivers is a mind-blowing experience. As you can see, all these river road trips are in the Himalayan region where the roads run parallel to the river. Each experience is different. We drove along ferocious Chenab river between Batal and Gramphu last fortnight. When we drove along Spiti, we had to really look down into the deep gorge it had created to see the river. Fast flowing Alakananda gave us company last year when we went to Badrinath while gentle Shyok was with us in Nubra valley. While Indus,Spiti and Zanskar flow through the barren and spectacular landscape of Himalayas,  Sutlej, Chenab,Parvati and Beas flow through cedar landscape of Kinnaur valley. Each road trip throws up some of the fascinating scenery that will make you to yearn for more! Just for benchmarking we have kept 50 KMs as minimum distance except for Zanskar. Some are long drives and some short. But each one is a beauty in itself.

Let us now take you through the list. Our thanks to Highway Legend H V Kumar who was enthusiastic to our idea and help vet this list.

1. Rishikesh – Devprayag – River Ganga

Distance & Map – 75 KMs

Road Condition – Good

Best time – After monsoon when hills are green and cascades flow down. Though Monsoon is a good time, it is better avoided as this road is prone to land slides. If you are planning to drive in Monsoon months of July – September, please keep buffer days.

15 River road trips India

This was our first road trip in Himalayas and were not sure how many pictures we clicked on this trip. It was in the month of August and monsoon had made the valley green and lovely. We never lifted our eyes from the verdant Ganges valley!

2 Devprayag – Badrinath – River Alakananda

Distance & Map – 224 KMs

Road condition – Good. There are some landslide areas where the road is bad. The road between Gobind Ghat and Badrinath is in bad condition.

Best time – After monsoon when hills are green and cascades flow down from mountains. Though Monsoon is a good time, it is better avoided as this road is prone to land slides. If you are planning to drive in Monsoon months of July – September, please keep buffer days. Driving on this in spring will allow you to see snow caped ranges after Joshimath.

15 River road trips India

Road along Alakananda

Leaving Devprayag, you climb slowly long Alakananda. Fast and furious, the milky white waters give you company all along till Badrinath. You will drive through some of the most fascinating and dangerous stretches of road (look at the picture above).

3. New Tehri – Gangotri – River Baghirathi

Distance and Map – 215 KMs 

Road condition – Good

Best time – After monsoon when hills are green. Though Monsoon is good time, it is better avoided as this road is prone to land slides. If you are planning to drive in Monsoon months of July – September, please keep buffer days. Driving on this in spring will allow you to see snow caped ranges.

river road

Bhagirathi valley

This is another fascinating river road. The road hugs Bhagirathi as it flows down ferociously from Himalayas. Our friends who have driven on this road say the valley is spectacular. We are doing this in October this year.

4. Tatapani  – Khab – River Sutlej

Distance and Map – 250 KMs

Road condition – Good

Best time – After monsoon when hills are green. Though Monsoon is good time, it is better avoided as this road is prone to land slides. If you are planning to drive in Monsoon months of July – September, please keep buffer days. Driving on this in spring will allow you to see snow caped ranges.

15 River road trips India

Sutlej Valley – Notice the road!

We call this as Cedar valley. One of the most beautiful drives in the country along the Sutlej river. You also come across some engineering marvels where the road has been cut through the mountains with some natural tunnels!

5. Khab – Kaza – River Spiti

Distance and Map – 132 KMs

Road condition – Generally good with some bad portions.

Best time – It does not rain in this part f the country. However, since you will be driving through Sutlej valley – see above – after monsoon is a good time when hills are green. Though Monsoon is a good time, it is better avoided as this road – especially in Kinnaur valley – is prone to land slides. If you are planning to drive in Monsoon months of July – September, please keep buffer days. Driving on this in spring will allow you to see snow caped ranges. The road will be closed in winter months (October till May)

15 River road trips India

Spiti Valley

When you drive from Shimla to Kaza, every mile is a fascinating experience. If Sutlej valley is green and lovely, Spiti valley leaves you spell binding! You drive on World’s most treacherous road. Rightly so when you drive at a height of 500 feet above river bed. This is possibly the most challenging of all the river road drives in this list.

6. Batal – Tandi – River Chenab

Distance and Map – 95 KMs

Road condition – No road for most of the stretch. It is basically a jeep track. Had to cross many streams.

Best time – After monsoon when hills are green. Though Monsoon is good time, it is better avoided as this road is prone to land slides. If you are planning to drive in Monsoon months of July – September, please keep buffer days. The road will be closed between October – May.

15 River road trips India

Chenab (Chandra) Valley

What can we say about this stretch? A ferocious river on one side. Snow walls on the other. You drive in between over a road full of boulders. Then you have misread water streams to cross. Mid way, the landscape dramatically changes to green and white! Lush green valleys with waterfalls on one side and snow-covered mountains on the other. Isn’t this nothing but heaven?

7.Mood – Chumathang – Leh – River Indus

Distance and Map – 188 KMs

Road condition – Good

Best time – In summer from June – October. Though the road will be open partially in winter, it will be extremely cold.

15 River road trips India

Indus Valley

We gasped in wonder when we drove some portions of the road in 2010. Colourful mountains, lovely valleys, mighty mountains, high passes makes this stretch a memorable driving experience.

8.Nimmoo – Chilling – River Zanskar

Distance and Map – 35 KMS

Road condition – Good

Best time – In summer from June – October. Though the road will be open partially in winter, it will be extremely cold.

15 River road trips India

Zanskar Valley

You never expect what is in store when you leave the highway and head towards Chilling. Leaving the confluence point of Zanskar and Indus behind, you soon will realise that you are driving through one of most enchanting river valleys. Though short, the valley view is fascinating. Imagine for one second that this whole valley gets frozen in winter and people come here for snow trek!

9 Tuting – Pasighat – River Brahmaputra

Distance and Map – 368 KMs

Road condition – Good most of the portion.

Best time – After monsoon when hills are green. Though Monsoon is good time, it is better avoided as this road is prone to land slides. If you are planning to drive in Monsoon months of May – September, please keep buffer days. You never know when the road gets closed in rainy season.

15 River road trips India

Brahmaputra Valley

Poorna remembers this from his Army days. Tuting is a remote village almost on the border of Tibet. To drive along mighty Brahmaputra is a an adventure in itself. The fast flowing Brahmaputra humbles you.

10 Sevoke – Patuk – River Teesta

Distance and Map – 82 KMs 

Road condition – Good

Best time – After monsoon when hills are green. Though Monsoon is good time, it is better avoided as this road is prone to land slides. If you are planning to drive in Monsoon months of July – September, please keep buffer days.

15 River road trips India

Teesta Valley

The blue – green waters of Teesta is scene to behold. Flowing through the coniferous  forests of West Bengal and Sikkim states, it gives you company all the way up till Rangpo on Gangtok road. If you want to continue to have the company of this lovely river, take a detour via Patuk to Gangtok.

11 Durbuk – Turtuk – River Shyok

Distance and Map – 200 KMs

Road condition – Good

Best time – Summer months June – October. The road will be closed in winter.

15 River road trips India

Shook Valley

The gentle flowing Shyok river gives company all the way from Diskit to Turtuk. Though we did not go to Turtuk, friends who have been on this stretch says that it is an awesome experience. It should be looking at the picture above!

12 Kibithoo – Hayuliang – River Lohit

Distance & Map – 120 KMs

Road condition – Good in portions

Best time – After monsoon when hills are green. Though Monsoon is good time, it is better avoided as this road is prone to land slides. If you are planning to drive in Monsoon months of May – September, please keep buffer days. You never know when the road gets closed in rainy season.

15 River road trips India

Walong Airfield, Lohit Valley

Poorna always talk about this fascinating road which has many stories to tell. Built during Second World War, the road hugs Lohit and passes through some of the treacherous and fascinating roads.

13 Diskit – Warshi – River Nubra

Distance and Map – 92 KMs

Road condition – Good

Best time – In summer from June – October. The road will be closed during winter.

15 River road trips India

Road along Nubra river….

We drove on this road last year when we went to Siachen base camp. The landscape changes after you cross the bridge at Hunder and gets astonishingly beautiful as one drive along Nubra river. If you can get permission, can drive unto Siachen base camp. Else Warshi will be the last stop on this road.

14 Budhi – Jauljibi – Sarda

Distance & Map – 80 KMs 

Road condition – Good

Best time – After monsoon when hills are green. Though Monsoon is good time, it is better avoided as this road is prone to land slides. If you are planning to drive in Monsoon months of May – September, please keep buffer days. You never know when the road gets closed in rainy season.

15 River road trips India

Road along Sarda (Kali) river

We were fascinated by this road ever since we had read books on Kailsah – Manasarover trips. Our friend Madhavraj Kadayat who is from Darchula in Kumaon sings paeans to the beauty of this road. Why not. Look at the picture above. Definitely in our bucket list

15 Manali – Mandi – River Beas

Distance and Map – 108 KMs

Road condition – Good

Best time to go – After monsoon when hills are green. Though Monsoon is good time, it is better avoided as this road is prone to land slides. If you are planning to drive in Monsoon months of July – September, please keep buffer days.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 6.24.26 pm

This is a road tripper’s dream. We were wowed first time when we drove on this road in 2010. We had a memorable drive again last fortnight when we drove from Manali to Chandigarh. Fast flowing Beas give you company even as you drive through its fascinating valley of Cedars and of course some tough roads and one of the longest road tunnels!

We also thought of mentioning the following river roads which are beautiful though short and within 50 KMs.

a) Bhuntar – Manikaran – River Parvati

Distance and Map – 35 KMs

Parvati valley is one of the most beautiful valley in Himalayas. This must be one of the fascinating drives.

b) Barkot – Yamunotri – River Yamuna

Distance and Map 46 KMs

The road to Yamunotri is as beautiful as the one to Gangotri.

c) Darcha – Keylong – Bhaga river

Distance and Map – 30 KMs

Anyone who has driven to Ladakh will have a fond memory of this fast and furious river!

Travel Tips

  1. Always check the condition of the river road locally. Become a part of a driving community like H V Kumar forum on FB where like minded members update on the road conditions.
  2. While driving in Himalayas, the thumb rule is “Leave early and reach early”. Always leave at sunrise. Weather in mountains change very fast. Leaving early will also help in crossing streams.
  3. Most of these roads are along deep valley on narrow roads. One need to drive very cautiously.
  4. Always keep an additional day while planning to drive during rains. Landslides may block the roads without notice.
  5. One can average not more than 25 KMs per hour on many of these roads. Plan accordingly.
  6. Driving on a river road gives lot of opportunity to stop, look and click. Enjoy the landscape.
  7. Ensure that your car is in a good condition.

What has been your river road experience? Any other road you find it fascinating and would like us to include in this list? Do let us know.

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About the author

Poorna & Brinda

We are Brinda and Poorna from Bengaluru, the “Silicon city” or “Garden city” of India.

We travel together. We caught the travel bug 20 years back. On our honey moon, we traveled over the sea, in the train, by bus and in an aircraft! Our adventures probably started in that year. It continues, ever since.

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