The open road, the sense of freedom – there’s nothing quite like a road trip to scratch that itch for adventure. Scenic views and thrilling turns can be found in any corner of the globe, but here are some road trips, from classic and controversial, that will really warrant a place on your bucket list.
1. Route 66, USA
Let’s start with a classic. Route 66 was one of the USA’s original highways, running all the way from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California, over a total of 3,940 km (2,448 miles). The route became engrained in popular culture with the song ‘(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66’ and the Route 66 television series and became associated with adventure and freedom. The highway was officially decommissioned in 1985, but you can still follow sections of it that have returned to maps as ‘Historic Route 66’.
2. Great Ocean Road, Australia
Following the southern coastline in the state of Victoria, this is possible the most well-known road trip in Australia. The route officially starts at Torquay and covers 243 km (150 miles) to the town of Allansford, though much of the surrounding area has now become part of the tourist destination. Driving the route will offer plenty of spectacular scenery, but there’s also plenty of reasons to stop and explore: historical towns, wildlife, national parks and beautiful beaches. But of course, the one thing you can’t miss is a visit to the Twelve Apostles, huge natural limestone formations that stand 45 metres (145 feet) above the ocean.
3. Ring Road, Iceland
Known officially as Route 1, the Ring Road runs around the outer edge of the island and is the country’s longest road. The entire route is 1,332 km (828 miles) long, but for the best experience it’s advised to take it slow and allow at least a week to complete the circuit. This will give you time to explore the sights on offer, like the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, the Eldhraun Lava Field, Lake Myvatn Nature Baths and some of the country’s towns and settlements. Though you can technically travel the route in winter, you’ll have more daylight for sightseeing between late April and October. And if you visit between August and April, you might have the chance to see the famous Northern Lights.
4. Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland
Although the west coast of Ireland has been a popular tourist drive for decades, it was only in 2014 that this route was officially launched. Stretching 2,500 km (1,553 miles) from the Inishowen Peninsula, Donegal in the north, down to Kinsale, Cork in the south, the Wild Atlantic Way passes through nine counties and is the world’s longest defined coastal touring route. For those that don’t want to tackle the entire trip, the route is broken into six regions, each with its own unique landscape and cultural attractions.
5. Garden Route, South Africa
South Africa might be best known for its wild animal safaris, but the country offers a unique and beautiful coastline that should not be overlooked. The Garden Route, named for the lush and diverse vegetation, covers 300 km (185 miles) of the country’s south-eastern coast. Starting at Witsand, drivers will pass through the historic towns of Mossel Bay and George, through Wilderness National Park, past vineyards, lakes and beaches, eventually winding up at Storms River Mouth. Along the way you can stop for adventures such as cave diving and even ostrich riding.
6. Queenstown to Milford Sound, New Zealand
Road trippers find fantastic routes in pretty much any part of New Zealand, but it’s the west coast of the South Island where the landscape is really at its most unique. From Queenstown you’ll pass the country’s longest lake, Lake Wakatipu, and the Murchison Mountains before arriving at the small town of Te Anau. From here to Milford Sound is possibly the most impressive part of the journey, as the road passes through UNESCO listed Fiordland National Park with features like the Mirror Lakes. But the piece de resistance is the journey’s end at Milford Sound: a deep blue lake surrounded by towering mountain peaks.
7. TransFagarasan, Romania
Made famous in part by its appearance on the TV show Top Gear, the TransFagarasan winds around the southern part of the Carpathian ranges. The 114 km (71 mile) route is characterised by its tight hairpin bends and spectacular mountain scenery. Parts of the trip climb as high as 2,042 metres (6,699 ft), making it the second highest mountain pass in the country, and earning it the nickname ‘The Road to the Sky’. Other impressive features are the number of tunnels and viaducts on this reasonably short trip, including the Romania’s longest road tunnel at 844 m (2,900 ft), the Belea Tunnel.
8. North Coast 500, Scotland
Another reasonably new road trip, the North Coast 500 was launched in 2015 to help link up many of the Highlands’ best features in one touring route. As the name suggests, the route is around 500 miles long – 516 miles (830 km) to be exact, and is a loop that starts and ends at Inverness Castle. The tour takes in both natural and man mad attractions, with mountains, lochs, villages and castles along the way. The North Coast 500 has been named as one of the top five coastal routes in the world.
9. Cabot Trail, Canada
This route around the island of Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia was originally built in 1932 to connect fishing villages that would otherwise be left isolated. Now the road provides a stunning way to explore this region. In the north you’ll pass through the Cap Breton Highlands National Park, home to bears, moose and other wildlife, while the eastern and western legs give you great views of the ocean. Take your time exploring the small villages, which have culture and language influenced by both the Scottish and the French.
10. Death Road, Bolivia
Known officially as the Yungas Road, this was at one time one of the most dangerous road in the world, which led to its unfortunate nickname. Though it is still considered precarious, especially for those daredevils who attempt to cycle it, the road is somewhat safer now that a lot of traffic has been diverted to a new road that connects La Paz and Coroico. Unlike all other roads in the country, cars drive on the left here, allowing drivers to get a better idea of how close to the cliff edge they are. If you decide to brave it, you’ll be treated to some amazing views along the 69 km (43 mile) route.