The Scenic Route: A Guide to the World’s Best Road Trips

The 10 best road trips around the world, a mix of classic and unexpected, coastal and countryside.

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There’s something about seeing a country or a region on four wheels that lets you feel immersed in a place. The roadside restaurants, the freedom to pause and linger, the exhilaration and pain of getting lost in an age of constant Google Mapping... Isn’t half the fun of travel the detours, anyway? In this package, we pick the 10 best road trips around the world, a mix of classic and unexpected, coastal and countryside. You’d be remiss not to drive California’s Highway 1 at least once in your life—but what about South Africa’s Garden Route?

Africa

Garden Route, South Africa

Hugging the eastern coastline of South Africa, the Garden Route takes you through the nation’s hits. There are farm stalls brimming with local produce, reserves with wildlife like elephants, ostriches, and monkeys, and memorable scenery throughout. Hiking, swimming, and surfing are all on offer, and you can finish days with a local glass of wine from one of the many wine farms along the way.

North America

A Loop out of Anchorage, Alaska

This seven-day journey that starts and ends in Anchorage is an outdoorsy road-tripper’s dream. You’ll be awestruck by Denali National Park, as well as the less-trafficked and equally beautiful Wrangell—St. Elias. You’ll meet sled dogs and sample Alaska’s bountiful produce at organic farms along the way. If you’re really adventurous, take a detour on a bush flight and enjoy Alaska’s small-town delights—and its famous salmon. You’ll want to make time for a glacier trek, so don’t forget your fleece and hiking boots.

Ready to hit the road? Read more here.

Pacific Coast Highway, California

Perhaps the most iconic of road trips, California’s Pacific Coast Highway takes you all along the state’s picturesque coastline. Winding through beach towns, big cities, and miles of untouched coast, PCH is the perfect way to see the Golden State. There are aquariums, a castle, and, of course, jaw-dropping scenery on this route. Be sure you plan enough time to take it slow, watch for whales, and, when you’re at the car rental, spring for the convertible.

Ready to hit the road? Read more here.

San Juan Skyway, Colorado

This quick jaunt among the 14,000-foot peaks of southwestern Colorado has no shortage of dramatic vistas. The roads are not for the faint of heart—10,000-foot passes beckon. Stomach-churning heights give way to sprawling pastures and waterfall-flecked canyons. Hot springs and tiny mountain towns also make this road trip an irresistible stunner.

Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina

A five-day journey along the Parkway from Charlottesville, Virginia, to Asheville, North Carolina, showcases the wonders of Appalachia. You’ll sample local cheeses, seasonal, farm-to-table cooking, and barbecue. Down-home bluegrass music plus local crafts make for a truly authentic trip into this scenic, mountainous region. There’s no shortage of hikes, ranging from easy to difficult, including an opportunity to set foot on the storied Appalachian Trail.

Ready to hit the road? Read more here.

South America

Patagonia Lake District, Argentina and Chile

Outdoor adventures await throughout the Lake District in northern Patagonia in Argentina and Chile. From white-water rafting to heli-skiing to hiking, there’s something for everyone no matter the season, all amid charming, European-style towns. National parks, volcanoes, and the eponymous lakes dot the route, offering arresting views and more places to stop and explore than you’ll have time for. Locally sourced steak and trout will keep you fueled up on this weeklong journey.

Ready to hit the road? Read more here.

Europe

Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

A drive along Ireland’s windswept coastline brings endless opportunities for nature walks and hunkering down in cozy pubs. You’ll encounter live traditional music and plenty of chances to get on the water, from boat tours to kayaking. Dolphin and whale-watching tours, too, are on your route. Castles and colorful villages also take center stage on this trip. Although our itinerary covers five days, you could easily take two weeks to discover this massive, 1,600-mile route.

Ready to hit the road? Read more here.

North Coast 500, Scotland

This 516-mile loop out of Inverness showcases the rugged beauty of northernmost Scotland. Cathedrals, historic sites, and distilleries abound here, and you’ll need at least five days to wind your way around the scenic drive. Accommodations range from rustic to country luxury to castle estates, so there’s something for every type of traveler. Fill your plate with loads of seafood and game, then burn it all off with hikes, kayaking, and other outdoor activities.

Ready to hit the road? Read more here.

Diamond Circle, Iceland

This less-traveled circuit in northern Iceland showcases the highlights. Waterfalls and colonies of puffins await alongside opportunities for whale-watching. Days filled with delectable seafood, ancient rock formations, and soaring views create the kind of trip that will have you stopping every few miles for a photo op. No trip through Iceland would be complete without geothermal baths, so a good soak is on your agenda as well.

Ready to hit the road? Read more here.

Australia

Great Ocean Road

Spend at least three days on a leisurely tour of Australia’s Great Ocean Road, a spectacular coastal route that runs south out of Melbourne. There are pristine beaches, yes, but also a stunning national park with waterfall hikes and zipline adventures. Add beachfront hotels and restaurants and you’ve got the makings of a truly special road trip, particularly if you take the time for a beach day or two as you explore. On this drive, you’ll want to remain beach-ready. Pack plenty of sunscreen.

Ready to hit the road? Read more here.

Laura Dannen Redman is the digital content director of AFAR based in Brooklyn, New York. She’s an award-winning journalist who can’t sit still and has called Singapore, Seattle, Australia, Boston, and the Jersey Shore home.
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