Buckle up for the road trip of a lifetime
There’s no better feeling than cruising down the open road, feeling the wind through your hair and taking in the gorgeous views — road trips are seriously the way to go. Here’s our pick of the best places to hit the road around the world.
Ring Road, Iceland
The harsh, yet stunning scenery of Iceland is bound to captivate you and, even better, you can explore the whole country by car! Iceland’s Ring Road loops right around the island, taking you on a journey that is approximately 1340km and takes several days to complete, depending on how many stops you make. An endless sprawl of ever-changing scenery will unfurl before your eyes: prepare to be exposed to tumbling waterfalls, brooding volcanoes, rugged mountains, bubbling geothermal springs, crystalline fjords and breathtaking black sand beaches. You might even be lucky enough to experience the phenomenal show put on by the northern lights if you’re over there in the winter. Alternatively, if you want to experience the midnight sun, visit in the summer. This is truly a magical experience you won’t want to miss.
The route: Begin your journey in Keflavík by the airport, and set off eastwards stopping at places such as Vik along the way, before working your way back to Reykjavik.
Highlights: Thingvellir National Park, Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon, Vatnajökull Glacier.
Bollenstreek Route, Amsterdam
Tulips are synonymous with Amsterdam, so why not view them in all their technicolour glory along the Bollenstreek Route? Approximately 40km long, this is a feast for the eyes, with the dazzling azure sky up above and the rainbow blanket of flowers covering the ground. It’s not just tulips you’ll find either — narcissi, hyacinths and dahlias will also be nodding their heads to you as you pass, filling the air with their delicate perfume. Head over during spring for the optimal experience.
The route: Start your exploration of the Bollenstreek Route (otherwise known as the “Flower Route”) in Haarlem, before you work your way south towards Leiden.
Highlights: Haarlem’s historic centre, Keukenhof botanical garden in Lisse, Leiden.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
If you’re looking for a road trip a bit out of the ordinary, then look no further than this otherworldly place. Renowned for being the perfect spot to snap optical illusion-type photos, the border between the sky and ground are fantastically blurred, especially when the ground is wet as the surface of the ground transforms into a gigantic mirror — you can just imagine you are wandering through the clouds! Let the tranquillity wash over you as you drive across the world’s largest salt flat.
The route: You can drive up to the salt flat from Uyuni or, if you fancy a longer trip, head down from the mountain city of La Paz.
Highlights: A dual sunset over the salt flat — in the sky and across the ground.
South Island Circuit, New Zealand
Whilst the North Island is home to Wellington — the capital city — Auckland and Peter Jackson’s Hobbiton, the rugged wilderness of the South Island offers just as much. Explore the cities of Christchurch and Queenstown for retail therapy opportunities; marvel at the natural beauty on offer at Arthur’s Pass National Park and Lake Tekapo; stargaze at the world’s largest International Dark Sky Reserve; swim with wild dolphins in Kaikoura; or get your adrenaline fix in Wanaka. It will be impossible to run out of things to see and do! For longer, warmer days, head over between November – March.
The route: Catch a flight to Christchurch and begin your drive from there — choose from going clockwise or anti-clockwise. Add as many stops as you like!
Highlights: Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki, Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, Mount Cook.
Tip126. Lake Pukaki, New Zealand Lake Pukaki is the largest of three roughly parallel alpine lakes running north-south along the northern edge of the Mackenzie Basin on New Zealand's South Island. The others are Lakes Tekapo and Ohau. All three lakes were created when the terminal moraines of receding glaciers blocked their respective valleys, forming moraine-dammed lakes. The glacial feed to the lakes gives them a distinctive blue colour, created by glacial flour, the extremely finely ground rock particles from the glaciers. Lake Pukaki covers an area of 178.7 km², and the surface elevation of the lake normally ranges from 518.2 to 532 metres above sea level. Lake Pukaki looks much more impressive when you see it in person than it does in any photograph or video. You have to catch the lake on a sunny day, though, to get to see its mesmerizing blue color. The lake is fed at its northern end by the braided Tasman River, which has its source in the Tasman and Hooker Glaciers, close to Aoraki/Mount Cook. Good views of the mountain, 70 kilometres to the north can be had from the southern shore of the lake. The scenic drive from Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki is approximately 47 km (29 mi) in length. Driving at about 100 km/h (62 mph), it would take approximately 25 to 30 minutes to drive from Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki. Airport: Richard Pearse Airport, it is about an 2 hour drive by car. picture@ intlheat
Atlantic Ocean Road, Norway
Don’t let the length of this road (just around 8km) fool you into thinking it’s not a route worth exploring. This unique road will take you out into the ocean’s edge, joining the dots between the mainland and Averøy via a trail of small islets with eight bridges, the most iconic of which being the impressive Storseisundet bridge. This route affords astonishing coastal views whilst taking you along many twists and turns — it’s no surprise that it was voted Norway’s Engineering Feat of the Century in 2005. You can enjoy a trip at any time of the year, but it’s best to avoid the road in adverse weather as conditions can become treacherous.
The route: Get on the road in Klipa and take a leisurely drive along the length of it.
Highlights: Park up at designated stopping areas to take photos and to soak up the magnificent vistas.
Pacific Coast, USA
The USA is definitely the place for road trips — the only problem is deciding where to take one! Ease yourself into the country by exploring the Pacific Coast which, at around 1,650 miles long, will take you along the glittering coastline and will allow you to savour the sun, sea and sand the west is famous for. Marvel as the diverse landscape unfolds before your eyes: lush forests, scorched deserts, snow-capped peaks, slick cities and golden ribbons of sand. You can enjoy this stunning slice of the USA at any time of the year.
The route: Olympic National Park in Washington is your starting point before you work your way down the coastline towards California.
Highlights: Olympic National Park, Oregon, Big Sur, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Huntington Beach.
Icefields Parkway, Canada
This is a 144 mile stretch of divine scenery that will take you from Edmonton to Calgary in Alberta, via Jasper National Park and Banff National Park. Craggy mountains, pristine lakes, cascading waterfalls and ancient glaciers are just some of the jaw-dropping natural wonders you will pass. You may also get the chance to get up close and personal with the local wildlife, as deer, coyotes, wolves and black bears are just some of the creatures that roam around this terrain. There are so many places to explore on this trip — just make sure you pack your hiking boots and camera to get the most out of this stunning experience! For the best weather, try this journey between June and September. You can even camp in the National Parks if you want to extend your trip!
The route: Explore the city of Edmonton before driving through the two National Parks and ending in Calgary.
Highlights: Jasper National Park Skywalk, Lake Louise, Athabasca Glacier, Saskatchewan River.
Gobi Desert, Mongolia
Mongolia might not be the first road trippin’ destination that springs to mind, but it’s sure not one to miss. You will feel like you are on another planet as you drive through mile after mile of emptiness that extends out to the horizon and beyond. The raw beauty of the desert is easy to appreciate with towering sun-scorched sand dunes, scarlet cliff faces and gaping valleys aplenty. There is also the option to explore stretches of the journey on camel back, and why not stop off and rest your head in a traditional Ger camp? Mongolia experiences very cold winters, so plan your trip for the summer.
The route: Begin your round trip (and load up with supplies) in Ulaanbaatar.
Highlights: Yolyn Am, the Flaming Cliffs (also known as Bayanzag), Khongoryn Els, Erdene Zuu Khiid.
Costa Smeralda, Sardinia
This area of the world is famous for its dazzlingly blue waters and sun-soaked coastline, making it the perfect place to get behind the wheel and savour it all. The opulent Costa Smeralda (or the Emerald Coast) is peppered with exquisite beaches, luxurious spas and glitzy resorts — and is a popular holiday destination with the rich and famous — but the rest of the island is worth exploring too, offering up an endlessly diverse landscape. If you like it hot, head over in the summer, or try spring and autumn for cooler days. One thing’s for sure, whenever you head over, Sardinia is sure to seduce you.
The route: Start north in Costa Smeralda and head south to begin your loop around the island.
Highlights: Spiaggia Capriccioli, Cagliari, Spiaggia di Tuerredda, Maddalena Archipelago, Baia Sardinia.
Pan-American Highway, North and South America
Think you can take on a more testing road trip? Then the legendary beast that is the Pan-American Highway could be the one for you. Taking you from the top of Alaska right down to the tip of Tierra del Fuego, this 30,000 mile long trip can take months to complete (and will take its toll on your bank account) but will give you serious bragging rights. Despite this, it will definitely be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, as you will pass through endlessly diverse and spectacular landscapes as you travel from the top of the world to the bottom. But if you don’t have the time, money or stamina to complete the whole journey, you can just choose some areas of the route to drive along (although don’t be surprised if your mates are less impressed by this).
The route: To conquer the whole thing, start in Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, before winding down much later at the ‘end of the world’ in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego.
Highlights: Vancouver, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Lima, Santiago, Ushuaia.