From Argentina’s mega-highway, Ruta 40, to the twists and turns of Italy’s Amalfi Coast drive, our round up of the world’s most beautiful roads proves that the journey is sometimes more important than the destination.
Highway One, Monterey County, California
Ranking high amongst the USA’s most scenic roads, Highway One runs almost the length of California’s coastline– from its starting point south of Los Angeles to Mendocino County in the north– but you’ll find its most scenic stretch in the Monterey region. Heading south from Monterey, Highway One passes through the beautiful seaside haven of Carmel-by-the-Sea and on to California’s rugged Big Sur coastline, featuringmagnificent cliffs, towering redwoods, and the famous Bixby Creek Bridge – just one of Monterey County’s breathtaking arch bridges.
The Atlantic Road, Norway
A driving enthusiast’s dream, Norway’s Atlantic Road stretches just over five miles, linking the villages of Vevang and Kårvåg via a beautiful archipelago and series of low-lying bridges. This breathtaking, scenic route is frequently listed amongst the world’s best road trips. Not a drive for the fainthearted, the Atlantic Road twists and turns through one of Norway’s most dramatic, storm-prone seas and across the awe-inspiring Storseisundet Bridge – the tallest of the road’s eight bridges and a curved architectural feat that, when viewed from certain angles, appears to drop off straight into the sea.
Ruta 40, Argentina
At a staggering 3,195 miles, Ruta 4 is not only the longest highway in Argentina (traversing almost its entire length), but one of the world’s longest roads, too. From its southernmost point at Cabo Vírgenes, Ruta 40 meanders through the remote plains of Patagonia, winding northwards and flanked to the west by the magnificent peaks of the Andes. It passes by pristine lakes and bustling cities before reaching its highest point at Abra del Acay (an awe-inspiring 4,952 meters above sea-level) and finally reaches its end in the border town of La Quiaca – a true showcase of Argentina’s stunningly diverse landscape.
Milford Road, New Zealand
Starting out in the lakeside town of Te Anau, the Milford Road leads drivers directly to one of the most beautiful parts of New Zealand – the South Island’s Milford Sound. A truly epic drive passing through New Zealand’s stunning Southern Alps, the Milford Road can be completed in two hours. Drivers are well advised to set aside extra time to see the sights, though – including the beautiful Mirror Lakes, perfectly reflecting the Earl Mountains and the Cleddau River with its dramatic waterfalls – before reaching the pristine serenity of Milford Sound.
Karakoram Highway, Pakistan/China
Beginning just north of Islamabad in Pakistan and ending just over 800 miles later in the city of Kashgar, in China’s Xinjiang region, the Karakoram Highway is amongst the highest paved roads in the world. It was constructed over the course of 20 years and with an elevation of around 4,700 meters at its highest point. Traversing some of the toughest, but most breathtaking terrain on the planet, the highway passes the glacial landscape of the Karakoram Mountains into China, following a path on the ancient Silk Road route.
US Route 163, Arizona/Utah
Seen on the silver screen countless times, from the 1939 western Stagecoach to cult classic Easy Rider, US Route 163 is undoubtedly one of America’s most iconic roads. An American Scenic Byway traveling through Monument Valley, the road cuts though the red rock desert and the magnificent spires of Utah and Arizona’s Navajo country, crossing the San Juan River via suspension bridge before ending in the tiny town of Bluff, a historic settlement nestled amongst spectacular 300-foot-high sandstone cliffs.
Strada Statale 163, Amalfi Coast, Italy
Navigating the twists and turns of Italy’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed Amalfi Coast, Strada Statale 163 is one of the most breathtaking roads in Europe. Starting out in the scenic city of Salerno and winding westwards along the Sorrento Peninsula, Strada Statale 163 is 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 amongst the clifftops, like Amalfi and Positano.
Tianmen Mountain Road, China
Tianmen Mountain Road dramatically snakes its way up the side of China’s Tianmenshan Mountain, and though it measures just under six miles in total, it rises a breathtaking 1,100 meters in that short distance. Often nicknamed the ‘heaven-linking avenue,’ the road leads to Tianmen Cave (or ‘Gateway to Heaven’) – a natural rock arch cut into the mountain accessed by climbing 999 steps. While navigable by bus, Tianmen Mountain Road’s 99 hairpin bends make it one of the most dangerous roads in the world. There is also the option to see the road from a cable car, though – an equally breathtaking trip suspended a dizzying 1,279 meters above the valley.
Great Ocean Road, Australia
Taking drivers along one of Australia’s most scenic stretches of coastline, 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
Winding its way from Noordhoek, a suburb of Cape Town, to the town of Hout Bay, Chapman’s Peak Drive is a five-and-a-half mile route skirting the side of its mountain namesake that takes in one of South Africa’s most spectacular coastlines. With 114 curves, flanked by both the towering mountainside and sheer drops into the Atlantic Ocean below, Chapman’s Peak Drive is a nail-biting route passing though a number of picnic spots and whale-watching vantage points that offer respite from the hair-raising drive.
Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina/Virginia
As one of the National Park Service’s most-visited attractions, the Blue Ridge Parkway has earned its nickname as ‘America’s Favorite Drive.’ The parkway spans a gloriously beautiful landscape, from the edges of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to just outside Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park. Stretching 469 miles through the rugged mountains and rolling meadows of the Appalachian Mountains, Blue Ridge Parkway passes by tiny mountain towns and scenic overlooks that boast panoramic views of the stunning scenery.
Route 1, Iceland
Iceland’s Route 1 is a ring road, running around the edges of the island nation and taking drivers through some of world’s most dramatic scenery. Setting out eastward from Iceland’s cosmopolitan capital, Reykjavik, Route 1 leads drivers on a magical tour of the country, passing stunning fjord, mountains, tiny fishing villages, and roaming wild reindeer. Must-see sights are aplenty but a couple of bucket list-worthy mentions include the stunning Seljalandsfoss waterfall, the beautiful Lake Mývatn and its hot springs, and the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon.