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The world’s most scenic drives for your next road trip

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Nothing spells adventure like the freedom of the open road. Picture yourself hitting shuffle on your favorite drivetime playlist and freewheeling along one of the world’s most beautiful highways. To help you get there, we’ve put together a list of some of the best drives in the world. From remote mountain routes across Asia to coastal jaunts in Scotland, Australia and the Côte d’Azur, these incredible road trips are sure to fill your tank.

The Japanese Alps

When we think of Japan, it’s often the cities that spring to mind. Ultra-modern Tokyo, traditional Kyoto, the bright lights of Osaka. But instead of zipping from city to city on the Shinkansen bullet train, consider exploring rural Japan by road. The Japanese Alps curve through the center of the main island of Honshu, so you can easily combine city slicking with a slow meander along beautiful mountain roads. Here, pine forest sweeps along the flanks of snow-tipped peaks and traditional thatched cottages hunker down in the valleys. Visit in winter for skiing and steamy onsen hot spring baths surrounded by snow. In summer there is sublime hiking, with many more roads and trails open. Spring sees cherry blossoms strung along verdant valleys, and in fall the dazzling colors of maple illuminate the landscape.

Hakuba Valley in the Northern Japanese Alps

Milford Road, New Zealand

New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park sets the scene for one of the world’s greatest road trips. Carved by ancient glaciers and with some of New Zealand’s highest peaks, you’ll be driving through a landscape of truly epic proportions. The route takes you from the lakeside town of Te Anau to Milford and would take two hours each way without any stops. Factoring in a few small hikes and several impromptu photo stops, you’ll need a full day to do it justice. You’ll be traversing a true wilderness on this road trip, so there are no shops, gas stations or conveniences, just 100% pure New Zealand.

Mountains surrounding New Zealand's Milford Road

The Icefields Parkway, Canada

Cruising the Icefields Parkway route through the Canadian Rockies has to be one of the world’s best road trips. Canada’s landscapes have been built on a grand scale, and this 145-mile stretch of highway shoots you right through the heart of it all. Jagged mountains, dazzling lakes, pine-clad slopes and rushing waterfalls await. Drive this route from Jasper to Lake Louise in the summer months and plan some short hikes along the way to stretch your legs and breathe pure mountain air. We particularly recommend hikes to the immense Athabasca and Sunwapta waterfalls. Stop for a picnic lunch at one of many incredible lookout points, and gaze out across deep river valleys with lakes and glaciers sparkling under blue skies.

Canada's Icefields Parkway route

The North Coast 500, Scotland

If you’re looking for the road less traveled, then the wilds of northern Scotland are one of the best places for a road trip in the British Isles. Way out on the edge of the world, Scotland’s North Coast 500 route takes you on a 516-mile journey through glorious coastal scenery and highland landscapes. There are powder-white beaches, wave-lashed sea stacks, crumbling castles and ancient stone monuments to discover. These are small, local roads, and you may be sharing the thoroughfare with the odd wandering highland cow. Along the way, you’ll stay in tiny villages and hamlets, sip on single malt whiskeys at local distilleries, and tuck into boat-fresh seafood. Take your dancing shoes and be sure to ask around for a ceilidh.

Kylesku Bridge along the North Coast 500 road in Scotland

The Transfagarasan, Romania

Hitting Romania’s Transfagarasan Highway is one of the best road trip adventures if you enjoy a switchback (or 10). Loop-the-looping through Transylvania, this 93-mile route is open during the summer months only and skims 2,000m at its highest point. You’ll be traversing spectacular mountain scenery through the Fagaras range, passing glittering lakes and the ruins of Dracula’s castle. The serpentine stretch of road leading down to Cartisoara from Balea Lake has been robustly celebrated by Jeremy Clarkson’s Top Gear team. This will certainly be a drive to remember.

Winding mountainous Transfagarasan road in Romania

The Great Ocean Road, Australia

The vastness of Australia comes into focus on a road trip, and the Great Ocean Road is a classic Aussie route. Hugging the southern coast of Victoria for around 150 miles from surf town Torquay to Allansford, driving it will be an epic road trip. Raging waters have been roughing up the limestone cliffs here for millennia, and the coast is sculpted and beautiful, decorated with sea stacks and big skies. Deserted beaches stretch for miles and surf barrels in over salty sands. There are hiking trails to set off on through bushlands of eucalyptus and shady gullies rich with tree ferns. When it comes to wildlife, koalas peep through the branches, platypus paddle the rivers, and southern right whales make a splash out at sea.

Rocky formations along Australia's Great Ocean Road

The Riviera Route, France

France’s Riviera Route is one of the best car rides for foodies, so schedule plenty of time for long lunches and afternoon patisserie stops. The route starts around Nice, befitting one of the nicest roads in the world, and continues along the south coast to Marseille. There are several different routes and a relatively small area to cover, so inland forays are encouraged. The famous Grande Corniche road takes you along dramatic coastal cliffs with tantalizing views of sandy coves and turquoise ocean. Go for glamour in Monaco, call in at Cannes, and then soak up the art and culture of Antibes. When you do hit the road, the scenery is gorgeous, but this road trip is very much about taking things at a leisurely pace.

Cap Ferrat as seen from the Grande Corniche road in France

Karakoram Highway, Pakistan/China

Formerly the Friendship Highway, this excitingly remote destination for a road trip was renamed after some of the (many) mountains it traverses. Cutting through sheer rock on the mountainous border between Pakistan and China, the route follows the ancient paths of the Silk Road. The highway took around 20 years to build and was opened to the public in the 1980s. This slither of grey asphalt is dwarfed by the immensity of the peaks all around it, which number the Himalayas, the Karakoram and the Hindu Kush. Gaze out your window here, and you’ll see mountains rising up to 8,000m. It’s not much of a surprise, then, that the Karakoram Highway boasts one of the highest paved roads in the world at the 4,800m Khunjerab Pass. Yes, the views are incredible, but it is also one of the best traveling routes for local culture. As you drive, you’ll pass the home villages of many different ethnic groups, such as the Ismaili and Uyghur, all fascinating to visit.

Dramatic mountains surround the Karakoram Highway in Pakistan

Make it happen

Ready to buckle up and set the coordinates for your next destination road trip? Chat with our local experts in any of these countries and start mapping out a great adventure.

  1. Japan
  2. New Zealand
  3. Canada
  4. Scotland
  5. Romania
  6. Australia
  7. France
  8. Pakistan
  9. China

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