Quebrada de Cafayate, Salta, Argentina (Shutterstock: see credit below)
List 19 February

12 of the best self-drive trips

Hitting the open road, stopping when you feel like it, cruising where the wind takes you... Here's how to make your road trip dream a reality

While a sense of freedom is key to enjoying a self-drive, booking a tailormade road trip is perfect for ensuring that you don’t miss any of the best sights, that you secure the most characterful accommodation and that you maximise your time – as well as providing a safety net should anything go awry. Here are 12 trips to get you all revved up.

1. 4WD across the African wilds, Namibia

Self-Drive Roof-Top Camping, Rainbow Tours
14 days, from £2,195 (incl flights)

Sossusvlei, Namibia (Shutterstock)
Sossusvlei, Namibia (Shutterstock)

Want to pitch a tent, cook your own supper and sleep under a million stars? Then Rainbow Tours’ new Self-Drive Roof-Top Camping trip is the perfect adventure. Get behind the wheel of a 4WD – complete with easy-to-assemble roof-top tent – and discover the giant sand dunes of Sossusvlei, wildlife-rich Etosha, the desert elephants of Damaraland and the seal colonies and shipwrecks of the Atlantic coast.

2. Travel from coast to crater, Chile

Vineyards & Volcanoes, Pura Aventura
16 days, from £2,050 (excl flights)

View from Villarrica volcano, Chile (Shutterstock)
View from Villarrica volcano, Chile (Shutterstock)

Pura Aventura’s Vineyards & Volcanoes tour will introduce you to the wonders of central Chile, especially its great outdoors. Visit the vivid stilt houses of Chiloé island, Colchagua’s fine wine estates, smoking Villarrica volcano, the monkey-puzzle forests of Huerquehue NP and the hot springs of Huife, staying in local hotels and inns en route. And no problem if you want to stretch your legs: you’ll get maps and walking notes too.

3. Venture to Middle Earth, New Zealand

Middle Earth Hobbiton Adventure,  DialAFlight
13 nights, from £2,995 (incl flights)

Mount Cook and Pukaki lake, New Zealand (Shutterstock)
Mount Cook and Pukaki lake, New Zealand (Shutterstock)

Join DialAFlight’s Middle Earth Hobbiton Adventure to do a virtual drive through the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies. This Auckland-Queenstown roadtrip winds via the Hobbiton set, bubbling Rotorua, Tongariro NP (aka ‘Mt Doom’), Mt Cook and more, with the dramatic landscapes that brought Tolkien to life ever-present out of the window.

4. Journey from onsen to onsen, Japan

Kyushu Self-drive, Audley
17 days, from £3,320 (incl flights)

Crater of the volcano Aso, Japan (Shutterstock)
Crater of the volcano Aso, Japan (Shutterstock)

Japan’s third-largest island, Kyushu, is bursting with natural attractions, from the volcanic peaks of Aso-Kuju NP and the waterfalls of Takachiho Gorge, to the hot springs of Kurokawa, nestled in the foothills of Mount Aso. On Audley’s Kyushu Self-drive trip, experience all this and more, under your own steam.

5. Cruise vineyard valleys, Argentina

Driving Northwest Argentina, Steppes Travel
16 days, from £3,995 (incl flights)

Scenic road in northern Argentina (Shutterstock)
Scenic road in northern Argentina (Shutterstock)

Follow the route of the Tren de las Nubes, (train of the clouds) on Steppes Travel’s self-drive Northwest Argentina trip. After a stop in vibrant Buenos Aires, head to Salta, to drive through the UNESCO-listed Humahuaca Gorge into a world of Andean villages, rainbow hills, orange deserts, flamingoes and truly fine wines.

6. Traverse the wild west, Tasmania

Western Explorer: to the Edge of the World, Discover the World
9 nights, from £1,307 (excl flights)

Strahan Village in Tasmania (Shutterstock)
Strahan Village in Tasmania (Shutterstock)

Discover the World's Western Explorer: to the Edge of the World trip is all about getting off the beaten track in the wilderness. Explore the pristine Tarkine rainforest, look for Tasmanian devils, hit the harbour-side village of Strahan and visit both penguin and penal colonies.

7. Blaze an icy trail, Iceland

The West and Snæfellsnes, Artisan Travel
7 nights, from £2,090 (incl flights)

Iceland road landscape (Shutterstock)
Iceland road landscape (Shutterstock)

Jules Verne picked Snæfellsjökull as the start point for his Journey to the Centre of the Earth; see it, and you can see why. And this majestic stratovolcano is just one of the sights on Artisan Travel’s The West and Snæfellsnes 4WD trip, along with 196m Glymur Waterfall, the long, white beach of Löngufjörur and the old horse trail and lake at Neðstavatn.

8. Take a wild drive in Québec, Canada

Québec’s Bears, Whales & Moose, Wildlife Worldwide
7 nights, from £2,195 (incl flights)

Saguenay, Quebec, Canada (Shutterstock)
Saguenay, Quebec, Canada (Shutterstock)

Tick off some classic species on Wildlife Worldwide’s Québec’s Bears, Whales & Moose self-drive trip. Visit Saguenay Fjord to spot ghostly belugas, then head north into the vast Réserve des Laurentides to look for black bears, moose and beavers from a canoe, and to hike in the wilderness.

9. Drive cross-country, Malaysia

Malaysia Self-Drive, Selective Asia
9 days, from £1,605 (incl flights)

Jeep drive to plantation, Malaysia (Shutterstock)
Jeep drive to plantation, Malaysia (Shutterstock)

Take Selective Asia’s Malaysia Self-Drive tour to discover the peninsula in just nine days. Using an expressway that runs across the country, you’re spoilt for stop-off choice: laidback, historic Malacca; UNESCO-listed Penang; the undulating Cameron Highlands; the Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat; foodie heaven Georgetown. It’s all at your own pace, staying in heritage hotels en route.

10. Get behind the wheel in South America, Ecuador

4x4 Self-Drive Ecuador, Sunvil Traveller
10 nights, from £3,995 (incl flights)

Cotopaxi volcano and wild horses (Shutterstock)
Cotopaxi volcano and wild horses (Shutterstock)

Ecuador is a country well suited to self-drive trips: think incredible scenery, rich culture, jagged mountains and abundant wildlife. On Sunvil Traveller’s 4x4 self-drive trip you’ll cruise the open roads from Quito to Cuenca, driving through the heart of the Andes along ‘the avenue of the volcanoes’. Stop at Imbabura, an inactive stratovolcano, spot rare birds like the yellow-collared chlorophonia in Mindo, and shop for Panamanian hats in Cuenca.

11. Embark on a 4WD challenge, Australia

Kimberley Uncovered, Audley
19 days, from £5,300 (incl flights)

Purnululu National Park, Western Australia (Shutterstock)
Purnululu National Park, Western Australia (Shutterstock)

Audley’s Kimberley Uncovered tour is one for bold travellers. From the striking Purnululu National Park – a UNESCO-listed paradise home to the imposing Bungle Bungle mountain range – to the beautiful coastal town of Broome, every destination will be a new adventure. Even the overnights, in remote bush camps and relaxing homesteads, are unforgettable.

12. Trace an ancient Himalayan trade route, India

Trans-Himalayan Odyssey, TransIndus
15 days, from £2,978 (incl flights)

Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India (Shutterstock)
Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India (Shutterstock)

Here’s one for the motorbike enthusiasts. Transindus’s Trans-Himalayan Odyssey begins with a train journey from Delhi to Amritsar, where you’ll explore the grand abode of the Dalai Lama himself. From there you’ll get on two wheels and ride the historical India-Tibet road, heading into the desert mountain gorge that is Spiti Valley before taking in Tabo, Kaza and the high-altitude village of Kibber too. Your voyage will end with a narrow gauge railway trip out of the hills and back to Delhi.

Main image: Quebrada de Cafayate, Salta, Argentina (Shutterstock)

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