There is nothing like jumping on a motorbike or getting in your car and hitting the open road, especially if you can find an adrenaline-filled adventure. From desert sands to Italy’s hairpin bend filled coastline here are 20 of the coolest road trips in the world that should be on everyone’s bucket list…
Table of Contents
This trip is a real test, the road runs for 4500km through Algeria, Niger and Nigeria and is said to be a once in a lifetime experience. It’s also said that you have to be partly insane to take up the challenge, not only will you have to battle against a very intense environment but there are also security risks as well.
There’s no room for just any car – this is a 4WD adventure! It consists of extensive desert driving and with no shops for miles you will need to be fully prepared and be able to look after yourself. Also, if you are taking your own vehicle then it’s a legal requirement to have a local escort and also be warned – there could be issues crossing the Algeria/Niger border.
Leh-Manali Highway, Northern India – easily one of the coolest road trips in the world
The highway that connects Leh in Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir state and Manali in Himachal Pradesh state is not for the faint-hearted. You will have to tackle (and enjoy) snow-capped mountains and head down through some very nervy passes. If you want to take an ‘easier’ option then you can go by bus, but where’s the fun in that? The snow can be fairly intense, so much so that you can only follow the route for four months a year as the rest of the time it’s closed.
North Yungas Road, Bolivia – otherwise known as the road of death
This trip will definitely have your car hire company running scared. Otherwise known as the ‘DEATH ROAD’, you will travel from La Paz into the rainforest region of Yungas but be careful as it’s estimated that 200 people die on the short 69km route each year. One time even the craziest person wouldn’t attempt this one is mid-December to early March due to it being the rainy season.
Guoliang Road, China
This road in the Taihang mountains (in the Hunan Province of China) was built by local villagers but tragically some of the villagers died during its construction. The road also contains a 1,200-metre long tunnel about five metres high and four metres wide. On May 1, 1977 the tunnel was opened to traffic and the unusual sight ensured its status as a tourist attraction.
Seward Highway, Alaska
This deserted highway offers little in the way of tourist spots or gas stations but the waterfalls, glaciers, ocean fjords and lakes more than makeup for it. Starting in Anchorage, the road winds south for 127 miles to the harbour town of Seward. Take regular stops to look out for beluga whales swimming off the coast and to take snaps of field upon field of wildflowers.
Greater Blue Mountains, Australia
Get out of Sydney and head through Australia’s Greater Blue Mountain Drive – while this is tamer than other drives, the incredible colours and views ensures its place on this list. One must-see stop is the ‘Three Sisters’, which are 922, 918 and 906 metres tall and will blow your mind.
Sichuan-Tibet Highway, China
The Sichuan-Tibet Highway, a road between Chengdu and Tibet where landslides and rock avalanches are common, is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous roads in the world. The highway crosses through 14 high mountains which average 4,000-5000m, spans dozens of famous rivers (Dadu River, Jinsha River, Lantsang River, Nujiang), forests and a number of dangerous sections. The views aren’t bad either!
Jura Mountains, Europe
The French, German and Swiss mountains are better known for hikers but this is a special place for drivers as well. The Jura mountains keep the Rhine and Rhone apart, as you drive through them you will be amazed at the magnificent views and the feeling of freedom.
Istanbul to New Delhi
Yes, you could easily fly, but it wouldn’t be the same as driving. This iconic route used to be known as the Hippy Trail during the 1960s, but the Islamic Revolution in Iran put an end to that. It was also part of the Silk Road, which was used during ancient times when people travelled from Europe to Asia.
With the current political problems, this adventure can be quite tricky, but if you’re a bit mad like me then this might increase the appeal.
This little (well, 1200km) trip through Pakistan and China is incredible, it boasts some amazing roads at high altitude. The scenery is incredible, but the roads are a challenge, especially in Pakistan where they aren’t in the best condition. This experience will make you appreciate both nature and man’s ability to create. Tragically though, more than 1000 people were killed during its making.
The Western Alps, Europe
This journey starts in Zurich, before going through Germany’s famous Black Forest and reaching France’s exquisite Savoir – where you will find Europe’s highest Alps.
As well as enjoying the incredible views, the drive along Col d’Iseran and Cime de la Bonette is very special. If you want to add an extra angle then why not cross the border into Italy for a change of scenery and more entertaining routes.
Christchurch to Auckland, New Zealand
Not a short journey but a recommended one, ideally by motorcycle but if not try to get your hands on a soft top. There is something for everyone in New Zealand, there are lots of volcanoes to get close to but beware of Havre Seamount, which last erupted in 2012. The Glaciers make a challenging drive, as do the roads that take you up Mount Cook with the powerful winds.
Not a country you may have expected to find on the list but it’s a bit of a gem. By staying in the south you avoid the cold north – the best starting place is Kristians. One bit of road that has to be driven is the Lysebotn, which has 36 hairpin bends, something that will keep the most competent driver challenged.
The Trans-Siberian Highway
Take a trip across the newly opened Trans-Siberian Highway for the ultimate Russian road trip. The Trans-Siberian Highway is the unofficial name for a network of federal highways that span the width of Russia from the Baltic Sea of the Atlantic Ocean to the Japan Sea of the Pacific Ocean. One of the longest national highways in the world, it offers an alternative to the famous train route of the same name.
Rome to Istanbul
This is a trek and a half! Start in the Italian capital and head south to the hairpin bend filled Amalfi Coast, through beautiful Positano, along the cliff edges and down the tight historical roads. Then its options time, whether to head for a spin around Sicily or head to Greece on a ferry from near Bari, to Olympia and/or Athens before heading to Turkey. Once there, it’s time to take on the Boz Mountains before making your way to Istanbul, Turkey.
Côte d’Azur, France
Yes, this area is usually associated with the rich and famous but there are some magical mystery tours for driving enthusiasts. Start out from Nice then follow the coast through the French Riviera towns along the windy roads. One place not to miss is Gorges-du-Loup, the elevated climbs will keep you on your toes, and once at the top you may wish to take five minutes to stop and take some pictures.
Chile and Argentina
Chile is a wonderful place to drive through, especially with the impressive Andes. As you head down the path you can cross into Argentina and back again. Driving from Osorno to Puerto Varas is pure magic, the views of Osorno volcano are incredible and the exciting sharp turns are very challenging.
Pacific Coast Highway, USA
This stretch of coastline between San Francisco and Big Sur runs past some of the US’s most spectacular scenery. The 123-mile route through central California takes road trippers on an exhilarating journey that encompasses coastal redwood forests, ocean cliffs and secluded coves, all against the dazzling backdrop of the Pacific Ocean.
Garden Route, South Africa
This route on the south-eastern coast of South Africa winds through forests, arty communities, wineries and mountains. Stop off at any one of the beautiful sandy beaches and enjoy the region’s perfect climate. There are a number of hiking opportunities to make the most of and some truly spectacular coral reefs to explore if you need to cool off.
Sao Paolo to Rio de Janeiro
A special trip to finish the list off, and where better than southeast Brazil starting from Sao Paolo heading to Rio de Janeiro via the special Serra Da Mantiqueira Mountains. The mountains provide high altitudes and lots of winding coastlines that you would struggle match in Europe.
So there you have it, twenty beautiful and hair-raising road trips to challenge your driving skills. Enjoy the ride!