Sunset over asphalt road (Shutterstock)
List Words : Graihagh Jackson | 03 December

10 road trip ideas where the journey is the destination

Forget the well-worn touristy highways - we think these are the best road trips in the world!

1. Saunter along Alaska's Seward Highway

If you're looking for an 'Into the Wild' road trip, Alexander Supertramp-style, this is it. Alaska is full-to-bursting with wildlife and waterfalls, brilliant blue glaciers and rugged mountains. There's enough amazing scenery here to overload a whole hard-drive with digital pictures.

Alaska's Turnagain Arm (Shutterstock)
Alaska's Turnagain Arm (Shutterstock)

Keep your eyes on the sky (if you're not behind the wheel) to spot high-flying eagles, and be sure to stop for some fresh oysters at Turnagain House in Chugach State Park.

Head to Bird Creek and hook a fresh Alaskan salmon, or watch belugas at sunset at Bird Point. Wild flowers are in full bloom during June on Mount Alyeska, so stop off and smell the freshly scented air, admire the glaciers and see if you can spot any black bears on the slopes.

How to hit the road:
Summer is the best time to drive this 127-mile route. Temperatures can be quite balmy between June and August, but do lather up on the insect repellent – locals call the mosquito the 'Alaska State bird’.

Saying that, winter road trippers have the colourful addition of the Northern Lights to guide them at night. Begin in Anchorage and head to Girdwood and Moose Pass before ending at Resurrection Bay.

2. Criss-cross Argentina's Ruta 40

This famous stretch of road through Argentina is one of the longest in the Americas. It traverses 18 major rivers and 236 bridges, touches 13 lakes and salt flats, and passes by 20 national parks. The route runs parallel to the spine of the Andes and criss-crosses all manner of eco-systems and jaw-dropping topography; in short, it's incredible. Be sure to taste the region's fine wines and perhaps – with your new-found courage – get up and tango the night away.

Route 40, Argentina (Shutterstock)
Route 40, Argentina (Shutterstock)

Explore Los Glaciers National Park and, for an aquatic adventure away from the roads, watch as the Perito Moreno glacier ruptures into Lake Argentine.

How to hit the road: The route is fairly traffic-free and runs for more than 3,000 miles from Argentina's northern border with Bolivia all the way to Cape Virgenes in the south. Stretches of the road are dirt tracks, but nothing a good-quality car can't handle.

3. Circle Oman's diverse landscapes

Travel to Oman and explore the seas of Sinbad the Great, the home of Queen Sheba, and the land where Shahrazad’s 1001 Nights stories are based. Oman has an incredibly friendly culture, with over 6,000 years of history. And what's more, the country has aged beautifully. This part of Arabia has landscapes like nowhere else: iconic deserts, luscious wadis, huge caving systems and spectacular marine life.

The numerous wadis are worth seeking out; the rivers found in steep gorges – with their towering red cliffs and aqua-waters – are perfect for wild swimming. For wildlife watchers, Ras Al Jinz is a must-see beach for its turtle population, who annually come ashore to lay eggs (September-November time is best). Watching the hatchlings amble down to the sea can be a surprisingly emotional experience.

Al Mughsayl, Salalah, Oman (Shutterstock)
Al Mughsayl, Salalah, Oman (Shutterstock)

How to hit the road: Outside cities and towns, beware of wandering camels and goats on the road. Also note that there is a zero tolerance towards drink-driving – but that doesn't stop some hair-raising driving by the locals. Generally, the quality of roads is very good. But if you're planning to travel in the desert, be sure to do it in a 4x4.

You can stick to northern Oman if you're on a tight schedule: drive south-east from Muscat to Ras Al Jinz, before heading west to the mountains to see Nizwar and Fort Bahla. Continue by heading east to the country's fascinating caves, before returning to Muscat. If you have more time, go dune bashing in the south and visit the tropical oasis of Salalah.

4. Cruise along the Amalfi Coast

Wind your way through Italy's most gorgeous stretch of coast. Amalfi is adorned with pastel-coloured houses precariously clinging to steep hills, with craggy rock faces and green mountains peeking out between them.

The best views of the Mediterranean Sea can be seen from Capo d'Orso but make sure you hike (or quicker – drive!) into the hills of Amalfi for panoramic vistas, too. The first century AD Roman ruins at Minori are also worth a wander. Dine on spectacular sea food and be sure to seek out the locals' favourite watering holes for a tipple.

Amalfi city (Shutterstock)

How to hit the road: Windy and narrow, the Amalfi Coast is famously interesting to drive. Combined with daring Italian drivers, known for their behind-the-wheel bravado, this road trip offers one of the best driving experiences in Europe.

It is recommended that road trippers hit the Amalfi Coast at the end or the beginning of high season in May or September, when the roads are less crowded with tour buses. Start in Salerno and head west to Sorrento.

5. Follow past Jamaican pirates

Jamaica was once a base for the world's most daring pirates, intent on capturing Spanish treasures. The country's history is littered with swashbuckling, and evidence of it can been seen everywhere – if you look closely enough. To get into the pirate swing of things, down a Red Stripe in Port Royal 'where buccaneers drank their beers'; gobble jerk chicken and make sure you jam to some live reggae.

Jamaican landscape with lake and palms (Shutterstock)
Jamaican landscape with lake and palms (Shutterstock)

How to hit the road: The 380-mile trip starts in the fishing village of Port Royal and travels through Negril, Round Hill and Ocho Rios before ending up in Kingston.

6. Ride around Hawaii's Big Island

Glorious Hawaii is unlike anywhere else in the United States – journey through rainforests, blond beaches and active lava flows. As you drive around the coastal roads, you'll undoubtedly feel the presence of the ancient Polynesians who invaded the island centuries ago.

Pololu Valley in Big Island, Hawaii (Shutterstock)
Pololu Valley in Big Island, Hawaii (Shutterstock)

Those with sharp eyes can spot humpback whales breaching on the northern beaches of Kohala between January and April. Stock up on malasadas (doughnuts) in Naalehu, drink plenty of the sparkling pineapple wine, and hula throughout for a true Hawaiian experience.

How to hit the road: Hawaii's 221-mile Belt Road means you can pick up the road trip anywhere you like. Visit year-round for road trips, and at Easter, hula until your heart's content at the Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo.

7. Hit new heights on the Karakoram Highway

The Karakoram Highway (also commonly known as the Friendship Highway) is the highest paved road in the world. It is the ultimate mountain-driving expedition. With your head literally in the clouds, you can cross the rocky mountain range dividing China and Pakistan, while seeking out wild snow leopards in Khunjerab National Park and spotting some of the 20,000 intricate petroglyphs (ancient rock carvings).

Karakoram Highway (Shutterstock)
Karakoram Highway (Shutterstock)

How to hit the road: The Karakoram Highway stretches 800 miles between Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, and Kashgar, an ancient Silk Road city in China’s Wild West.

As you can imagine, driving its length is not a Sunday afternoon cruise. For long stretches, the Karakoram Highway is a thin ribbon of a road, crowded with trucks, taxis and motorcycles. There are landslides. There are avalanches. And in hot summers, melt-water from the glaciers floods the road. Caution, as well as a a 4x4, is advised.

8. Experience Cornish charm

Immerse yourself in the whitewashed seaside villages and rich emerald countryside of the Cornish peninsula for the perfect combination of history and nature. Watch dolphins, basking sharks and seals off the coast of Godrevy. And if you're lucky enough, you mights spot a whale.

Make sure you hit the surf at Sennen, explore ancient wonders, and try out the acoustics at the outdoor Minack Theatre, which has been delicately carved into the cliffs. For spectacular shores, stop off at Port Cornwall for pirate caves, tunnels and high-rise cliffs, not forgetting the handsome straw-coloured sands. There's some spectacular walking to be had, too.

Mousehole Harbour near Penzance (Shutterstock)
Mousehole Harbour near Penzance (Shutterstock)

How to hit the road: Be prepared for single-track roads and lots of reversing in order to make room for others – it's all a part of the Cornish charm! Start at Penzance and loop through Helston, Falmouth, Bodmin, St Ives and Land's End before heading back to the start.

In order to make the most of the fleeting warmth that is an English summer, visit between May and August. But beware: at the height of summer, the area will be very busy – we'd recommend September, when schools have gone back and the days can still be summery.

9. Get a taste for flower power

Hay-fever sufferers, keep a safe distance! There is no landscape more plentiful in pollen than the Netherlands' Bollenstreek Route, also known as the flower route. Since the first tulip was planted in 1593, the Dutch horticulture industry has bloomed, spreading strips of colour across the once comparatively dull, low-lying plains.

Field of red tulips and windmills in Holland (Shutterstock)
Field of red tulips and windmills in Holland (Shutterstock)

A sea of tulips, hyacinths and daffodils blanket the region in April and May. Not only is there beauty-beyond-belief along the drive, but road trippers can experience fresh flower scents, flower auction houses and the public gardens showcasing them, as well as art and horticulture history museums. Don't miss Lisse's stunning 70 acre woodland park.

How to hit the road: Start in Haarlem and follow the thick ribbons of colour along Bollenstreek, passing through Lisse, and Leiden before finishing in Naaldwijk. The route is around 25 miles long and can also be completed on a bicycle.

10. Bump around New Zealand's South Island

New Zealand may be a small country, but it has some some of the most varied and rugged landscapes on Earth. With a heart-thumping array of exciting activities and sights, it's impossible to condense all the country has to offer into just three or four paragraphs.

If you're feeling brave, skydive over Fox Glacier – the flight up includes 20 minutes of spectacular views over the South Island's most beautiful mountains. For all wildlife fanatics, head north to Kaikoura (meaning 'to eat crayfish' in Maori), not just for the shellfish, but for the seals that flock to the shores. Omara in the south is also worth a visit for crowds of penguins.

Aoraki-Mount Cook National Park (Shutterstock)
Aoraki-Mount Cook National Park (Shutterstock)

Wild and dramatic scenery can be found throughout New Zealand, and Milford Sound is unforgettable with snow-capped mountains cascading into the still waters.

Lastly, Christchurch has lots of quirky 'pop-up' attractions, including pedal-powered cinemas, shipping container shopping malls and new independent art galleries.

How to hit the road: Speeds are posted in kilometres, and roads are often winding but other than that, they drive on the left-hand side, which makes this an easy jaunt for British drivers.

Most routes are circular so you can start off wherever you like. Saying that, Christchurch is a natural beginning for most since this is where the South Island's main airport is based.

Get out of the car: it's the only way to really appreciate this varied and enchanting landscape. Try your hand at kayaking, cycling, and adrenaline activities like bungee jumping and skydiving along the way.

Sunset over asphalt road (Shutterstock)

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