There’s nothing like a road trip: scenic views, surprising stops, the sense of freedom that comes with it. If you’re dreaming of setting out to hit the open road, look no further. From Argentina’s mega-highway, Ruta 40, to the twists and turns of Italy’s Amalfi Coast drive, these breathtaking routes are packed with thrills:
Great Ocean Road, Australia
The spectacular Great Ocean Road winds alongside the wild and windswept Southern Ocean. Home to craggy cliffs, empty beaches and bountiful wildlife, there’s an effortless affinity with nature along this iconic road. And with epic surf and unforgettable hikes, you’ll find plenty of adventure around every corner.
Not only is it a stunning drive, but it’s also the world’s largest war memorial, as it was built by returned soldiers to remember those who lost their lives fighting in WW1.
Highway One, Monterey County, California
Ranking high amongst the USA’s most scenic roads, Highway One runs almost the length of California’s coastline– from its starting point south of Los Angeles to Mendocino County in the north– with the most scenic stretch in the Monterey region. Heading south from Monterey, Highway One passes through the beautiful seaside haven of Carmel-by-the-Sea and on to California’s rugged Big Sur coastline, featuring magnificent cliffs, towering redwoods, and the famous Bixby Creek Bridge – just one of Monterey County’s breathtaking arch bridges.
Stretching 90 miles (145 km) south of Carmel from Point Lobos all the way to Hearst Castle, Big Sur is one of the most memorable sections of coastline on the planet, with 5,000 ft (1,5 km) tall mountains rising up from the Pacific Ocean.
Ruta 40, Argentina
At a staggering 3,195 miles (5142 km), Ruta 40 is not only the longest highway in Argentina (traversing almost its entire length), but one of the world’s longest roads as well. From its southernmost point at Cabo Vírgenes, Ruta 40 meanders through the remote plains of Patagonia, winding northwards and flanked to the west by the magnificent peaks of the Andes. It passes by pristine lakes and bustling cities before reaching its highest point at Abra del Acay (4,952 meters above sea-level) and finally reaches its end in the border town of La Quiaca – a true showcase of Argentina’s stunningly diverse landscape.
Jebel Hafeet, United Arab Emirates
Jabal Hafeet Mountain Road is one of the greatest driving roads in the world. Located on the outskirts of Al Ain, in the United Arab Emirates, the road extends for 7.3 mi (11.7 km) up the mountain, topping out at an elevation of 1.219m (4,000ft) above the sea level. With 60 corners and three lanes (two climbing and one descending), the road still remains an adrenaline-pumping journey. It leads to Jebel Hafeet Mountain, the second-tallest mountain in the United Arab Emirates. The road winds through the craggy limestone making up the mountain until it reaches the summit.
Chapman’s Peak Drive, South Africa
Chapman’s Peak Drive on the Atlantic Coast between Hout Bay and Noordhoek in the Cape Peninsula is one of the most spectacular marine drives in the world. Chapman’s Peak Drive is affectionately known as “Chappies” and is a must for anyone who is passionate about the majestic scenery of Cape Town.
The route starts at the picturesque fishing harbour of Hout Bay and the climb winds steeply up to Chapman’s Point, revealing breathtaking views of the sandy bays down below, until the road reaches lower levels again at Noordhoek.
Amalfi Drive, Italy
The Costiera Amalfitana, or Amalfi Coast, is widely considered Italy’s most scenic stretch of coastline, a landscape of towering bluffs, pastel-hued villages terraced into hillsides, precipitous corniche roads, luxuriant gardens, and expansive vistas over turquoise waters and green-swathed mountains. Deemed by UNESCO “an outstanding example of a Mediterranean landscape, with exceptional cultural and natural scenic values,” the coast was awarded a coveted spot on the World Heritage list in 1997.
The Amalfi Coast lies along the southern flanks of the Sorrento Peninsula, a cliff-edged promontory that wanders out from the mainland at the southern end of the Bay of Naples. Its most famous towns—Amalfi, Positano, and Ravello—have captivated and inspired artists for centuries, from 14th-century writer Giovanni Boccaccio to 19th-century composer Richard Wagner and 20th-century playwright Tennessee Williams.
Icefields Parkway, Canada
Unlike any other, the stretch of road from Jasper to Lake Louise known as the Icefields Parkway is dotted with more than 100 ancient glaciers, cascading waterfalls, dramatic rock spires, and emerald lakes set in sweeping valleys of thick pine and larch forests.
Around every turn on the Icefields Parkway reveals another one of nature’s splendour; from the ancient glaciers at the Columbia Icefields to the mind-blowing colour of Peyto Lake, thundering waterfalls and viewpoints that extend for miles.
Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland
The Wild Atlantic Way, 1600 miles (2600 km) in length, is one of the longest defined coastal route in the world. It winds its way all along the Irish west coast from the Inishowen Peninsula in the north down to the picturesque town of Kinsale, County Cork, in the south. This route from start to finish unfolds the wonders of nature, the power of the ocean and its imprint on the west coast of Ireland, and the stunning countryside in all its diversity. Enchanting villages are nestled along the coast as well as ancient monuments – their origins having long sunk into the mists of oblivion dot the landscape. Behind every bend on this magical coastal road a new delight awaits.
With a constant meeting of water and land, a deeply indented and wild terrain has emerged with towering cliffs, spellbinding bays and beaches, mystical islands, always changing and never reaching the end. In the isolation or perhaps expressed in a different way living near and with the Atlantic at your doorstep has ensured that old traditions and the Irish language have been preserved. A trip along the Wild Atlantic Way is also an encounter with the past.
Route 1, Iceland
Iceland’s Route 1 is a ring road, running around the edges of the island nation and taking drivers through some of world’s most dramatic scenery. Setting out eastward from Iceland’s cosmopolitan capital, Reykjavik, Route 1 leads drivers on a magical tour of the country, passing stunning fjord, mountains, tiny fishing villages, and roaming wild reindeer.
Must-see sights are aplenty but a couple of bucket list-worthy mentions include the stunning Seljalandsfoss waterfall, the beautiful Lake Mývatn and its hot springs, and the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon.
Hai Van Pass, Vietnam
The Hai Van Pass is a 20-kilometre strip of road that joins the city of Da Nang and Lang Co in Hue Province. At 500 metres above sea level, it’s the highest pass in the whole of Vietnam.
As the road curves back and forth, some slight bends, some hairpin turns, drivers are rewarded with spectacular views of misty mountains rising high over the South China Sea, deserted sandy beaches, forests and the twinkling lights of far-off cities.
You might also be interested in: