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10 Best Road Trips in the World

Dec 11, 2018

It’s a big ol’ world out there, and it’s difficult to see it all. That’s why some of us prefer to jump into our cars and take to the road, soaking up scenery and culture at highway speeds!

So, if your idea of a perfect holiday is hitting the open road in your car, you’re in the right place.

Here are my picks for the 10 best road trips in the world.

#1 — Ring Road, Iceland

●    Distance: 1,300 kilometers
●    Highlights: Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, Skogafoss waterfall, Seljalandsfoss, Kirkjufellsfoss

Big, geothermic, and beguiling, Iceland has attracted adventurous travelers for years. And, for anyone who prefers driving to hiking, the entire island is encircled by the famous Ring Road, a 1300-kilometer-long stretch of tarmac that runs through or passes all of Iceland’s best highlights.

To get the most out of the road trip, block off at least ten days and take the trip slowly, stopping at anything that seems interesting or beautiful. (In other words, stopping every ten meters!)

#2 — Route 66, USA

●    Distance: 3,950 kilometers
●    Highlights: Chicago, the Grand Canyon, Barringer Crater

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call Route 66 the king of road trips. I mean, it’s the most famous route on this list by quite some margin and probably always will be!

Running from Chicago all the way to California on the Pacific Coast, Route 66 is a behemoth road trip, taking in some of the best of American scenery and culture.

At almost 4,000kilometers, Route 66 runs through some incredibly varied states, including Illinois, Missouri, Arizona, and California.

#3 — Big Sur, USA

●    Distance: 140 kilometers
●    Highlights: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Point Sur State Historic Park, Los Padres National Forest, Partington Cove, Bixby Bridge

Big Sur is probably the second most well-known US road trip after Route 66. Confined to a small section of California, Big Sur follows Highway 1 through California’s central coast between Carmel and San Simeon.

Yes, it’s a short road trip but 140 kilometers is all you need when you’ve got such a ruggedly handsome coast packed with painfully pretty beaches, grand redwood forests, striking canyons, and bedrock cliffs.

#4 — North Coast 500, Scotland

●    Distance: 803 kilometers
●    Highlights: Duncansby Head, Loch Ness, Dornoch Castle, Ullapool, Applecross, Eilean Conan Castle

Designed as Scotland’s answer to Route 66, the NC500 winds a big loop around the northernmost reaches of Scotland.

Only opened in 2015, the NC500 feels like it runs through undiscovered parts of the country: prehistoric bogs, crumbling medieval castles, and single-track farm roads.

Passing through some of the lesser travelled parts of Scotland, the NC500 is a fantastic experience for tourists and locals alike.

#5 — The Pan-American Highway, North & South America

●    Distance: 30,000 kilometers
●    Highlights: Alaska, New Mexico, Mexico, El Salvador, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Patagonia

The Pan-American Highway isn’t so much a road trip as it is a pilgrimage. Starting in Patagonia, the very southernmost tip of South America, the Pan-American Highway threads its way north all the way to Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, the northernmost accessible point.

Except for a 160 kilometer stretch of rainforest in Panama called the Darién Gap, the Highway is one unbroken stretch of road, meaning you can drive the full 30,000kilometer trip using only a car.

The full Highway route passes through nine countries in the north, eight countries in the south and, with some short detours, can tack on four more. So, as you might be able to guess, it’s a pretty varied road trip!

#6 — Skeleton Coast, Namibia

●    Distance: 500 kilometers
●    Highlights: Swakopmund, Skeleton Coast National Park, Henties Bay, Cape Cross Seal Reserve, Sand Dunes, Namib Desert

Namibia is an unbelievably diverse country with a lush, green interior bordered by an inhospitable coast blasted by dry winds from the South Atlantic.

The most barren stretch of coast is the Skeleton Coast, named for the countless shipwrecks that dot the sandy expanse. While it might be an exaggeration to call it a road trip, there’s nothing better than exploring the sprawling expanse on the back of a 4x4!

#7 — The Road to Hana, Hawaii

●    Distance: 100 kilometers
●    Highlights: Maui Tropical Plantation, Haleakala National Park, Koki Beach, Hana Lava Tube, Hanawi Falls, Ho'okipa lookout

The Road to Hana is a short road trip at a little under 110 kilometers but it includes some of the best scenery Maui has to offer.

The road trip starts in Kahului and runs east along the coast towards Hana. While it starts off quite easily, the road quickly grows more intense and eratic. By the end, you’ll have enjoyed (or endured) 600 tight twists, 50 narrow single-track bridges, and more blind summits and corners than you thought were possible.

The white knuckles are more than worth it though as the road trip passes through lush jungle, cascading waterfalls (weather permitting) and precipitous cliffs.

#8 — Transfagarasan Road, Romania

●    Distance: 116 kilometers
●    Highlights: Balea Lake, Fagaras Mountains, Vidraru Dam, Lake Vidraru

At a little over 90 kilometers, the Transfagarasan Road isn’t the longest road trip on the list but with thousands of corners and a 2,000 meter ascent, it’s certainly one of the most entertaining.

Built in the 1970s, the Transfagarasan Road winds a meandering route through the Fagaras Mountains in the heart of Romania. Since the road is so new, the surrounding landscape — which is jaw-dropping by the way — is completely untouched and unspoiled.

Thread your car through huge sweeping bends then back around tight hairpins as you blast through 90 kilometers of pure driving bliss. And if driving for the sake of driving isn’t your thing, just slow down and enjoy the sensational sights!

#9 — The Karakoram Highway, Pakistan

●    Distance: 1,300 kilometers
●    Highlights: Hunza Valley, the Eagle Nest, Attabad Lake, Passu, Khunjerab National Park, Khunjerab Pass

The Karakoram Highway is often hailed as the highest road in the world, reaching a towering 4,693 meters at its peak.

The road trip starts in northern Pakistan and runs north through the Khunjerab Pass to the Pakistan-China border.

If you think the scenery at the start is spectacular, wait until you leave the Punjab region and get into the heart of the Karakorum mountain range. The 500-kilometer-long Karakorums run through Pakistan India, China, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and include the tallest mountain in the world, K2.

Along the way, expect beautiful lakes, awe-inspiring mountains and amazingly hospitable people from start to finish.

#10 — Nha Trang to Qui Nhon, Vietnam

●    Distance: 200 kilometers
●    Highlights: Nha Trang, Vinpearl Island, Coastal road, Mountain passes, Ba Ho Waterfalls, Qui Nhon

Vietnam is pretty much wall-to-wall glorious scenery with magnificent limestone karsts in the north and borderless rice paddies in the south. And if you avoid the highly congested highways, Vietnam’s roads weave through some of the most spectacular settings imaginable.

This road trip starts up in the mountains in Dalat, the capital of Lam Dong province and an historic getaway for the old French colonial rulers. From Dalat, the 210-kilometer road waves through sensational pine forests and glorious mountain scenery all the way down to the sandy beaches on the edge of the South China Sea. From there, you strike north and continue on your way until you hit the sleepy town of Qui Nhon.

About the Author

Tom Butcher is a freelance writer, covering a wide range of topics, including finance, business and motoring. At the moment, he is helping LeaseFetcher tell the world about car leasing. Learn more.

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