We’ve all heard the adage, sometimes it’s not the destination, it’s the journey. Well, sometimes the destination counts too, and on your road trip, you want to make it count with both a great journey and the right destination for your interests. With over 11 million miles of paved road in the world, picking the road trips that offer the most stunning array of scenic byways, charming roadside attractions, beautiful natural landscapes, and quirky adventures is not an easy task, but we’re got a few ideas to get you started. What follows are some of the best times to be spent in the car and out in the wide wonderful world.
Ready? Put on your racing goggles and let’s begin.
1. Drive the back roads of France
Let’s face it, the French have always had that, I don’t know… that certain je ne sais quoi that speaks to the very aesthetic soul in us. We hear their language, we see their art, we sip their wine, and a part of us just dies to live the artist’s life in France. Well, let’s face it: we all won’t be Hemmingway in Paris, but we can still rent a motorcycle and cruise the back roads in search of a long lost love and perhaps that perfect bottle of Chablis.
Grab a Harley in Paris and rustle up 138 Euro for 10-15 days of pleasure seeking before setting off to Avignon where Cotes du Rhone villages and their wineries abound. From there, head further south to L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue to see their famous textiles, before winding up in South France and all the love of Monaco and the French Riviera. France, je t’aime.
Read more about things to do in France
2. Amalfi Coast, Italy
The Amalfi Coast, or Costiera Amalfitana, is widely considered Italy’s most beautiful coastline. It’s here where rustic villages have entrenched themselves into the seaside cliffs that drop straight into the blue Adriatic. Mom and Pop bed and breakfasts, local seaside restaurants, and bars from which you can leap into that unbelievably blue water are at every cobbled corner.
If you’re hankering for Italia, here’s how to go about it. Start in Salerno and head to Ravello. Considered one of the most beautiful and romantic small towns in Southern Italy, you’ll find its sleepy lanes, quiet streets, and sun-drenched gardens a spectacular setting for that romance novel you’re always talking about writing. From there, head to Amalfi itself and see how the scenic cafes, bistros, and boutiques made the coast what it is today.
Read more: Italy’s Amalfi Coast Drive
3. Alaska’s Seward Highway
Had enough sunshine and coastal retreats? Hankering for the road less traveled? Well, you can find it on the Seward Highway. Heading to the Yukon isn’t for the faint of heart, as here you’ll find few roadside attractions and fewer signs to guide the way, but that’s the point, right? The abundance of natural beauty makes this road trip outstanding.
Starting in Anchorage, you’ll see the sights before heading south and getting the heck out of dodge. Glacial peaks, verdant forests, and natural wildlife abound at every corner. From Moose Pass, to towering mountain ranges, to rapid riverways and jumping salmon, you’ll find plenty to take pictures of and get that much needed serenity you’ve been seeking.
4. Chase the bourbon in Kentucky
Kentucky is the heartland of bourbon country. It was here that the wonderful spirit was born, resides, and is cultivated in its finest batches. What better way to expand your palette then, by chasing the bourbon trail? In addition to bourbon, you can see some of the historic south and soak up some bluegrass music. Start in Louisville, Kentucky and spend some time soaking up the southern ambiance before jumping aboard a relic of the past – a steamboat!
Louisville is famous for its steamboat rides as the area owes its origins to them. From Louisville, head south to Knob Creek, a small town where boutique bourbon is grown and Abraham Lincoln roamed as a boy. From here, head to Bardstown and the Bourbon Heritage Center to learn about the origins of the drink and the roots of the ever-famous Jim Beam. Loretto and Georgetown wrap-up the list where you can pop in to see the Maker’s Mark distillery and the charm of the antebellum south, respectively.
5. Sydney to Melbourne Coastal Route
The drive from Sydney to Melbourne, Australia is a scenic byway with a seemingly endless supply of glorious beaches. Along this beachside wonderland road trip, you’ll explore the beautiful landscape of Australia, complete with kangaroos, koalas, and even crocodiles, depending on where you stop.
Start in Sydney and take the Monaro Highway South to Canberra, the capital of Australia. Here, you can read up on Aussie history, see the new Parliament House, the National Gallery, and the National War Memorial. From here you can continue South along the fabulously named Princess Highway to stop in Mallacoota where Eden is a deep-water fishing port and whale watching hub before arriving at Wilson’s Promontory – a World Heritage Site widely renowned for its pristine environment and rustic beauty.
After spending some time in Wilson’s Promontory, it’s off the big-yet-small city of Melbourne, where you can get lost in cobbled alleyways, party on rooftop bars, and read in quiet cafes – a great way to see some of the best of Down Under.
Read more about things to do in Australia
6. Mountain Buddha Pilgrimage in the Himalayas
If you love the mountains and have always wanted to get out and about in the largest and most rugged mountain range in the world, this is the road trip for you. The Solang Valley and Solang Nala are located at the northern end of the Kullu Valley in India and known for excellent summer and winter sports and for having world-class ski runs at bargain basement prices.
About 550km from Delhi, the most popular method of reaching this region is via motorbike, and though the inner-workings of Delhi might be daunting, once out on the open road, it’s a beautiful and enriching experience with little traffic. Rhotang Pass (an altitude of 3979 m, or 13,050 ft) is an excellent area attraction and along this route you’ll find numerous hot springs, temples, waterfalls, monasteries, and even a castle or two, all worthy of an afternoon or even full day of prized vacation time.
Read about driving through India with The Rickshaw Run: A Ride through India’s Wild Side
7. The Serengeti
In this road trip, you’ll likely not be doing the driving, but the highlights will be all the better for it. Free to ignore the wheel, you’ll point your finger (or camera) at free-roaming elephants, white rhinos, hyenas, lions, panthers, and a whole list of national geographic-worthy creatures. Here, there are many starting and ending points to choose from, but most either start and/or end in Kenya or Tanzania.
Though any time of year is good for this type of road trip, the very best is January through March in hopes of catching the Great Migration. Along the way you’ll stop at African villages, meet with real people, have your choice of dining and sleeping accommodations, and full freedom to kick your boots off and relax at the stunning array of natural beauty that is Sub-Saharan Africa.
Read more about this region: Don George in Kenya & Tanzania
Patagonia is on the list of just about every hiking and/or nature-lover in the world. A wild, untamed stretch of wilderness spanning Chile and Argentina, the best of Patagonia only accessible via foot, but a car will need to get you there. Here, you’ll fly into Punta Arenas, rent a car or SUV, and head Northwest through the rugged terrain dotted with glaciers and vast groves of fern and pine.
See the Perito Moreno Glacier, stop and do a little fishing in El Calafate, grab a beer in the artist’s refuge of El Boson, and camp out under the stars in the Torres del Paine National Park. You’ll be popping in and out of Argentina and Chile quite frequently, so be sure to have your passport and papers at-the-ready, but the checkpoints are fairly used to this sort of thing and aren’t a hassle.
Read more about things to do in Argentina
- Hudson Hornick
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