Route 1 (Pacific Coast Highway), United States
The list wouldn’t be complete without the epic Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway which links San Diego and San Francisco. With its sunny Californian landscapes, plenty of natural wonders, and numerous iconic places, it’s the epitome of ‘road trip’. Experience the authentic Southern California beach culture at Huntington Beach, explore famous spots in Los Angeles, admire Spanish architecture in Santa Barbara, taste some fragrant wine in one of the many wineries along the way, and take in the beauty of Big Sur that has fascinated Jack Kerouac. Relax on the laid-back streets of Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey before reaching San Francisco, where you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, the Palace of Fine Arts, Victorian row houses, and visit the famous Chinatown.
Cabot Trail, Canada
Discover the beauty of coastal wilderness and take in striking ocean views on the Cabot Trail, located on the picturesque Cape Breton Island in Canada. Perfect for a road trip, this 186-mile long highway offers plenty of activities and sights, from whale-watching to admiring highland landscapes and finding unique artisan glass, clay, and woodwork pieces made by local craftspeople who use traditional manufacturing methods. You can also park the car while you take your bike on the Skyline Trail that offers breathtaking views of the coast from a mountain top in the Highlands National Park.
The Garden Route, South Africa
The 150-mile long Garden Route is a lush green stretch of land in South Africa, starting from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape and reaching Plettenberg Bay in the East. Rich wildlife and a wide range of ecosystems make the region a must-visit place for those who love exploring nature. Here you’ll find plenty of beaches, lakes, wetlands, rolling hills, and mountains with ancient forests. Visit the coastal town of Sedgefield, South Africa’s first ‘slow town’, registered under the Italian ‘Cittaslow’ movement that includes 147 cities around the world. In this small town local heritage is valued, craft and food market markets replace malls, and life takes a laid-back rhythm.
Ruta 40, Argentina
With over 3,000 miles of highway, you’ll have endless sights to admire and adventures to take on. Ruta 40 in Argentina starts at La Quiaca, near the Bolivian border, and ends at Punta Loyola in Patagonia. In between, you can cross 20 national parks and 27 breathtaking passes through the Andes, as well as expansive landscapes with open flat land. Visit La Cueva de las Manos, or the Cave of the Hands, which is over 10,000 years old and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On the route you’ll also have the opportunity to admire glaciers, taste wine from the highest vineyards in the world, hike in millennial forests in Los Alerces National Park, and see 200-million years old dinosaur fossils and striking canyons and rock formations in the Ischigualasto Provincial Park.
The Outer Hebrides, Scotland
Scotland may bring highland landscapes and green hills to mind, but in the Outer Hebrides you can also find pristine beaches with crystal blue water as well as castles and historical sights. It may come as a surprise to learn you can explore the islands on bike, thanks to roads that are part of UK’s extensive National Cycle Network Route. Ferries and causeways link the 10 islands, so you’ll have the opportunity to cycle your way through 10 of the 15 islands. See the famous Callanish Standing Stones and the Blackhouses with thatched roofs built in the 1800s, both on the Isle of Lewis. You can also experience the islands by tasting traditional food and drinks via the Eat Drink Hebrides Trail, which is detailed on the Visit Outer Hebrides official site.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
You can stop anywhere in Italy and find incredible places, but the Amalfi Coast is truly special. As the epitome of Mediterranean landscapes, it offers dramatic coast views and quaint towns that allow anyone to take picture perfect photographs. The well-maintained roads are suitable for both cars and bikes, so you can see this beautiful area from two different perspectives. Rent a bicycle and explore the cliff towns of Positano and Sorrento while breathing the fresh sea air. You can also visit the Cattedrale di Sant’Andrea, which dates in part from the 10th century and features a blend of architectural styles due to various renovations, including two-tone masonry and a 13th century bell tower. Drive to the small resort town of Ravello to enjoy the sight of cliffside gardens or go to the Grotta dello Smeraldo to take a swim in emerald water.
Opened in 1936, Trollstigen is a dramatic stretch of road on the western coast if Norway, winding its way through mountains and lush valleys. The steep incline of 10% and 11 hairpin bends guarantee plenty of thrills on your trip. But you’ll have plenty of time to relax on numerous viewing platforms where you can admire the magnificent views of snow-capped mountains, the Stigfossen waterfall, and the Geirangerfjord, a world-famous fjord and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Spot the amusing signs that make reference to the name of this serpentine mountain road, which translates to Troll’s Path.
La Route des Grandes Alpes, France
La Route des Grandes Alpes starts on the shores of Lake Geneva and ends on the Mediterranean coast. It’s a beautiful and legendary 454-mile road taking you through 18 mountain passes; it can can also be enjoyed both by car or bike. Near the start of the journey you’ll have the chance to gaze down the Gorges du Pont du Diable canyon which offers incredible views of rock formations created by the Dranse river. Ride across the Vanoise National Park, France’s first national park, and enjoy the traditional architecture of the alpine Bonneval-sur-Arc village. The Col d’Izoard section provides steep inclinations of 8%, the Casse Desert features otherworldly landscapes, while the final stop is the ancient town of Menton on the relaxing French Riviera.
The Golden Road to Samarkand, Uzbekistan
A must for anyone passionate about traveling and history, the Golden Route in Uzbekistan will take you on the footsteps of ancient Silk Road merchants and caravans. Here you will be able to admire 25 centuries old cities: Samarkand with its turquoise domes and intricate architecture, the ancient walled city of Khiva with its palaces and minarets, and the holy city of Bukhara with its numerous mosques and 10th century mausoleum. Things to mark from your list: seeing fertile oases in the middle of dry deserts, admiring ancient architecture, trying a traditional sheep wool hat, and tasting plov, the national dish made with rice, lamb, and apricots.
Basque Circuit, Spain
One of the most picturesque drives in Europe, the Basque Circuit in Spain measures 300 miles in length. The beginning of the road is marked by Bilboa, where you can immerse yourself in contemporary art at the Guggenheim Museum before taking off through the striking mountain pass of Vitoria-Gasteiz. Visit San Sebastian to enjoy impressive beaches, delicious local food and maybe even a film or two at the famous Film Festival, if you happen to be there in September. Admire the French Pyrenees while driving on winding roads and end your journey in the stylish seaside town of Biarritz.