Argentina’s simply named Route 40 (it clearly needs a marketing department) is one of the longest, continuous, most breathtaking road trips in the world. For its more than 3,000-mile-stretch, it runs north to south, mostly parallel to the Andes Mountains. The journey covers a wide range of South America’s most dramatic landscape from the mountains to the glaciers to the South Atlantic Ocean in Patagonia. Although much of the route is paved, its southern stretches are steep, dirt and gravel passes with no center-lines, no guard rails, and few (if any) road signs. In winter, it can prove all but impassable and it certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. Preparation is key. The drive is so popular, however — particularly for adventure tourists — that there’s an entire website dedicated to Route 40.
The vast, rugged space between the coasts of Australia is replete with amazing road trips. However, Great Ocean Road — a 151-mile route that stretches along its southern edge — is the continent’s most spectacular. Along the four-hour drive, travelers will find a long list of must-visit stops including London Bridge, Bay of Islands, and the Gibson Steps. But, the pinnacle of this journey is a stop at the 12 Apostles, an impossibly beautiful limestone formation that’s one of Australia’s most iconic natural wonders.
The Alps boast some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world, however, most of the terrain is impassable or, at the very least, requires hardcore skiing expertise and a distinct fear of 8,000-foot vertical cliffs. Italy’s Stelvio Pass is unique. Situated more than 9,000 feet above sea level, it’s the highest — and, no doubt, most dramatic — paved road in the Eastern Alps. Coupled with its elevation and 48 hairpin turns that mark its north face, it’s easy to see why the gentlemen of Top Gear once dubbed it “the best driving road in the world.”
As if we need another reason to visit Cape Town, the city is also home to one of the world’s most beautiful road trips. Chapman’s Peak (known locally as “Chappies”) bookends South Africa’s Western Cape between Noordhoek and Hout Bay. The nearly 100-year-old road — known as Chapman’s Peak Drive — that winds for less than seven miles around the base of the mountain is a short, but spectacular drive. From sea level to scenic overlooks nearly 2,000 feet above the Atlantic and back again, the scenery is literally jaw-dropping. Driving so close to the ocean’s edge, it’s easy for the line between the water and the horizon to disappear completely. It’s not uncommon for drivers to spot dolphins and whales just offshore, and baboons are a frequent source of “traffic” along the way.
If you’ve already conquered Route 66 and are seeking North America’s second most awesome road trip, look no further than the Alcan Highway. Sometimes just called “The Alaska Highway,” this roughly 1,400-mile trek connects Dawson Creek, British Columbia, with Delta Junction, Alaska, over a mostly paved highway. Don’t let the “paved” part fool you, though. This is among the most adventurous long-distance treks through some of the wildest terrain on the continent. The road’s completion was, and still is, a marvel of civil engineering. Expect dramatic, snow-capped mountains; pristine lakes; and plenty of wildlife, including wolves and grizzly bear along the way. While you could complete the drive in two long days of driving, allow plenty of time to stop for hikes, dog-sledding, and dips in Canada’s best hot springs.
Ticlio Pass may be the most adventurous — or downright dangerous — road on this list. This drive in Peru cuts a winding path through South America’s highest paved road at nearly 16,000 feet above sea level. Along the way are impossibly sharp bends, steep, unguarded drop-offs, and wildlife that doesn’t think twice about jetting into traffic. What’s more: You’re almost certain to encounter rockslides along the way. But, if you’re cool with slaloming around massive boulders for some of the most breathtaking scenery on the continent, it’s totally worth it. Don’t miss the numerous roadside snack shacks serving fried guinea pig.
We’ve previously shared many, many reasons to visit Scotland. If you’re looking for one more, add “road-tripping NC500” to the list. The relatively new North Coast 500 route debuted in 2015 as part of a broader initiative by Prince Charles to preserve the stunning, dramatic landscape along Scotland’s coastline. It showcases some of the country’s most breathtaking natural and historical beauty — the iconic scenery that defines rural Scotland for many people. We’re talking pristine lochs, ancient castles, white sand beaches, and dramatic glens dotted with massive heads of cattle.
Norway is home to some of the cleanest air, the happiest people, and the most pristine landscapes in the world. The Atlantic Road is a stunning, albeit brief, way to experience the latter. At barely 5 miles long, the technical drive is surprisingly harrowing, exhilarating, and gorgeous. While a nonstop ride requires less than 30 minutes, you’ll want to pack your camera and allow for several hours. There are plenty of stops, including Bremsnes Cave, the charming nearby town of Halåsen, and abundant marine mammals and wildlife viewing opportunities along the way. The sunsets aren’t half bad either. If getting in the water is more your speed, the winter diving is unbelievable with pristine waters offering nearly 200 feet of visibility.
Article originally published August 28, 2017. Last update June 11, 2018.