Sometimes, it’s all about the journey and not the destination. Just imagine being alone in a car with nothing but hundreds of kilometers of winding roads, unusual terrain and spectacular scenery stretched out before you. This kind of journey can be an adventure in of itself. No tours or all-inclusive resorts necessary: after stocking up on fuel and snacks, setting out on an adventure of a lifetime through mountains, woods, coastline and other incredible natural landscapes.
Many roads have their own charms, but there are certain highways in the world that truly stand out as being a cut above the rest. Beautiful or harrowing (and sometimes both), the following highways are certainly going to remain in the memories of anyone who takes a road trip on them and are well worth travelling at least once in a lifetime.
Atlantic Ocean Road in Norway
This short section of County Road 64 in Norway runs through an archipelago that is simply spectacular. The road, which takes drivers from one quaint village to the next, passes by an unsheltered part of the Norwegian Sea and connects an island with the mainland peninsula. The road is built on several small islands that are connected by causeways, viaducts and bridges. The road, considered one of the best places to drive in the world, is a popular site for filming car commercials. Scenery aside, the bridges themselves are scenic and unforgettable, some looking like modern feats of architecture for the way they seamlessly integrate with the scenery, and the drive is filled with many opportunities to glimpse the ocean and ocean life, including whales and seals.
Hana Highway in Maui
Hana Highway in Maui, Hawaii is one of the most beautiful drives in the United States. The highway takes drivers through lush tropical rainforest. Despite its beauty, it is also one of the most harrowing drives in the United States. Although it is only 54 miles (or 84 kilometers) long, the road, which connects Kahului with the town of Hana in Maui, actually takes around 2.5 hours to drive because it is narrow and has many winds, twists and turns. The road passes over 59 bridges (most of which are only one lane), including some that are over 100 years old, and there are over 600 curves along the route.
Rohtang Pass, India
If the drive isn’t hampered by massive landslides, inclement weather and unpredictable traffic, a trip along Rohtang Pass in India proves to be one of the most spectacular in the world, offering views of glaciers, mountain peaks and rivers. Even though it is open only from May to November, it is still considered dangerous because it is prone to unpredictable snowstorms and blizzards. The pass is an ancient trade route and today is one of the busiest routes in the summer months because of both tourism and also because it is used as a route for military vehicles and trucks. Snow and ice in certain parts of the road and other rough terrain also make it a little slow and harrowing to drive, but if you are slowed down, at least you’ll have plenty of time to soak in some of the most unusual scenery in the world.
Col de l’Iseran, France
Col de l’Iseran is the highest paved pass in the Alps. Located near France’s border with Italy, it is a spectacular part of the larger “Route des Grandes Alpes” (or, Road of the Alps). It connects two valleys and includes galleries and tunnels. On the northern side of the road are popular ski resorts. The road is only accessible in the summer months, though in the winter the area is accessed by a series of pistes and ski lifts. Nearby are waterfalls and other scenic areas. It is a memorable sight to see and has been used in a challenging stretch in the Tour de France.
National Route 40 (Ruta 40), Argentina
This incredible highway spans 3,000 miles from the arid northern border of Argentina to the country’s cool, mountainous southern tip, crossing a huge variety of landscapes. It also runs parallel to the massive Andes Mountains the entire stretch. While it is well-maintained and paved in the northern and central parts of the country, the southern part of the route is largely unpaved as the area is so sparsely populated, and as such, has become a destination for adventure tourists. Ruta 40 is one of the largest highways in the world, crossing 20 national parks, dozens of rivers, dozens of mountain passes and its highest point is 5,000 m (or 16,404 feet).
US 1 from Key Largo to Key West, Florida
This drive is about as idyllic and scenic as you can get. Imagine endless blue ocean spread out before your eyes, and that is exactly what this drive encompasses. US1 is a major north-south highway running from Maine all the way down to Florida, but it’s the Florida Keys part that is especially unforgettable. The highway runs through the island chain, connecting the system of islands with long bridges passing over warm waters and coral reefs. At certain times during the drive, it appears as though you are simply driving on the ocean itself. After enjoying such a paradise of a drive, it might actually be disappointing to arrive at your destination.
Trollstigen Road, Norway
The translation of the name of this road literally means “troll ladder,” and is a name befitting the road as it is a steep, winding road with a waterfall at the top. The serpentine shape of the road connects a town to a small village, and is a popular tourist destination because it is narrow, has 11 hairpin bends on a steep mountainside, making it a harrowing drive. Since drivers will be concentrating on the road, there is a car park at the top with viewing areas overlooking the road and a waterfall. It is usually closed in the winter.
The Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia, Canada
Canada has a lot of natural beauty and its highway system shows it off coast to coast, but Cabot Trail, which is in Nova Scotia, is a particularly memorable stretch to drive. It runs through the Cape Breton Highlands and was constructed as part of an effort to attract tourists to the region and promote its Scottish feel and heritage. The northern part of this highway passes through Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The western and eastern parts of the highway follow the rugged coastline and provide views of the ocean.
The Milford Road (State Highway 94), New Zealand
New Zealand is notorious for its mountains and rivers, and this road is one of the country’s most scenic to drive along. It’s one of the highest highways in terms of elevation in the country, and also one of the country’s more dangerous public roads. It passes through townships and a tunnel called the Homer Tunnel, and crosses the Main Divide of the Southern Alps. The scenery is reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings movies.
The Blue Ridge Parkway in Appalachia
This drive is considered one of the most beautiful in the United States. The parkway runs 469 miles (755 km) through Virginia and North Carolina along the Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is a part of the Appalachian mountains. The drive encompasses spectacular mountain scenery, beautiful rivers and creeks, and limestone caves. The southernmost part of the highway ends at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. Although it is not considered a National Park in itself, it is the most visited place within the National Park system in the United States.