Open road (Graeme Green)
List Words : Wanderlust team | 09 February

9 incredible self-drive holidays from around the world

Getting behind the wheel, cruising past dramatic landscapes, pit-stopping wherever you want to... Nothing quite encapsulates freedom like a road trip, so turn the ignition for 9 trips made of Top Gear material

1: Japan

Cruise Hokkaido’s wildernesses


Akan Lake, Hokkaido, Japan (TransIndus)

In the land of pricey transportation, self-driving northern Japan on TransIndus’ Hokkaido: Land of Fire and Ice trip makes a lot of sense. 

See the sun set over Hakodate, explore Daisetsuzan NP’s peaks (including its highest, Mount Asahi), then finish on the off-the-radar Shiretoko Peninsula amid caldera lakes, whale-rich seas and relaxing thermal falls. It's pure freedom with the added bonus that you can drive on the left.

Who: TransIndus (0844 879 3960; www.transindus.co.uk)

When: Year round

How long: 15 days

How much: From £4,895 (incl flights)

 

2: Canada

Wind the west coast with whales 

 
Orca, Haro Strait, Vancouver (Discover The World)

With mountains on one side, ocean on the other, you'll enjoy getting under the skin of British Columbia with Discover the World’s Pacific Coast B&B Explorer tour. 

From Vancouver, make for Victoria’s scenic harbourfront before driving off-radar. Mix road and ferry connections to access some lesser-heralded villages, stopping en route in sleepy Salt Spring Island and rainforest-fringed Sooke, then swapping tarmac for water and whales in Ucluelet.

Who: Discover the World (01737 214250; www.discover-the-world.co.uk)

When: May-Oct

How long: 12 days

How much: From £1,213 (excl flights)

 

3: Namibia

Explore on four wheels and two feet

 
Namib Desert, Namibia (Dreamstime)

Spy big vistas from road and trail on ATI Holidays’ Walking Namibia trip. Tread wild dunescapes in the Kalahari and Namib deserts and across the rippling Sossusvlei, then take to the wheel. 

Motor to Germanic Swakopmund, pore over bush paintings and finish in Etosha NP spotting wild elephants and jackals.

Who: ATI Holidays (0808 234 9378; www.ati-holidays.com)

When: Year round

How long: 15 days

How much: From £1,883 (excl flights)

  

4: Peru

Three landscapes for the price of one

Machu Picchu, Peru (Wild Frontiers)

Chase the ever-changing horizons of the Pan-American Highway on Wild Frontiers’ Peru 4X4: Traverse the Hidden Andes trip. 

You’ll pit-stop in the Paracas Desert to see the Nazca Lines before crawling Andean ridges to Cusco’s Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, then finish in the Amazon among the wildlife of the Pampa Hermosa reserve.

Who: Wild Frontiers (020 8741 7390; www.wildfrontierstravel.com)

When: Year round

How long: 16 days

How much: From £2,980 (excl flights)

 

5: Malaysia

From bright lights to lush coast


Verdant landscape in Malaysia (Selective Asia)

Forget Asia’s reputation for car-choked tarmac. On Selective Asia’s road-friendly Malaysia Beach & Adventure Self Drive trip, you'll leave bustling Kuala Lumpur for the jungles of Belum-Temengor and hike to see its sun bears. 

Sniff out temples in Penang, finishing in the mangroves and beaches of Langkawi, where there's not a jam in sight.

Who: Selective Asia (01273 670001; www.selectiveasia.com)

When: Year round

How long: 11 days

How much: From £1,313 (excl flights)

 

6: Costa Rica

Set yourself loose

Arenal volcano, Costa Rica (Dreamstime)

Geodyssey’s Freedom Self-Drive tour is how a road trip should be: hitting the highway on the hoof (albeit with maps and a GPS). There’s no itinerary and you pick from a list of hotels as you go, bagging last minute deals. Whether you drive Costa Rica’s beach-fringed coast or skirt canyons and jungle inland, it’s a nice choice to have.

Who: Geodyssey (020 7281 7788; www.geodyssey.co.uk)

When: May-Sep

How long: 7 or 14 nights

How much: From £550 (excl flights)

 

7: Chile

4x4 across glaciers, peaks and lakes


Torres Del Paine, Chile (Journey Latin America)

Four-wheel it on a self-drive Chile trip with Journey Latin America. Beginning beneath the snow-capped Andes of hip Santiago, motor past Chile’s forest fringed, volcanic-strewn Lake District, and climax in otherworldly Patagonia by winding ice-carved valleys and sweeping glaciers on the perfect wild drive.

Who: Journey Latin America (020 3811 5482; journeylatinamerica.co.uk)

When: Year round

How long: 14 days

How much: From £3,615 (excl flights)

 

8: Finland

Drive on the wild(life) side


Bears in Finland (Regent Holidays)

Ford the rare wonders of eastern Finland on a Bears, Wolves & Wildlife Adventure with Regent Holidays. Stay in wildlife hides, spotting wolves and bears in the boreal lands near Lake Kuikka, then drive even further off-grid in Kainuu, to look for black bears and golden eagles.

Who: Regent Holidays (020 7666 1290; www.regent-holidays.co.uk)

When: May-Aug

How long: 7 days

How much: From £1,819 (incl flights)

 

9: New Zealand

Blaze the wine trail


Milford Sound, New Zealand (Dreamstime)

Explore vineyards galore on New Zealand In Depth’s Top Wines of New Zealand road trip. Sip merlots in Hawke’s Bay, rieslings in Marlborough, and finish with a pinot noir in cosmopolitan Queenstown, toasting your journey in front of the yawning fjords of Milford Sound.

Who: New Zealand In Depth (01298 74040; newzealand-indepth.co.uk)

When: Sep-Feb

How long: 10 days

How much: From £2,200 (excl flights)

 

Main image: Open road (Graeme Green)