Let me tell you this right in the beginning. Do not choose this route if you are in a hurry to reach Goa. No, the roads are absolutely fine and as good as NH4, but you'll slow down quite often and maybe even stop a few times to capture the beauty of nature around you. The drive from Shimoga to Goa via NH69 and NH66 is absolutely spectacular and a treat to drive on.
The route was part of the final transport stage of the 2016 Maruti Suzuki Dakshin Dare and that's when I discovered why the organisers chose it.
Getting out of Shimoga takes about 20 minutes as you have to drive past a busy bus stand. However, once you're through, the road widens with hardly any traffic. 10km out of the town and you'll come across the Tyavarekoppa Lion and Tiger Reserve. The forest department organises safaris for tourists, and it's a must visit if you are a wildlife enthusiast.
From then on, the highway is smooth but mainly two laned, so caution is advised. While on this route, you can't help but admire the greenery that abounds on both side of the road. Once you reach the town of Sagar, stop to dig into the delicious lunch thalis at any of the restaurants.
Once past Sagar, take a left at Talaguppa to stay on NH69. After a few kilometres, the road begins to climb up towards the famous Jog Falls. Created by the watercourse of the Sharavati River, it is the second highest waterfall in India with the longest drop measured at 829 feet. It's a recommended stop because it's simply mesmerising to see and hear a waterfall.
The road then steadily descends to the town of Honnavar where you'll join NH66, the Panvel-Kanyakumari highway. This section is a corner carvers delight with superb tarmac and excellent sightlines. There's a lovely flow to the road with precise banking, allowing impressive corner speeds.
The road engineers have put in quite a lot of thought into eliminating blind spots along this route. At some spots, the road splits into a one-way zone at the corner, thereby eliminating the risk of head-on collisions.
Once on NH66, the pace drops a little owing to road widening work. Watch out for oncoming traffic and morons who try to overtake inconsiderately. Follow the road up north past the coastal town of Karwar. The road runs past the Port of Karwar and makes for an ideal spot to stop, relax, grab a cup of tea and watch the sea in front of you.
Road widening work slows you down, just before entering Goa
A few kilometres later, you enter Goa via Palolem situated in Canacona, South Goa. That's when you encounter the first and only toll.
Once into Goa, the roads are quite narrow and it's advisable to stick to slow speeds. Also, keep an eye out for tourists on rented scooters and cars. They are mostly in a holiday mood and least bothered about following traffic discipline.
Food options in Goa are plenty, and those who love coastal food would relish the spread at any eatery. There are a lot of accommodation options in Goa, but a room with a view of the sea is what you should opt for, ideally.