Our planet is paved with 11-million miles of roadways with amazing scenery and the expectation of adventure. Some roads are so stunningly beautiful they became iconic destinations on their own. Our round-up of the world’s most beautiful roads proves the journey is sometimes more important than the destination.
Highway 1, California
It runs almost the length of California’s coastline, from its starting point south of Los Angeles to Mendocino County in the north. Arguably, the most scenic stretch is in the Monterey region because it passes through Carmel-by-the-Sea and on to California’s rugged Big Sur coastline. It features cliffs, towering redwoods, and the famous Bixby Creek Bridge. Overall, this highway spans just over 120 miles and can be driven in about five hours.
Ruta 40, Argentina
It’s one of the longest highways in Argentina, spanning almost the entire country’s length. It’s also one of the world’s longest roads at 3,195 miles. Most of the highway runs alongside and sometimes within the Andes Mountain range, passing through some of the most extraordinary landscapes on the planet and connecting 20 national parks. One of the most spectacular views along the way is of the Fitzroy and Cerro Torres ranges which kick in when you get close to El Chalten in Southern Patagonia. It passes by lakes and cities before reaching its highest point at Abra del Acay (4,952m above sea-level) and finally reaches its end in the border town of La Quiaca.
Strada Statale 163, Amalfi Coast, Italy
Known as one of the most breathtaking roads in Europe. Strada Statale 163 starts in the scenic city of Salerno and winds westwards along the Sorrento Peninsula. It’s a daredevil drive flanked by towering cliffs on one side and the beautiful blue of the Mediterranean Sea to the other. Traveling the road’s coastal stretch takes drivers past picturesque, pastel-painted villages set dramatically among the clifftops, like Amalfi and Positano. In 1997 it was awarded a coveted spot on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. The scenic Strada Statale 163 winds for about 50 miles along the shoreline and cliffs of the Sorrento Peninsula, with plenty of viewpoints along the way to take in the spectacular coastal views.
Tianmen Mountain Road, China
Named for the the mountain it runs alongside of, China’s Tianmenshan Mountain Road measures just under six miles in total and is often nicknamed the “heaven-linking avenue.” The road will take you to Tianmen Cave, also known as “Gateway to Heaven.” The cave is a natural rock arch cut into the mountain accessed by climbing 999 steps.
Great Ocean Road, Australia
The Great Ocean Road stretches over 150 miles, from the town of Torquay in the east to just outside Warrnambool in the west. Built by Australian soldiers and completed in 1932, the road is a tribute to the region’s World War I servicemen and women and was recently added to Australia’s National Heritage List. Driving its full length takes road-trippers past sights such as the Great Otway National Park, with its magnificent waterfalls and the towering limestone stacks known as the Twelve Apostles.
Chapman’s Peak Drive, South Africa
This road runs alongside the mountain namesake that takes in one of South Africa’s most spectacular coastlines. The 5.6 miles route, with its 114 curves is flanked by both the towering mountainside and sheer drops into the Atlantic Ocean 1,768 feet below. The drive is affectionately known as “Chappies” and offers stunning 180-degree views with many areas along the route where you can stop to take in the exquisite scenery.
Route 1, Iceland
Known as a ring road, Route 1 runs around the edges of the island nation, taking drivers through some of the world’s most dramatic scenery. Route 1 leads drivers on a magical tour of the country, passing stunning fjords, mountains, tiny fishing villages, and roaming wild reindeer.
Transfagarasan Highway, Romania
The Transfagarasan Highway in Romania has been named by Top Gear as one of the world’s best driving roads. It’s dotted with endless twists, turns and spooky, pitch-black tunnels. The longest tunnel is more than 2,600 feet long. The winding road from Cartisoara goes south to Curtea de Arges then zigzags from Transylvania into Muntenia, and later ascends to 6,673 feet, to the highest peak in Romania, the Moldoveanu Peak.
Icefields Parkway, Alberta, Canada
This parkway is one of Canada’s national treasures. It stretching 144 miles through the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains’ World Heritage Site. The journey offers access to a vast wilderness of pristine mountain lakes, ancient glaciers, exciting wildlife, and broad sweeping valleys. This special travel route winds its way through the National Parks of Banff and Jasper, boasting a unique and irreplaceable landscape rich in history and natural beauty second to none.
La Route des Grandes Alpes, France
Running from Lake Geneva down to the seaside town of Menton, near Nice, this incredible route is only open between June and October, once the snow has melted. It takes you along 17 of the highest mountain passes in Europe. At 425 miles long, La Route des Grandes Alpes is a spectacular journey that allows you to experience both the charms of the Mediterranean and the austere beauty of the French Alps in one go.
These are only a few awesome roads that lend themselves for epic drives. There are plenty more out there, so go on – take a vacation and submit images from your favorite road in the comments below.