Road trips can be counted among the most fulfilling and most memorable experiences when it comes to travelling and should therefore be an integral part of your travel wishlist.
What makes a road trip so mesmerising is the fact that while you are driving across a country or region, you are absorbing the location’s character. There is no better way to experience the whole extent of a country than by getting a feel of the smaller towns, natural sights and most importantly, the people. Driving across a country gives you the opportunity to interact with ordinary natives, the hinterland locals who may not have the habit of seeing tons of tourists all the time. All these aspects make road trips some of the most inspiring trips and highly recommendable for adventurers.
Here are 12 of the most immaculate and most breathtaking routes for a genuinely adventurous road trip. Some of these routes are not for beginners though, this is expert territory.
- The ALCAN Highway – Canada & Alaska
The Alaska-Canadian Highway, commonly known as ALCAN, connects the Canadian province of British Columbia with Alaska and consists of a 2,232km (1,387miles) stretch of excellent road through jaw dropping scenery. Upon its completion in 1948, the highway earned a reputation for being a tough and challenging road but the recent renovations and improvements have greatly reduced its difficulty level. Don’t be fooled though, the highway is still a demanding road, especially when the unforgiving Alaskan winter strikes. Although it becomes more difficult to drive on the ALCAN in winter, the sheer untouched winter landscapes and the picture-perfect scenery certainly undermine the difficult conditions on this unique road.
- Ruta 40 and Ruta 9 (Ruta del fin del mundo) – Argentina & Chile
Argentina and Chile are two of the most well-suited countries for adventure travellers in the whole world. Their endless stretches of untouched wilderness and their formidably varied landscapes make the two South American nations ideal for an adventurous road trip.
Ruta 40 in Argentina is one of the longest roads in the world and goes from La Quiaca in the northern Argentinian Jujuy Province near the border with Bolivia to Río Gallegos in southern Patagonia. The route is over 5000km (3,100miles) long and goes past some of the most breathtaking sights in South America, notably the Perito Moreno Glacier.
The Chilean Ruta 9 is much shorter but the sights situated along this highway are equally astounding. The ruta del fin del mundo (road of the end of the world) crosses Chilean Patagonia and goes past the mesmerising Torres del Paine National Park and many other wonders of nature.
- The Balkans – Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina & Montenegro
South Eastern Europe is one of the least affluent parts of the old continent and perfectly suited for a road trip. The sweeping roads along jaw dropping mountains and colourful rivers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the historical sites of Slovenia and the mystical forests of Serbia are what you can expect on a Balkan road trip before getting to the majestic beaches and crystal-clear Adriatic Sea in Croatia and Montenegro.
Croatia has become one of Europe’s top summer hotspots and rightly so. There is so much natural beauty in this part of Europe that it is extremely hard to choose what to see on one road trip. The Balkans have finally overcome the horrors of the 90s and the countries are now well-established adventure travel destinations. Although history is still omnipresent in this region, the true beauty of the Balkans nowadays overshadows the remnants of the 90s War, at last. If you have done all of the aforementioned countries, you can go even more off the beaten path and visit the utterly untouched and unspoilt nations of Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania.
- Stuart Highway, Australia
Australia is a country characterised by infinite widths of deserted wilderness and stunning natural sights along thousands of miles of empty highways. The Stuart Highway is Australia’s main road from north to south and comprises a 2,834km (1,761m) stretch of road between Darwin, Northern Territory and Port Augusta, South Australia. The highway was named after Scottish explorer John McDouall Stuart who was the first European to cross Australia from north to south. The Stuart Highway is a mesmerising road and nothing for road trip newbies. Driving the entire extent of the highway is nowadays mostly done by road train drivers who are critical to the survival of the most remote parts of the Australian Outback. If you are a true adventurer and love crossing endless miles of dusty, continuous yet stunningly beautiful red waste with staggering sundowns and very few living souls, the Stuart Highway is the ultimate road trip to embark on before you die.
- Death Road and the Atacama Desert – Bolivia & Chile
Bolivia is well known for its incredibly diverse landscapes. From the tropical parts in the Amazon jungle to the drop dead gorgeous Altiplano high planes and the bone-dry Atacama Desert, which extends to Chile, nature lovers will certainly not be disappointed in Bolivia.
The infamous Camino a Los Yungas, commonly referred to as Death Road, is the main road between the Bolivian capital of La Paz and the town of Coroico and has officially been labelled ‘most dangerous road in the world’ on several occasions. The road can be mastered on a mountain bike or in a 4×4 car but trust us, this is nothing for beginners, as was concluded by the presenters of the British car show Top Gear.
Bolivia’s otherworldly mountains, deserts, tropical forests and rudimentary roads make it one of the most alluring yet most demanding countries for road trippers. This is definitely not amateur territory but it is adventurer’s heaven. Scrap the backpacker buses and rent a go-anywhere vehicle, this is how the true beauty of Bolivia can be encountered.
When crossing the border into Chile, you will moreover reach a stretch of the Atacama Desert that is 50 times drier than Death Valley in the US. It has in fact never rained in this part of Chile in the whole history of the planet (some scientists argue that it has rained in this area about 5,000 years ago but who cares) and the small region close to Antofagasta is so dry that there is no life, not even on a bacterial level. The only thing present in this utterly lifeless stretch of desert is ONE road, the fabled Panamericana highway.
- The West Coast – USA
While you could drive across the whole of the USA on Route 66, the West Coast certainly provides enough amazing locations for an epic American road trip. From the glittering casinos in Las Vegas to the mesmerizingly straight desert roads in Death Valley and the serpentine mountain passes in Yosemite, the West Coast has an innumerable amount of world class roads that are perfect for adventurers. Nevada moreover has some of the loneliest roads in America which have been used in some of the most iconic road trip films, notably Bullet and Vanishing Point. The coast roads along California’s Pacific shore are another joy to behold and the city of San Francisco certainly ranks very high in terms of the US’ most popular destinations.
- Road 1 – Iceland
Did you know that Iceland only has ONE paved highway? Road 1 circles the island and passes through every major town and settlement while enabling you to have a look at myriads of astounding geological sites which define Iceland’s uniqueness.
Driving the 1,332km (828 miles) around Iceland is one of the most thrilling experiences a traveller can have in this stunning wilderness and therefore an excellent choice for a road trip. In addition to the mountains, glaciers and other natural sights, the legendary Icelandic ponies are another common occurrence along Road 1.
Namibia is without a doubt one of the most alluring countries for road trippers in Africa and full of exotic wildlife, enrapturing landscapes and endless square miles of totally deserted wilderness. Namibia is in fact one of the least densely inhabited countries on earth, with only 2.54 people per sqkm (6.6 per sqm). The country is situated on the Tropic of Capricorn and its regions are utterly diverse in terms of scenery and native animals. You can find every Lion King animal in Namibia and you can drive on infinite widths of sand dunes and beaches. After having soaked in the mystical dune coasts, you can dive into the wildlife reserves and national parks where you can have breakfast next to elephants, zebras and lions before watching wild rhinos getting hydrated at picture-perfect waterholes. Nature lovers will certainly not be disappointed in Namibia and the fact that the country is so sparsely populated greatly increases its charm as a road trip destination.
- Biker’s paradise, south to north – Vietnam
Vietnam is a country that stands out most of all because of its unique cultural characteristics. A complicated past has induced a blend of French, Asian and communist specificities and this mixture is omnipresent throughout the country. Going from south to north is what will enable you to experience the full extent of Vietnam and it will also test your endurance on the road.
Because cars are ludicrously expensive in Vietnam, bikes are the most popular mode of transport and going from south to north on a bike is certainly the perfect way to immerse yourself into the enticing Vietnamese culture. Along the way you will encounter bike madness in vibrant city centres, remnants of the Vietnam War, exquisite food, imposing historical sites and most of all, staggering scenery.
- The Trans-Siberian Highway – Russia
Everybody has heard about the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway but hardly anyone knows that there is a road going a similar distance through the sheer untamed Siberian wilderness. The Trans-Siberian Highway is the unofficial name given to the series of roads connecting the Russian metropolis of St Petersburg with Russia’s easternmost port city, Vladivostok. Parts of the road were built in the 19th century, others in Soviet times while some of the most remote parts were improved in the 21st century. The 11,000 km stretch through Russia will enable you to pass through medieval cities with ancient palaces, countless megalomaniac communist towns and most of all, utterly perpetual wilderness, complete with bears, white tigers and other polar animals. The road moreover passes along the spectacular shores of Lake Baikal, one of the largest lakes in the world.
- Mille Miglia – Italy
The Mille Miglia (Thousand Miles) was one of the most epic and toughest endurance car races in the 20th century. The official race took place 24 times between 1927 and 1957 and covered a distance of approximately 1,600km (1000m). Starting and ending in Brescia, northern Italy, the drivers passed through some of the most jaw dropping regions and some of the most fabled cities on their Italian odyssey while having to cope with tough road conditions and technical difficulties.
In 1977, the Mille Miglia was reborn and has since been held every year as a race for classic and vintage cars in which everyone can participate and why would you not? Driving legendary cars in some of the most otherworldly locations while honouring Italy’s great motoring heritage is certainly an experience every passionate road tripper yearns for.
Some of the most alluring locations on the route include the charming city of Brescia, the eternal city of Rome, the picture-perfect town of Ravenna, the medieval maze of Siena, the splendid city of Bologna and also Modena, the home of Italy’s most evocative car related term of all time: Ferrari.
- Route 62 – South Africa
Route 62 is one of Africa’s most scenic routes and leads from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. The 850km (510m) road takes you through some of South Africa’s most enticing towns and some of its most gorgeous landscapes. Also known as the Wine Route, Route 62 leads through South Africa’s most famous wine regions, notably Wellington, Tulbagh and Worcester. In addition to being unmissable for wine lovers, Route 62 will also enable you to stop at several safari starting points, cultural hotspots and natural expeditions. In a nutshell, Route 62 is the less remote and more accessible alternative to the previously mentioned roads of Namibia but equally satisfying for the ardent road tripper.