Sometimes when you’re looking to travel for real, there really is nothing to beat a real road trip. In control of the itinerary, your environment and the menu for the journey, you can choose to go anywhere there are roads. In truth, you can take a vacation – or at least a mini-break – in the next town over should you wish to, although ideally you would pick somewhere with a little more actual driving involved.
The best road trips are the ones that involve plenty of variety, taking you through plenty of open country and some charming small towns. They might head into cities from time to time, but not too often, because a lot of the joy of such trips is in how you keep moving, and city traffic rarely lends itself to that. The final destination can be a city, by all means, but most of your driving should be on open road. Below, we’re going to look at some of the world’s best road trips, and what you can look forward to if you choose to take them.
Norway’s Atlantic Road
Starting with a small one, this 8km route from Molde to Kristiansund may lack a little range but it more than makes up for it in epic views. You can take the trip around sundown and experience one of the finest sunsets the world has to offer. Better yet, this is a trip that actually gets better in inclement weather – the frequent storms along the Norwegian coastline make the turns and dips of this beautifully-built road even more remarkable to look at. If there is one thing Scandinavia does well, it’s splendidly atmospheric city- and sea-scapes, and this is among the best.
Naturalists will also appreciate the opportunity to look into the sea on either side of the car, where seals and whales are a frequent site. Above you, there are plenty of native sea birds, who are probably acutely aware that some of the best cod in the Northern Hemisphere can be enjoyed here (including by you, if you stop off in Averøy). You won’t need to stop, as it’s a drive of barely half an hour, but you’ll surely still want to, given the beauty of your surroundings.
Italy’s Amalfi Coast
There is a saying that goes “See Naples and die”, and although that might sound a little bit threatening, it merely refers to the once-in-a-lifetime beauty of the city and the coastal region where it is located. Naples (or Napoli as the locals call it) is a splendid little Italian city, with little of the rush and the noise that characterises many of Italy’s other cities. It is, however, the coastal road that offers the greatest pay-off for the driver – a dramatic, winding, dipping trip which offers regular astonishing views over Naples and its marina.
There are enough tight bends to make you wonder whether the “see Naples and die” line is meant to be taken literally, but in a drive that takes roughly an hour and a half you’ll see stunning limestone rocks and cliffs, ocean waters that achieve colours to make any painter jealous, and innumerable pretty villages where you can stop to exercise your shutter finger. Once in the city itself, there is no shortage of places to eat, drink and take in the entertainment – the live music at Napulitanata is a particular high point.
The Trans-Andean Highway, South America
Split between Chile and Argentina, this remarkable highway features a wide variety of stunning attractions and includes a two-mile tunnel which you will enter in Argentina, and come out the other side in Chile. Don’t worry about being disorientated, however, as the fact that you cross border control while in the tunnel will keep you aware of where you are. Once you emerge on the Chilean side your wheels and tyres will face a rapid descent towards the capital, Santiago, and that’s a city you should really see.
What’s remarkable about Santiago is that it traverses many different looks and architectural styles, with a modernist glass skyscraper known as Gran Torre Santiago in among lots of colonial-era Spanish-style buildings – and all of this on a backdrop of the Andean mountains, which are visible from all over the city. On the Argentinian side, the closest city is Mendoza, an influential player in the region’s exceptional wine industry; a perfect place to have a tasting.
North Coast 500, Scotland
The words “magnificent desolation” could easily apply to stretches of the North Coast 500, had Buzz Aldrin not already used them to describe the surface of the moon! For huge stretches of this road in the Scottish highlands, you won’t encounter a single soul along the way – and it means you’re free to look in wonder over the landscape. The road starts in Inverness, and runs for 500 miles along and around the coast, winding in and out around mountains, beaches and more.
This trip, more perhaps than any other, is one that could ideally be made in an RV. Not that there is any shortage of wonderful B&Bs or guesthouses in which to stay here in the Highlands, but this is a place where you’ll appreciate the chance to park and sleep exactly where you are. This could be by the side of a loch, perhaps, or close to Dornoch, from where you can check out the Pictish Trail, a stretch of areas of interest relating back to the indigenous Picts, who were found here between the 3rd and 9th centuries.
The above are just four examples of stunning and spectacular road trips that you can take in some of this world’s most remarkable destinations. Taking you away from the typical tourist hangouts, they’ll offer a window on a world worth seeing, and there is really no better way to see them than to get on the road and drive through them. There are, of course, plenty of other amazing road trips to be taken in the world, but these four are an excellent start!