One of the pure, unadultered joys of travel is the freedom to explore a new land. Not from the tinted window of a tour bus mind you, but from behind the wheel of your very own vehicle. Few exploits in life can surpass the sensation felt as you cruise down a foreign highway for the first time, unsure of what to expect behind the next curve. Every mile you travel unveils a new discovery.
The locations that follow provide just that. Vistas that take your breath away and scenery that necessitates you pull over and savour the moment. Here then, are the best scenic drives in the world.
From north to south, the High Atlas Mountains offer a diverse range of conditions and dramatic scenery for drivers. Start in exquisite Marrakech and meander up the massif through rock, snow and desert.
Traditional Berber villages dot the route that leads to the sands of the Sahara. Without a doubt, the best introduction to Morocco and by extension, North Africa, that we can think of.
Want to take a drive over the High Atlas Mountains? Start in Marrakech.
You may know Highway 315 by another name: The Silk Road. To traverse the 1,700-mile stretch takes a certain amount of guile, but the journey is well worth the incidental hassles that may arise.
With China on the brink of a historic industrial shift, there is no shortage of ironic juxtaposition to infer while on a road trip on this ancient link between East and West.
No Silk Road journey is complete without a stay in Urumqi.
The region of Alsace is distinct. While many habitants of France proclaim fierce allegiance for their region of residence, Alsatians consider themselves Alsatians first and foremost. They make some of the best wines and beers in Europe and know how to provide a killer road trip for visitors.
Of course, the geography and climate of the region helps. Hills that roll with incessant resolve, green pastures, long, hot summers and mild autumns make the Wine Route of Alsace the most idyllic drive in France.
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Any drive that affords stellar vistas of the Alps must be among the best in the world. This is precisely why the Furka Pass is legendary among drivers and motorcyclists. A certain element of danger draws them to the hairpin bends, devoid of barriers, but not scenic distractions.
Experience behind the wheel and a fearless disposition will keep you in good stead on the Furka. Hard as it is to keep your eyes on the road, try to stop and visit the Alpine glacier ice caves on the way down.
Check out a few great Swiss hotel deals.
In Cape Breton, Nova Scotia to be exact, the Cabot Trail is a gem of a drive. Feasible to navigate within a day, common sense dictates to stretch it out and enjoy the towns on the way. With Canada’s climate, the Trail offers many looks from one season to the next as the landscape transforms from winter to summer.
The views are sensational, no matter when you visit. Cape Breton Highlands National Park is on the Trail route, as are rocky coastlines, quaint villages, lakes and memorable Maritime vistas. All in all, the Cabot Trail is an excellent indoctrination to Canada’s Atlantic provinces and achingly scenic Cape Breton.
Stay in beautiful Halifax before you venture to the Cabot Trail.
New Zealand tourism has undergone a remarkable boom in the past decade. The South Island of the country is home to one of the most popular destinations, Milford Sound. A 14-mile fjord adjacent to the Tasman Sea with jagged peaks and misty air, Milford Sound generates no shortage of mystic lore.
What people overlook however, is the spectacular scenery en route to this natural World Heritage site. Milford Road is a wonderful expanse that offers a unique blush at the immense variety of New Zealand’s geography. From crystalline lakes and mountain facades to lush rainforest and postcard waterfalls, this drive has it all.
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One of the legendary coastline drives in the world, the Great Ocean Road in Australia is a 170-mile stretch that hugs the watery curves of Victoria and offers gorgeous views of natural limestone and sandstone rock formations. Speed past Otways rainforest, Loch Ard Gorge, the Grotto, the Twelve Apostles rock stacks, pristine beaches and the coastal towns of Warrnambool and Geelong.
Stops in the villages of Queenscliff, Port Cambell, Port Fairy and Portland will make the journey that much more congenial. Sharp curves make the two-lane drive a thrill.
Want to brave Great Ocean Road? Start in Melbourne.
America is a land that cherishes freedom of mobility, preferably by automobile. The highways of America are a testament to a road trip idealism woven into the social fabric of the country. Nowhere is this more emblematic than in the state of California, where cars are objects of reverance and Highway 1 is their Holy Cathedral.
While not the most efficient way to drive between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the Pacific Coast Highway is by far the most scenic. Take two days to make the drive and reserve time for photo ops and unique excursions. These include Hearst Castle and the towns of Cambria and Santa Barbara.
Visit the great city of San Francisco while you enjoy your Highway 1 California road trip.