Planes and trains are fast and efficient methods of transportation, but there's nothing quite like the freedom of a road trip. You set the pace, the stops, and the tunes as you discover the minute details of new destinations. Whether you're hopping between small towns or exploring the vast wilderness, road trips take you behind the scenes of some of the world's most beautiful destinations. If you crave the open road, here are some of the best road trips around the world.
Sea to Sky Highway - Canada
As the name suggests, the Sea to Sky Highway takes you on an epic journey from the seashores of Vancouver, along the coastline of Howe Sound and up into the dramatic mountain peaks of Whistler. Your jaw will undoubtedly drop at the turn of every bend as you gaze at glistening waters, impeccable old-growth rainforests and snow-capped mountains. When you want to stretch your legs, simply park up at one of several accessible provincial parks. Don’t miss the Sea to Sky Gondola for panoramic views and a spectacular suspension bridge. The mountain resort town of Whistler is a fitting end to a legendary drive.
The Garden Route - South Africa
If you want to sample some of the best wine in the world, take a road trip along the Garden Route in the Western Cape of South Africa. This route gets its name from Garden Route National Park. There are no shortages of amazing wildlife, lagoons, mountains, forests, and beaches along its scenic winding roads. Drive along the Indian Ocean through fun beach towns, national parks, and world-class wineries from the vibrant city of Cape Town to the uniquely English town of Port Elizabeth. A stop in the town of Hermanus is a great place to do some whale watching. Along the route, you will have your pick of wineries. Check out the Karusa Vineyards in Outsdoorn and while you are there, stop and visit a real live Ostrich farm.
Blue Ridge Parkway - U.S.
This scenic highway along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains winds through thick forests and rolling mountains, making you feel like you're alone with nature. The drive runs from North Carolina to Virginia and is one of the most beloved and short road trips in the U.S., as you can drive the whole stretch at your leisure in just a few days. Stop in any of the six regions and enjoy a glass of cider, take a brisk hike, or simply soak in the views from one of its many overlooks. This route is particularly scenic in the fall when fiery foliage lights up the trees, offering scenic views on nearly every turn of the road.
Great Ocean Road - Australia
Spanning over 150 miles between Victoria’s Torquay and Warrnambool is the Great Ocean Road, a classic Australian road trip across the nation’s southeastern coast that highlights spectacular limestone cliffs, quaint fishing villages and verdant rainforests. Linger a while at Bells Beach in Torquay, the official starting point of the drive, and ride the waves at this world class surf spot before continuing on to witness Split Point Lighthouse in Aireys Inlet, the emblem of this serene seaside town. Through the depths of the rainforest and under koala-filled canopied trees off the shores of Port Campbell National Park is the Great Ocean Road’s most anticipated destination: the Twelve Apostles. This series of limestone stacks rise dramatically from the floor of the Southern Ocean. At the tail-end of this route is Warrnambool, a historic city with a small town feel, known for its rich whale watching opportunities between June and September.
Pacific Coast Highway - U.S.
Possibly California’s most popular road trip, the iconic PCH (Pacific Coast Highway aka California State Route 1) offers a little piece of everything that’s made California famous. Leave L.A. early to beat the crazy morning rush-hour traffic and make stops in natural hippie haven, Ojai, and the symbolic west coast beach town of Santa Barbara. Then it’s on to San Luis Obispo (SLO) where you can spend the afternoon sipping craft beers, wine tasting, exploring the bizarre Bubble Gum Alley or hiking in the nearby nature reserves. Check out Hearst Castle on your way out of SLO before hitting the southern starting point of Big Sur. Here, the road winds along the famous California cliffs with breathtaking views of sites like the Bixby Bridge, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park & McWay Falls and Garrapata State Park. After soaking up Big Sur, spend a day or two in Monterey exploring the Old Fisherman’s Wharf, quaint seaside villages like Carmel-by-the-Sea, and wandering down Cannery Row. Finish in San Francisco, where the eclectic culture, shopping, and architecture will keep you captivated for days.
The Alaskan Highway - U.S.
The journey along the Alaskan Highway from Seattle, Washington, to Ketchikan, Alaska, is nothing short of legendary. Towering mountains, pristine nature, quaint towns, and abundant wildlife follow you around every twist and turn of this adventurous route. First, leave Seattle and head north to the Canadian border. Continue on to Vancouver, a prime Pacific Northwest coast city. Between Vancouver and your next major point, Prince George, are several small towns worth a stop — even if it’s just for an hour or two to break up this long stretch. Othello Tunnels is just one example offering a unique way to stretch your legs with a wander through the old train tunnels carved into granite walls. Arrive in Prince George and spend the evening wining and dining before heading to Prince Rupert the next day to catch the ferry to Ketchikan for the last leg of the journey. Cross the border back into Alaska while gazing for hours at the mountains and the endless ocean from the deck of the ferry as you scour the horizon for humpback whales.
Route 40 - Argentina
Argentina's Route 40 takes drivers through the dramatic terrain of the entire country, from snow-capped mountains to arid deserts, all the way to the very tip of the continent. This road may not be the most well-kept in parts, and you'll definitely hit a few bumpy patches, but that rugged adventure is part of its charm. If you aren't sure about tackling the whole road, consider exploring the Seven Lakes Route, an idyllic 108km section that winds through gorgeous landscapes and crystal waters.
The Florida Keys Overseas Highway - U.S.
U.S. Route 1, also known as the Florida Keys Overseas Highway, stretches 100 miles from Key Largo south to Key West. Along the route you'll find a relaxed island atmosphere, beautiful beaches, parks, and towns, and some of the best seafood around. Plus, long stretches of the highway pass over the ocean, offering stunning turquoise views every mile of the road. Highlights of a Florida Keys road trip include John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo, which is the nation’s first undersea park, kayaking at Long Key State Park in Marathon, and exploring the attractions, bars, and beaches in Key West.
The Atlas Mountains - Morocco
If you want a feast for the eyes, you must plan a road trip through the Atlas Mountains. These gorgeous peaks stretch from Morocco through Algeria to Tunisia, but the best way to see them is on Morocco’s well-kept road system. It is recommended that you go through a reliable travel agent if you want to make the most of the trip. Heading up the mountains, you will have maneuver the switchbacks on Tizi n’tichka Pass before you get to a must-see stop along your route – Aït Benhaddou, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The town may look familiar because it was used as the backdrop for the movie Gladiator and the Game of Thrones television series. Along your way, you will be greeted by very friendly locals as you pass through Berber villages or at frequent road-side tea stops.
Grossglockner High Alpine Road - Austria
One of Europe’s greatest seasonal drives can be found in beautiful Austria. The Großglocknerstraße (Grossglockner High Alpine Road) provides drama in the form of an endless succession of switchbacks and hairpins as you slowly make your way up the pass from Heiligenblut am Großglockner. The reward is the view from the top – look up for soaring golden eagles and down for cute little marmots. When you can drag yourself away, the descent takes you past the Pasterze glacier to Kaprun, where you’ll find a 12th-century castle and paths beside the tumbling glacial waters of the Sigmund-Thun gorge. The area’s packed with potential for excursions: to the elegant city of Salzburg via Germany’s Berchtesgaden (park inside the mountain when you get to Mozart’s birthplace) or west through the pretty villages of the Tirol to Innsbruck.
Natchez Trace - U.S.
The Natchez Trace Parkway travels 444 miles through three states and 10,000 years of North American history. This year-round road trip is a National Scenic Byway and an All-American Road. It is maintained by the National Park Service and travels from the lower Mississippi River, through Alabama, to the Appalachian foothills in Tennessee. Highlights of the Natchez Trace include cypress swamps, virgin forests and the Pharr Mounds — 2,000-year-old ancient Native American burial grounds. Along with historical stops and numerous hiking opportunities, the Natchez Trace also offers up huge servings of southern hospitality to go with fantastic culinary delights.
Transfăgărășan Road - Romania
Fans of epic road trips, this one’s for you. Roads don’t come more adventurous than this. Romania’s Transfăgărășan Road is arguably the world’s most breathtaking driving road, traversing the Făgăraș Mountains from Bascov to Cartisoara. In the early 1970s, so the story goes, then-leader Nicolae Ceausescu needed a strategic military highway in case the Russians crossed the border. Critics of the regime call it the vanity project of a megalomaniac. Whatever the reason for its construction, the result was this 71-mile-long masterpiece of civil engineering, fully open only from June to October. While you’re in the area, team it with some more leisurely drives along Romania’s back roads, building in stops for Transylvanian gems like Brasov and Sighisoara as well as the odd flock of sheep.
Bergen to Trondheim - Norway
The 570-mile journey from Bergen to Trondheim through Norway’s fjords is one of the most spectacular in Europe. Though it can be driven non-stop in around 18 hours, it’ll be hard even to get going. Bergen itself is a captivating place. Its atmospheric waterfront, Bryggen, and the views from nearby Mount Fløyen, accessed by the Fløibanen funicular, will make leaving the city a wrench. But eventually, the thought of what you might be missing will take you beyond the city limits and through some of Europe’s most awe-inspiring landscapes. Drive up the hairpin bends of Trollstigen, gaze at striking Geirangerfjord – dubbed the world’s most beautiful fjord – and explore the city of Ålesund, known for its Art Nouveau architecture. As you venture north, make sure you drive the Atlantic Road, which links Bud to Kristiansund via eight extraordinary bridges.
Amalfi Coast - Italy
UNESCO listed it as one of the world’s great cultural landscapes, calling it “an outstanding example of a Mediterranean landscape, with exceptional cultural and natural scenic values.” The road that hugs the Amalfi coast is not for the faint of heart, despite the fact that it’s a public bus route – perhaps even because of that. If you meet the bus in oncoming traffic with such impossibly narrow lanes, things can get tight real quick. Narrow curves cut into the cliffs high above the ocean. Heavy traffic is the norm. But there’s something about driving this, one of Italy’s most notorious roads, that sets it apart. Take turns at the wheel, for each of you is going to want to gaze out at the glittering waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Pull in and explore some of the most exquisitely glam resorts in the country: Positano, Amalfi and, with the briefest of inland detours, Ravello.
North Coast 500 - Scotland
Scotland’s North Coast 500 connects the dots from castle to castle along the coastline of the Scottish Highlands, skirting lochs and unspoiled beaches. It meanders through forgotten single track back roads to open up some of the United Kingdom's most magnificent and often overlooked scenery. Don’t try to pronounce the place names — even Brits, particularly those from south of the border, will struggle with the likes of Bealach na Bà, Inchnadamph and Achmelvich. Essential stops: a stroll along the sands of glorious Balnakeil Beach, an ascent of Stac Pollaidh (one of several mountains you can climb from the 500) and a summer boat trip from Chanonry Point for a chance to see its resident dolphin population.
The Karakoram Highway - China and Pakistan
The Karakoram Highway (KKH for short) is an 800-mile stretch of pavement that reaches from China to Pakistan. This road is one of the few ways to cross the Himalayas, meaning the entire road trip will be framed by jaw-dropping views of jagged mountain peaks. Stop off at the lakes and one-of-a-kind hikes along the way to stretch your legs. But be warned: this beautiful scenery comes at a price. The world’s highest paved international road features dizzying climbs and an elevation of more than 15,300 feet, making this one of the most dangerous road trips around.
Route 66 - U.S.
Poems, movies, and books have been dedicated to America’s Route 66. This road trip is a journey of contrasts, where the 1920’s meet the 21st century, beach meets desert, and jazz meets the boot skootin’ boogie of the West. This road trip passes through eight states and three time zones, meaning you’ll want to set aside at least two weeks to experience everything. Start in Chicago with a fresh deep dish pizza to kick things off. Pass through St. Louis blasting jazz music, and follow it up with a shot of Southern hospitality in Amarillo, Texas. Gaze into the Grand Canyon and possibly opt for a little Vegas detour. Your adventure wraps up in sunny Los Angeles, where you can grab a surfboard or hunt for celebrities along the sandy shores.
The Wild Atlantic Way - Ireland
You can find the longest coastal road in the world in Ireland. The Wild Atlantic Way is a 2-4 week trip that provides one-of-a-kind views of everything from the Cliffs of Moher to the Aran Islands. Glaciated valleys and steep cliffs make every leg of this journey unique. Stop into the little Irish towns along the way, but be warned. Once you spend a night cheersing beer in a local pub and wandering quaint back alleys, you won’t want to leave.
Coastal Maine's Route 1 - U.S.
If you’re looking for magnificent coastal scenery and delicious lobster, this 159-mile drive offers both in spades. Follow Route 1 from Portland, stopping in Rockland which sits at the midway point. In this fishing village, rolling mountains meet the ocean, exemplifying the state’s slogan: “The Way Life Should Be.” It’s the perfect place for a break and you can post up at one of the many local coffee shops where espresso is made from micro-lot beans and ocean-view eateries with menus focused on Maine’s bounty of fresh seafood. Just 10 miles further north is picturesque Camden, the “jewel of the Maine coast” with a postcard-perfect harbor where you can relax and watch the sailboats cruise across the bay. Or, take a stroll through the High Street Historic District with galleries and boutiques housed in classic New England architecture. There’s plenty to enjoy once you reach Acadia National Park with surreal beauty that includes lighthouses, beaches, and hiking paths that meander through untouched forest.
Southern Scenic Route - New Zealand
Until 1985, this 379-mile route between Queenstown and Dunedin on New Zealand’s South Island was only known to the townsfolk of Tuatapere. Fortunately, they decided to share the secret and today it offers visitors a delightful vacation experience. From boating, camping, and caving to fishing, hunting, and wildlife watching, this road trip is a smorgasbord for outdoorsy types. Adrenaline junkies flock to Queenstown, extreme sports capital of the world. Observe penguins at Curio Bay and Roaring Bay. Marvel at the flora, ridges, and valleys of The Caitlins. Lord of the Rings fans can even visit shooting locations in Fiordland National Park.