You grab your keys, jump in the driver’s seat, and start the engine. Buckle up, turn the radio on, and put the car in drive. With the windows down and the open road ahead, there’s nothing left to do but go. Wherever you are in the world right now, you’re probably feeling that desire to just go — with that in mind, these are 9 of the very best road trips in the world.
Near or far, long or short, road trips are often the most satisfying of journeys. By physically driving the distance between places you get to know the landscapes of the world more intimately than if you had taken a plane. If you’re itching to get behind the wheel, check out these nine incredible road-trip locations around the world.
Route 66, USA
Arguably the most famous route of all, Route 66 is known as the “Main Street of America” and the “Mother Road.” Established in 1926, this stretch of pavement has become a cultural institution, signifying the very freedom that comes with hitting the open road. Crossing through seven different states, from Illinois to California, this 2,448-mile (3,940-kilometer) route served as a main thoroughfare for those heading west throughout the 1900s (most notably during the Dust Bowl of the 30s). The development of the U.S. Highway System may have caused the end of the “official” route, but it’s still possible to drive portions of historic Route 66 and finish your road trip on the highway.
Ring Road, Iceland
National Road 1, or the Ring Road, loops the entire country of Iceland in a circular route that’s become as well-known as the elves that supposedly hide in every incredible Icelandic landscape. The 838-mile (1,332-kilometer) roadway passes volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls, lagoons, black-sand beaches, valleys, lava fields, and geothermal pools. Needless to say, it’s a stunning and essential way to explore Iceland — just be sure to leave plenty of days to do so!
Highway One, California
This particularly scenic route runs the length of California’s Pacific Coast, passing through major cities and small towns with the mighty ocean always on one side. Designated an “All-American Road,” Highway One stretches from Dana Point in Orange County to Leggett in Mendocino County — a total of 655 miles (1,055 kilometers). Providing access to beaches, parks, and some of the state’s most popular cities, this coastal highway is a favorite of visitors and California residents alike.
The Great Ocean Road, Australia
Spanning 151 miles (243 kilometers) across Victoria, the Great Ocean Road hugs the coast and treats those who drive it to views of beaches, lighthouses, rainforests, coastal towns, wildlife, and the towering rock formations known as the Twelve Apostles. The Great Ocean Road is not only stunning, it’s also the world’s largest war memorial — built by former soldiers between 1919 and 1932 to memorialize those who were killed during battle in WWI. Roadtrippers with a keen eye will notice an array of exotic animals on the drive from Torquay to Allansford — anteaters, kangaroos, penguins, koalas, kookaburras, parrots, and a host of other creatures call this region home.
Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland
If lush, green landscapes and wild scenery are on your preferred viewing list, look no further than Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. It may be considerably younger than some of the other routes on this list (as it was just launched in 2014), but it packs a punch. Running 1,550 miles (2,500 kilometers) from the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal to Kinsale in County Cork, the Wild Atlantic Way winds along stunning cliffsides, crumbling castles, colorful coastal towns, and breathtaking countryside. And, with easy-to-identify signs marking the way (just follow the blue zigzagged line), no GPS is necessary!
Icefields Parkway, Canada
A desire to detach from technology is essential for a drive along the Icefields Parkway in Alberta, as there’s no cell coverage whatsoever. This route runs 140 miles (230 kilometers) through two of Canada’s most beloved national parks — Jasper and Banff. The journey includes views of wildlife, limestone cliffs, towering waterfalls, and, usually, its namesake icefields (snow is common year round). Though it’s possible to drive the entire length in just a few hours, you’ll likely need more time because of all the stops you’ll be making to admire the scenery.
The Garden Route, South Africa
South Africa’s Garden Route features the best of the best along its 190 miles (300 kilometers) — the old-fashioned harbor town Mossel Bay, the towering Tsitsikamma Mountains, the vast open space in Wilderness National Park, the seaside setting of Sedgefield, and the adventurous offerings of the Eastern Cape. All the while, the drive takes you along a route with the ocean on one side and mountains and vineyards on the other. It’s the perfect introduction to the southernmost African country.
South Island Circuit, New Zealand
This circular route around New Zealand’s southern island takes roadtrippers to many of the country’s most incredible sights. Spot wildlife in the Catlins, see Edwardian and Victorian architecture in Dunedin, admire stunning fjord views in Te Anau and Milford Sound, and pass through coastal towns, dense rainforest, and snow-covered mountains along the way. The three- to five-day journey is chock full of the majestic beauty New Zealand is known for.
The Atlantic Road, Norway
The designation of “shortest road trip” on this list goes to the Atlantic Road in Norway. At just 5.2 miles (8.3 kilometers), this length of road may be little, but it is fierce. The Atlantic Road passes through a series of small islands and islets connected by causeways and bridges between the island of Averøy and mainland Norway. Considered the “Engineering Feat of the Century,” this short stretch of road looks completely different depending on the day. A journey along this roadway promises wildlife sightings when the water is calm, spectacular sunsets on clear days, and dramatic wind and rain during stormy weather. No matter when you make the drive, it’ll be a trip to remember.
Have you got a route that you think ranks as one of the best road trips in the world? Let us know on Twitter!