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Nothing beats the joy of the open road. All you need is a car – preferably something iconic and convertible – an awesome sound track, your best pal(s), some sort of GPS and probably some snacks, then adventure is yours for the making. These are the most epic road trips out there.
Garden Route, South Africa
Sandwiched between the majestic Outeniqua Mountain on one side and whale-watching beaches on the other, South Africa’s Garden Route offers up an enchanting road trip. Worthwhile excursions inland to the Garden Route National Park, overflowing with mystical lagoons, glassy lakes and bird-filled forests compete with the secluded bays and wild beaches of the coast. Start your trip in Cape Town before quenching your thirst at Bramon wine estate near Plettenberg Bay, where you can stay at the impressive clifftop Plettenberg Park.
This loop along the British Isles’ most northerly points is billed as Scotland’s Route 66, where sweeping scenery is accompanied by bracing Scottish winds. Start in Inverness and weave your way among crumbling castle ruins, towering mountain ranges and deserted beaches. Stop for a mandatory dram at Old Pulteney Distillery and swat up on the tourist board’s advice on what to do should you encounter a herd of highland cattle on the road. This is remote, rugged Scotland at its best. Pack plenty of woolly jumpers, an appetite for adventure and a thirst for whisky.
Great Ocean Road, Australia
With its sparse population and diverse wildlife, this coastal highway is a must if you head down under. The ravaged Victoria coastline will take you from Melbourne along 150 miles of sheer cliffs, dense rainforests and colonial towns. Get stuck into maritime pursuits such as surfing or scuba diving, while those preferring to stay on dry land can hike through ancient rainforests in search of koalas and kangaroos. Sample local seafood and regional wine before taking a well-deserved rest in some of the area’s luxury boutique hotels, such as Drift House.
The Ring Road, Iceland
Iceland trumps the standard mountain/beach offering of most road trips with volcanoes, icebergs and, of course, the Northern Lights. Provided you’re comfortable driving in sub-zero icy conditions with minimal daylight hours, you’ll be rewarded with unparalleled scenery. Endless snow-covered horizons reveal craggy mountains, wild horses and crashing waterfalls. Allow at least a week for your travels, bring a wide-angle lens camera and be sure to include stops along the Golden Circle in the west, the waterfalls and lagoons of the south and fjords and mountain passes of the east. For an unbeatable overnight view of the Northern Lights head to the remote Ion Adventure Hotel.
State Route 1, California
One of the most famous road trips in the world, little beats driving south through Steinbeck country along Route 1. Hugging the Pacific Coast you’ll be spoilt by uninterrupted sunsets, rolling vineyards and world-class hotels, including the vertigo-inducing Post Ranch Inn. Rent a Mustang and download the Beach Boys’ travelogue album, Holland. Must-visit stops along the way include the aquarium and seafood shacks in Monterey, the picture-perfect Carmel and, of course, Big Sur.
Stelvio Pass, Italy
If you’re less about the journey and all about the ride then Italy’s hairpin-bend-filled Stelvio Pass is the place to bring your sports car and really let loose. Straddling the Swiss-Italian boarder, this winding highway will push your nerves to the limit. Open only in summer months, it’s a mere 42km long; drive it in its entirety and be rewarded with satisfying adrenaline rushes and a heady dose of vertigo. Stay at the alpine Albergo Bellavista in Trafoi, tackling the 48 switchback turns at the crack of dawn before the traffic clogs up. Spend the rest of your trip indulging in Tyrolean pastimes such as hiking, cycling the region’s mountainous terrain and tucking into the local cuisine.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
A road trip for gastronomes, the pastel-hued drive along Italy’s stylish coastline is the stuff of summer fairytales, picturesque at every turn and with ample opportunity for deserted beach stops and clifftop walks. Channel your favourite character from The Talented Mr Ripley and embark on the leisurely 50km drive through Amalfi, Positano and Ravello, stopping off at local trattorias to indulge in hearty plates of pasta and seafood. Stay at Casa Angelina for easy access to Positano’s restaurants along with breath-taking views.
Icefields Parkway, Canada
Swap the coast for Canada’s deserted inland area for a road trip through resplendent mountainous roads and vast glaciers. You’d be a fool to complete the trip in its achievable three hours when there is ample opportunity for picnics, photographs and glacier hikes as you wind your way through epic mountain ranges between Banff and Jasper National Parks. Surrounded by snow-capped peaks and endless blue skies, luxury hotels are best shunned in favour of camping under sweeping starry skies. Possibly the world’s best mountain drive, the only traffic you are likely to encounter comes in the form of bears, elk and deer. Finish your trip by warming your toes by a crackling log fire at the cabins of Simpson’s Num-ti-Jah Lodge.
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