The best road trips in the world

If you’re dreaming of setting out to hit the open road, look no further. This is our pick of the best road trips in the world, from majestic day-trips to week-long epics.

road trips

1. Cabot Trail, Canada

This 298km road traverses the island of Cape Breton, arguably the most beautiful part of Nova Scotia. The highlight of the trail is the northern section. This takes you through the magnificent Cape Breton Highlands National Park, home to bald eagles, moose and black bears. Take the journey at a leisurely pace to explore charming small villages where the French and Scottish influence is still obvious.

2. The Garden Route, South Africa

The lush, slender stretch of coastal plain between Mossel Bay and Storms River Mouth makes for an easy and beautiful introduction to South Africa. As you drive you’ll see mountains and vineyards on one side and rocky shores and sandy beaches on the other. The coast is at its most dramatic at Storms River Mouth. Abandon your wheels here to walk the trails, with the surf pounding the rocks below you.

3. Columbia River Gorge, USA

Travelling east out of Portland, Oregon, Interstate-84 winds its way beside the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. Though it’s just 112km long and easily covered in one day, a few days will enable you to get the most out of the area. Take your time soaking up the views of the USA’s second-longest river, and its many dramatic waterfalls.

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4. San Juan Skyway, USA

This 380km drive through Colorado’s dramatic San Juan Range will take you past gushing streams and waterfalls in spring, bright wildflowers in summer, and snowy slopes in winter. However, this fabulous route is at its most spectacular in autumn, when the landscape is ablaze with the yellows, oranges and reds of the leaves. It’s also one of the reasons that we think makes Colorado one of the most beautiful states in the USA.

5. Gobi Desert, Mongolia

Off-road to your heart’s content in the Gobi Desert, where kilometre after kilometre of nothingness stretches out around you. This truly remote region has a rugged beauty – not least the sand dunes of Khongoryn Els. When you get tired of being behind the wheel, explore on camelback and spend your nights at a traditional Ger camp.

6. South Island Circuit, New Zealand

The South Island is where New Zealand’s landscape is at its most remarkable. Driving around it at your own pace allows you to really soak up the many varied vistas, stopping for an adrenalin fix every now and again. Arguably the most stunning part of the drive is between Te Anau and Milford Sound, which crosses tranquil Fiordland and some of the Southern Alps.

7. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Driving across the perfectly flat white expanse of the world’s largest salt lake, it’s easy to believe you’re on another planet. After it rains, the salt flats are turned into an enormous mirror. In the reflection, you’ll see the mountain peaks that surround the area. When dry, the surface is so intensely white that it appears to be ice. At night, the landscape is illuminated by the eerie white glow of the moon. There are plenty of adventures to be had in Bolivia, too – start with these beautiful journeys across the country.

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8. Costa Smeralda, Sardinia

Sardinia’s beautiful northern coast, the Costa Smeralda (or “Emerald Coast”), sees the meeting of dramatic headlands and turquoise waters. This is the island’s best-known resort area, with a reputation for glitzy opulence. Visit in late spring or early autumn for the best experience; quieter roads, beautiful weather, and uncrowded beaches.

9. Iceland’s ring road

A 1,339-kilometre road that runs right around the island, the N1 enables you to enjoy Iceland’s awe-inspiring scenery. Drive past fertile valleys and snow-capped mountains to lava fields, vivid blue fjords and volcanic craters. This beautiful, if brutal, landscape of big open spaces is perfect for exploring on four wheels.

10. The Karakoram Highway, Pakistan

The highest paved road in the world, the Karakoram Highway connects China and Pakistan. Along the way, it crosses the rocky mountain range that separates the two countries. Undoubtedly one of the world’s most stunning routes, the journey takes you through some seriously epic scenery. You’ll see towering snow-capped mountains, rocky gorges and pale blue rivers, not to mention past numerous pieces of rock art, which date back as far as 1000BC.