Four families travelling in four cars for 4000 kilometres for 14 days. An impossible journey, some might say. But here we were, taking a road trip to magical Madhya Pradesh or the ‘Heart of India’.
Madhya Pradesh – The Heart of India
Madhya Pradesh (MP) happens to be one of my home states. It has plenty of things to offer – forts and palaces (Maheshwar, Gwalior & Orchha), jungles ((Panna, Ken, Kanha, Satpuda & Bhimbetka), temples (Khajuraho, Datia & Maihar), hills (Pachmarhi), rivers (Narmada & Ken) and lakes (Bhopal). And this was just where we travelled! However, there is much more to Madhya Pradesh than this.
In Madhya Pradesh, there is always something interesting to see every 200-400 kilometres: and it is best to explore the region in your own vehicle. Driving allows you the freedom of time and movement (something that a train may not be able to do). Moreover, the airports are not always close to your intended destination, so you will end up hiring a car. So, it is better to opt for a road trip. Most roads in the state are in good condition. Some sections are exceptionally well developed – the national and state highways that you will use are mostly well made. However, there are sections where work is going on to make them wider or better. This leads to diversions currently, which can make driving somewhat tedious. Hopefully, once the new roads are built, driving around will become easier.
So, now that you know the best way to explore Madhya Pradesh, let’s check out the itinerary!
How We Started
We started from Mumbai. The Mumbai-Indore and the Indore-Mumbai legs (600 kms one way) are the best routes to reach Madhya Pradesh. This is a popular route – even a reasonably slow and cautious driver like me can cover the journey between these two cities (with reasonable breaks built-in) in 12 hours. Alternatively, you can start and end your MP trip in Indore and fly in and out of this well-connected city.
We were able to do most of the things that you will find on the table. Remember that when you are travelling long distances in unfamiliar locations, you have to keep a few things in mind – people sleep at different times, children can take time getting ready, you may simply want to rest at a place after a long drive, work can intervene which can add an unknown and uncertain variable, and finally, incidents that require your immediate attention. This means that if you can complete even 80% of this itinerary in a fortnight, you have done really well! Anything more would mean you are treading into a territory where you may be converting the holiday into work! The idea of the trip is to not only explore places but also to, as William Henry Davis would put it, “stand and stare”.
The overall journey from Mumbai to MP to Mumbai ends up being around four thousand kilometres. There are some long days of driving, and if you are not used to driving for hours, it is advisable to rest after long drives. Keep extra days as a buffer. For example, all I did in Gwalior was read Mary Clark Higgins’ “Where Are You Now?” There is nothing better than sitting on the lawns of the Taj Usha Kiran on a wintery morning with the sun at your back and reading a thriller! Most of our team did something similar at Kanha. There are times when you just need to spend time with yourself or the group.
If you chart this route out on a map, you will find that this is a full circle. This means two things: (a) you can go clockwise or anti-clockwise, and (b) you can start at whichever city you want to. For example, if you are flying in and out of MP, you can start at Indore, Bhopal, Gwalior, Khajuraho, or Jabalpur and build your journey from there.