10 of the world’s most amazing road trips
You'll feel like you're in an episode of Top Gear with these epic trips
Unless you happen to be a taxi driver, long-haul trucker or Lewis Hamilton, there are few better ways to escape real life than a proper road trip.
Whether it’s a half-day jaunt through epic scenery, or a proper three-week adventure, few holidays beat the thrill of discovering a country by heading out on the highway and soaking up the atmosphere.
Driving gloves on? Springsteen on the stereo? Passenger who won’t keep asking ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ riding shotgun? Good, then let’s hit the road…
The Garden Route, South Africa (3-4 days)
As you might imagine, the Garden Route – which runs between the South African cities of Cape Town and Port Elizabeth – gets its name from the lush green scenery it scythes through. You can do it in two days, though an extra day or two will let you soak up the chilled coastal towns, pounding surf and spectacular wildlife, including baboons, whales and more than 300 species of bird. If you need a bigger animal fix, take a detour at the end and head to Addo Elephant Park.
Transfagarasan, Romania (a few hours to a couple of days)
If you’ve already heard of Romania’s Transfãgărăşan Road, it’s probably Jeremy Clarkson’s fault. He called it “the best road in the world” in a 2009 episode of Top Gear and its place in history was cemented. He wasn’t wrong, though. Winding its way across the Fãgărăş mountains, via two of the country’s highest peaks, and round countless nerve-shreddingly tight bends, this 90km road is as beautiful as it is scary. Swing by Dracula’s castle (known as Poienari, where Vlad the Impaler lived) for added terror.
Highway 1, California, USA (1-3 weeks)
A journey along this fabled road might just be the iconic road trip. Highway 1 stretches from Orange County in the south to Leggett, beyond San Francisco, in the north, never drifting far from the coast. And what a coast – from the moneyed beach cities south of LA, via that sprawling, extraordinary city, through the jaw-dropping Pacific scenery of Big Sur and on to San Fran, there are few more spectacular or varied roads anywhere on the planet. Important tip: figure out when you’ll be going through wine country (of which there’s a lot) and make sure someone else is doing the driving…
North Coast 500, Scotland (around a week)
Ambitiously marketed as Scotland’s answer to the USA’s famous Route 66, the North Coast 500 is pretty much nothing like its American counterpart. For starters, it’s around 500 miles long (rather than more like 2,500), it skirts the coast for almost the whole distance (Route 66 is inland until its end in Los Angeles), and it’s a circuit (instead of point to point). It also has proper castles, staggeringly beautiful scenery, narrow country roads and amazing surfing spots (if you can brave the cold), plus plenty of whisky distilleries en route. We’ll drink to that…
The Grand Tour, Switzerland (at least a week, or you can slice it up)
If you really want to pack in the blockbuster sights – big mountains, big lakes, big roads, big(ish) cities – Switzerland’s 1,000 mile Grand Tour route might be your best bet. Snaking its way around the impossibly beautiful wilds of the landlocked country, the journey takes in no fewer than 12 UNESCO World Heritage sites, from the old city of Bern to the craggy beauty of Entlebuch – known as the ‘Wild West’ of Lucerne. Yee ha!
Amalfi Coast, Italy (half a day, plus a lot more for the rest of the area)
With lush green cliffs dotted with little white houses, which tumble into turquoise seas, Italy’s Amalfi coast is so beautiful it’s hard not to laugh out loud when you first clock it. You’ll also find some of the best food in the country – a country which, in case we need to remind you – might just have some of the best food in the world. Start in the port town of Salerno and finish up in Positano to get the best views, most delicious dining, and pictures so good they’ll break Instagram. Then kick back and relax – you’ve earned it.
Bohuslan Coast, West Sweden (2 days to a week)
The West Swedish city of Gothenburg is a proper stunner – pretty canals, laid-back cafés and (oh yes) one of the biggest theme parks in Europe just outside the city centre. But the coastline north of it is even prettier, with thousands of islands filled with idyllic fishing villages, crystal clear (but freezing) sea and friendly locals. Make for picture-postcard Fjallbacka, where you’ll find incredible seafood and a boaty vibe – in high summer the nights are light and balmy, which means outdoor drinking with blissful views out across the ocean.
Icefields Parkway, Canada (1 day – with plenty of time at either end)
It may be short, but the 230km drive from Lake Louise to Jasper in the Canadian Rockies (lead picture) is a genuine epic. You’ll pass shimmering lakes so impossibly blue you’ll think they’ve dyed them, plus glaciers (hence the ‘Icefields’ in the name), soaring peaks and great, gushing rivers. And at either end you’ll find two idyllic mountain villages that both make up for their small size with big thrills, summer or winter.
The Great Ocean Road, Australia (2 days)
Yep, this one’s a great road that wraps its way along the ocean – in this case between the cities of Victoria and Allansford in south-west Australia. Things to look out for include the famous Twelve Apostles – limestone stacks that poke out of the bright-blue sea – plus penguins, kangaroos and koalas. There are stellar beaches and dense rainforests here, too, just in case you’re not into koalas – in which case, we’re sorry to say, you probably need checking out…
Dubai to Muscat (1-2 days)
To add an unlikely twist to a trip to Dubai, hop in a car and make for Muscat, the charismatic capital of Oman. Rather than spending hour after hour staring at desert, you’ll actually get a decent look at mountains, souks and fishing villages once you’ve crossed the border into Oman – and when you reach Muscat you’ll be rewarded with a gorgeous mountain backdrop, loads of history and beaches to die for. Alternatively, do it the other way round and finish up with a big weekend in super-bling Dubai.