When you reach your 40s, you’ve learned to appreciate the maxim that it’s not the destination but the journey that truly matters. That is especially true of these roads, which offer jaw-dropping scenery, memorable stops, and plenty of tight turns and white-knuckle moments of guardrail-free driving. Whether you are looking for a leisurely drive or a serious test of your nerves and driving skills, these roads will offer an ideal outing. And if you’re looking for the right ride for your journey, check out the best 10 new cars under $30,000.
Highway 1, Big Sur, California
This north-south state highway running along the Pacific coastline, is one of the most scenic drives in the world, with mountains towering above you on one side and the stunning ocean on the other. The drive includes plenty of photo-ops and landmarks such as the Bixby Creek Bridge and McWay falls and Cove. And for fans of ocean views, also check out the 7 Best Beach Towns for Celebrating Christmas.
Furka Pass, Switzerland
As seen in a certain famous car chase in James Bond’s Goldfinger, this impressive pass in the central Swiss Alps is part of the “Big 3” passes near Andermatt, Switzerland. It offers a killer climb for drivers going from east to west, and plenty of stunning scenery.
The Atlantic Road, Norway
Also known as “The Road in the Ocean,” this stretch takes you along lush coastal landscapes to bare rocks along the exposed Hustadvika, along a road that dips and curves and leaves you feeling like you could fall into the sea at any moment. And for more great travel tips, check out 20 Ways to Make Travel Less Stressful.
White Rim Road, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
This 100-mile-long stretch of off-road driving in southeastern Utah’s Canyonlands National Park takes you below the upper plateau of the Island in the Sky District, and between the Colorado and Green Rivers. The road winds, bordered by cliffs on one side and perilous cliffs on the other. And for more amazingly scenic locations, here are the 20 Most Zen Places on Earth.
Tianmen Mountain Road, Hunan, China
This 6.8-mile stretch, known alternately as Tianmen Shan Big Gate Road, reaches a high point of more than 4,200 feet above sea level, to as low as 656 feet above sea level. It creates a stunning, winding drive.
North Coast 500, Scotland
If you’re looking to take in the majesty of the Scottish Highlands, this is the route for you. It begins in the northern city of Inverness, then moving along the west coast before heading northwards, moving through some of the most striking northern points of attraction in Caithness and John o’ Groats before heading back down south again back to Inverness. And if you’re flying anywhere soon, know this Secret That Will Save You On Airfare.
Stelvio Pass, Italy
Top Gear voted this the best driving road in the world in 2008, this mountain pass through the European Alps takes you through 48 switchback turns as you climb the north face, before heading back down toward the town of Bormio, taking in a number of terrific cites along the way. And if you’d like to tackle Stelvio Pass with some extra muscle, here are 10 New Cars That Are Instant Collectibles.
Guoliang Tunnel Road, China
One of the trickiest roads in the world to drive, this narrow stretch twists and dips through a three-quarter-mile tunnel high in the Taihang Mountains of the Henan Province, China.
Sani Pass, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
This road is not for the faint of heart, demanding the use of a 4×4 vehicle as you watch out for threats from Mother Nature ranging from landslides to snowfall and intense rains. Even in the best of conditions you’ll be driving over rocks and pits in the road—but the effort is worth it, especially considering the spectacular views of the Drakensberg and gorgeous flowers growing along the roadside.
Ruta 40, Argentina
The longest route in Argentina, this is a terrific drive for those looking for a bit of adventure tourism, taking you through sparsely populated areas where you will be the only person on the road for 100 miles. You’ll want to take a look at the weather report before you attempt this one, though, as snow tires are required many times throughout the year to handle the surfaces of asphalt, gravel, and sand.
Great Ocean Road, Australia
Stretching from just outside Melbourne to Warrnambool on the southwestern coast of Victoria, this 150-mile stretch offers a terrific tour of the southern coast of Australia, including native wildlife, lush rainforest, and refreshing waterfalls.
Karakoram Highway, China/Pakistan
Watch out for avalanches, landslides, flooding, and serious snow while traveling this 800-mile highway—the highest international road in the world. With impressive views of K2 and a shear rock on one side and no barrier on the other, this is not for those who easily get altitude sickness.
Yukon Golden Circle, North America
A journey through pristine rivers and lakes and vast forests filled with wildlife, with no shortage of scenic stops along this 379-mile circle through some of the most northern parts of North America. Pro tip: Take a week or so for the journey to really enjoy the many sites as you travel along.
Trollstigen, aka “Troll Ladder,” Norway
This winding mountain road through the Rauma Municipality of Norway is made of 11 hairpin bends and steep inclines that create a thrilling ladder to climb when the weather is being cooperative (from Mid-May to October). Stop along the way to check out the souvenir shops, stunning scenery, and “Troll Crossing” signs.
Winding 56 miles and dotted with hairpin turns, this “Road to the Sky” twists and sharply descends through Moldoveanu and Negoiu (the highest peaks in Romania). Built in the 1970s, it connects regions of Transylvania and Wallachia and climbs as high as 6,699 feet. Be sure to stop along the southern section of the road to see Poenari Castle—home of Dracula inspiration Vlad the Impaler.
Snaefell Mountain Road, Isle of Man
Found in the mountains of this charming British Isle, this 15-mile road includes some sharp and blind curves as you head up the mountain, making it a popular (and occasionally deadly) drive for the adventurous—as well as the course for the annual Isle of Man TT.
Seven Mile Bridge, Florida Keys
Connecting Florida’s Middle Keys to the Lower Keys, Henry Flagler originally constructed this as part of his Florida East Coast Railway’s Key West Extension, though a new bridge was constructed for cars in the early 1980s. Originally known as Knights Key Bridge, it now makes for a terrific, leisurely drive or jogging route (despite the best efforts of the occasional hurricane).
Serra da Leba pass, Angola
Reaching elevations of over 6,000 feet, this will take you through multiple climate zones as you drive its guard-rail-free curves. One mile-long section includes seven hairpin turns, zig-zagging over what is known as the “beautiful precipice.”
German Alpine Road, Germany
Driving along this road, which stretches 280 miles from the city of Lindau on Lake Constance to Berchtesgaden on Lake Königssee, you can take in some of the best views in the country. With the Bavarian Alps as your backdrop, stop along the way at more than 20 stunning lakes, valleys, pastures, and castles.
Stretching 30,000 miles from North America to South America, this is not a road trip you can tackle in a weekend, but driving just a section of it offers rich attractions and no shortage of pit stops (indeed it’s the most popular overland route in the world) as it crosses mountains, deserts, jungles, and even glaciers, going from Argentina to Alaska.
Friendship Highway, China–Nepal
This scenic route of 500 miles connects Tibet’s capital of Lhasa to the border of China/Nepal. It offers an epic overland journey of winding mountain drives, sharp and blind curves, and hairpin switchbacks as you cruise over the westernmost part of China National Highway 318 from Lhasa west to Lhatse then south to Nepal.
Lindis Pass, New Zealand
Found between the towns of Cromwell and Omarama on the South Island of New Zealand, this road reaches an elevation of 3,186 feet, but can be made in less than an hour, with views of grassy hilltops and snowy ridges throughout.
Bollenstreek Route, Netherlands
This 25-mile scenic drive also known as the “Flower Route,” follows asphalted roads as it heads south to Leiden in South Holland. You can stop at charming villages or the major cities of Haarlem and Leiden (with memorable history and scenic canals) as you go, or stop and smell the tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils in the fields along the way.
Tail of the Dragon, North Carolina-Tennessee
Taking 318 curves in 11 miles, it’s no wonder this is the most popular motorcycle road in the U.S. This portion of Route 129 weaves through dense forests, as drivers take such intimidating curves as Copperhead Corner, Hog Pen Bend, and Gravity Cavity. Make sure to check out the Tree of Shame, where bits of crashed motorcycles hang from a tree as a warning to those who might not take this drive seriously.
Quiraing Pass, Scotland
On the northernmost summit of the Trotternish in Scotland’s Isle of Skye, this scenic drive goes along a single-track asphalted road, offering steep gradients and tight bends as it winds through the landscape between the towns of Uig and Staffin. Reaching 17 percent gradients, it continues to shift today, requiring annual road repairs to its base.
A888 Barra Ring Road, Scotland
Another challenging Scottish road, this one a one-way circular drive around the isle of Barra, A888 runs 13 miles and offers easy access to any other part of the island, giving plenty of photo opportunities to capture the majestic beaches or rocky bays as you go.
Patiopoulo-Perdikaki Road, Greece
Running about 15 miles, this mountain road is set on the northeastern part of Aetolia-Acarnania, Greece, offering twists and turns on a narrow, rail-less road.
Col de Turini, France
One of the most scenic drives in all of Europe, if not the world, this high mountain pass through the French Alps is a stage of the Monte Carlo Rally, thanks to its narrow road and hairpin turns as it winds up the side of the mountain. On a clear day, the views are astonishing.
Jacob’s Ladder, Tasmania
Climbing this road up to Ben Lomond Mountain will take you through eucalyptus forests and around hairpin turns before reaching the plateau and elevations of 5,150 feet. Take advantage of the lookout platform at the top of the Ladder where you can survey the towering cliffs and the daunting road you just climbed.
De Beer’s Pass, South Africa
This high mountain pass in South Africa’s Kwa Zulu-Natal province goes along an at an elevation of 5,649 feet above sea level. Also called S61, it connects the city of Ladysmith with the neighboring Harrismith and includes a number of sharp curves but no shortage of impressive scenery.
Seward Highway, Alaska
A drive along this 125-mile route through Alaska takes you through some of the most impressive landscape in Alaska, through the lush pines and mountains of the Chugach National Forest, past the pristine Summit Lake, and into the vibrant city of Anchorage. Keep an eye out for black bears, moose, or any of this state’s other rich wildlife.
Queen Charlotte Drive, New Zealand
This winding road connects New Zealand’s South Island cities of Havelock and Picton with 20-plus miles of mountain views, forests, and hidden bays—and no shortage of lookout points from which to take a killer photo of kiwi country.
Chapman’s Peak Drive, South Africa
This rocky coastal drive overlooks Noordhoek and Hout Bay in Cape Town’s western coast—from almost 2,000 feet above sea level. it’s a road to take slowly, both to really take in its views and to manage the 114 curves along its five and a half miles. Pro tip: stop at the end for a bite at the beloved Food Barn restaurant.
Going-to-the-Sun Road, Montana, United States
This 50-mile drive is the only road that crosses Glacier National Park. It’s a mountain road that takes you through the park’s glacial lakes and cedar forests up to its alpine tundra as you get to higher elevations. With a steep cliff and few guardrails, along with blind curves and hairpin turns, the two-lane roadway is one best taken at a leisurely pace.
Amalfi Coast Drive, Italy
One of the most scenic stretches in the world, this drive along the Italian coastline offers unbeatable views of the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean on one side, and charming pastel-colored villages and rolling hillsides on the other. Beginning in the port city of Salerno, the drive will take you the romantic town of Ravello, the history-rich Amalfi, and past the marine cave of Grotta della Smeraldo.
Lysebotn Road, Norway
Only accessible for five months of the year, this road takes you over the otherwise-snow-covered mountains of Rogaland and Vest Agder, in the southwest of Norway. Reaching a high point at Andersvatn Lake—over 3,000 feet above sea level—it includes more than 32 sharp bends and panoramic views of the impressive Norwegian landscape.
Espinazo del diablo, Mexico
Also known as “The Devils’ Backbone,” this drive down Mexico’s west coast goes between Mazatlan and Durango, east of the Sierra Madre Mountains. It clocks in at over 6,500 feet above sea level and runs just six miles long through deep ravines and towering mountains.
Eureka Highway, Canada
This 12-mile highway goes through Canada’s largest and northernmost (and, at times, coldest) territory of Nunavut. It is named for the small research base on Ellesmere Island, established in 1947. Though open year-round, you will want to be sure to be prepared when you take on this journey, with snow tires, emergency flares, and plenty of extra clothing layers.
Colle Fauniera, Italy
This high mountain pass through the Cottian Alps in northern Italy takes you up to 8,238 feet of elevation. You will pass through kiwi orchards and local farms, as well as green pastures and rocky mountains. Once at the summit you will find a monument dedicated to famed Italian road cyclist Marco Pantani.
Monte Farinha, Portugal
This mountain pass begins at the municipality of Mondim de Basto before taking nearly 19-mile ascent, eventually reaching Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Graça—the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Grace. Along the way, take in the valleys and mountains of the Villa Real district that come into view.
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