There’s nothing quite like taking a long drive amid scenic views, the windows rolled down, music playing, and the wind in your hair…
Car-lovers will already know there’s nothing quite like taking a long drive amid scenic views, the windows rolled down, music playing, and the wind in your hair. Rather than enduring the journey to a destination, make the journey a part of an unforgettable experience with our pick of the best travel destinations for motorheads.
Perhaps North America’s most famous highway, Route 66 was for many years the main route between Chicago and Los Angeles. Although no longer a designated US highway, it’s still possible to drive sections of the 3,800 kilometer route of what was once known as ‘the Main Street of America’.
Although its start and end lie at the very heart of bustling cities, it’s a journey as far removed from the skyscrapers of the Windy City and the bright lights of Hollywood California as it’s possible to get. Instead, Route 66 offers some of the most archetypal roadside scenery in the US. It winds through the small town America of kitschy diners, mom and pop motels and retro tourist sites such as giant statues of ketchup bottles, forks and blue whales.
Encompassing a fistful of Midwest and Southwest states, it is also a route that takes in the region’s natural splendors. The wayside cornfields of Illinois turns into the prairieland that is the traditional home of Native American communities, the old London Bridge (shipped brick by brick from the UK) and Grand Canyon National Park, one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. All in all, a journey along any length of Route 66 is an unforgettable trip through the history and nostalgia of America.
Following the beautiful stretch of coastline that connects South Africa’s Mossel Bay with the Storms River, the Garden Route is named for its expanses of endemic wildflowers. However, a drive along the route will also have you pass beside isolated sandy beaches, through vineyards, over mountain passes, and into areas of forest.
With the second mildest climate in the world (after Hawaii), the Garden Route is sandwiched between the warm surfer-loved waves of the Indian Ocean and a line of mountains just inland. Ten nature reserves line the route, covering its various habitats. Passing through historic towns such as George and Plettenberg Bay, it culminates in the Tstisikamma Forest – a wondrous habitat of giant trees, ferns, and almost 300 species of bird.
Travelling along its 200 km length, you’ll undoubtedly also come into contact with South Africa’s famed wildlife. Ostrich, baboons and antelope are all common sightings on land, while dolphins and Cape fur seals can be regularly seen off the coast. Southern right and humpback whales also nurse in the Garden Route’s waters from July to December each year.
At just over 600 km in length, New Zealand’s Southern Scenic Route is exactly that. Quite simply, a drive along this stretch of road takes in the finest landscapes of the South Island, from miles and miles of rolling hills and open farmland to mighty mountain peaks, waterfalls and the impressive fjord landscapes of Milford Sound and its surrounds.
Created in the late 1980s, it traces the southern edge of the South Island from Dunedin, forming a rough U in shape to include the rugged beauty of the southern coast and Invercargill, the country’s most southerly point. It continues along the banks of Lake Wakatipu and the boundaries of Fiordland National Park, before coming to an end in Queenstown, nestled in the perfectly-named Remarkables mountain range.
Look at a road map and you might be surprised by its apparent dearth of roads, with almost none reaching into the interior of the island. But the savior for the car-lover in Iceland is its main highway, Route 1. It takes in the country’s major tourist sites and an almost fantastical landscape of bubbling mud ponds, smoking volcanoes, geothermal pools, crystal-clear glaciers, roaring waterfalls and snow-capped mountains.
Circling the entire country, on Iceland’s Ring Road, for a total distance of 1,300 km, there is no true beginning or end, but as good a place to start as any is the capital, Reykjavik, home to most of the country’s population.
Also read: 11 places you need to visit in South Africa
Even though it’s safe to travel on all year round, you’ll likely see no more than a handful of cars on Route 1, making it anything but a stressful highway experience. Herds of sheep or reindeer are likely to be more common. Though travelling by day is the norm, don’t ignore the idea of covering some of Route 1’s distance by night, with the possibility of experiencing the Northern Lights if you do. If you’re looking for a great tour or self-drive itinerary in Iceland, Bookmundi may be a good starting point, as they offer several great itineraries.
Also called the Abra Anticona, the Ticlio Pass is not only one of the most spectacular roads in Latin America, but also one of the most dangerous in the world. Rising to a height of almost 5,000 meters above sea level in the Cordillera Central region of the Peruvian Andes, there is a real risk of altitude sickness from oxygen deprivation as well as natural hazards which include rocks tumbling from the stark precipices of the landscape.
The pay-off for this potential risk is an extraordinary experience of travelling between Peru’s capital, Lima, and the colonial architecture in the cities of Huancayo, Jauja and Tarma. Take it slow around the hair-pin bends of the 132 km route and enjoy the spectacular llama-dotted Andean landscapes overlooking these ancient cities, while also marking the location of South America’s continental divide.
Forget the blight of traffic jams and make driving fun again with a road trip to one of the world’s best travel destinations for motorheads. From the historic Route 66 to New Zealand’s more recent Southern Scenic Route, via South Africa, Iceland and Peru, the trips we’ve highlighted reveal earth’s scenic beauty in all its glory.