For those who believe travel is all about the journey rather than the destination, there’s no better way to fully experience a place than by driving through some of its scenic roads.
Road trips give you the chance to see a different side of a destination, but they’re also a wonderful way to discover places you wouldn’t regularly find in a guidebook. Driving independently allows you to spend as much or as little time in a place as you’d like, get closer to the local culture, and make stops anywhere that catches your fancy.
From the mountains of northern Vietnam to the lavender fields of southern France and the rugged California coast, these are some of the most beautiful roads in the world you have to place on your bucket list.
1. Great Ocean Road, Australia
Almost a rite of passage for visitors to Australia, the Great Ocean Road is a gorgeous highway that connects the southern coast from Torquay to Allansford.
As you make your way along the coast, you’ll get to wind your way across 243 kilometers, passing through authentic shipwrecks, beaches, charming coastal villages, lush rainforests, and rocky coastlines.
One of the most iconic sights of the Great Ocean Road is the Twelve Apostles, a set of towering limestone stacks that protrude from the ocean and create a breathtaking scene (only eight out of the twelve are left, though!).
Aside from that, other wonderful stops you can make as you drive along include Great Otway National Park to explore the rainforest, Bells Beach for a gorgeous beach, Lorne for artsy small-town vibes, and Kennett River to see koalas!
2. Ha Giang Loop, Vietnam
High in northern Vietnam, the Ha Giang Loop is a dazzling road that winds its way through striking canyons and breathtaking limestone mountain passes.
Starting in Ha Giang City, this road will also give you the chance to experience authentic Vietnamese culture, not to mention you’ll also get to try local food everywhere you look because no matter how remote a section may seem, you’ll always be able to find a roadside food stall.
You’ll begin the Ha Giang Loop by driving across lush forested hills before arriving at the Vietnamese border with China, where you’ll find a series of limestone karts above the treeline.
From here, you’ll start descending into the valley before winding your way through mountains and canyons, with sights of turquoise-colored rivers and waterfalls appearing every mile of the way.
3. Big Sur, United States
Even though Highway 1 through Big Sur is only 90 miles long, this gorgeous road is dotted by wonderful stops to make every single mile of the way, so we recommend treating it as a multi-day road trip rather than a scenic drive in order to make the most of it.
Offering views of the alluring Santa Lucia Mountains to one side and rugged California coastline vistas to the other, driving through Big Sur is one of the most exciting experiences you can have not just in California but quite likely in the entire world.
As for what to see here, two of the most popular landmarks are Hearst Castle in the town of San Simeon and the gorgeous European-style Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Aside from that, nature reigns supreme in Big Sur, with plenty of state parks scattered all over the highway. These include the Point Lobos State Nature Reserve for hikes with coastal views, Julia Pfeiffer State Park to see a waterfall crashing down from a cliff into the ocean, and Garrapata Beach for seaside and forest hikes. Make sure you also make a stop at Pfeiffer Beach, which is a beach made up of purple sand!
As a note, Big Sur is a section of the longer Highway 1, which runs all the way from San Diego to Seattle along the Pacific Coast. This is one of the most beautiful roads in the entire world if you’re up for a more extended adventure!
4. Black Forest Scenic Drive, Germany
If fairytale-like villages and charming forests that look straight out of a storybook sound like your ideal places to spend time, the B500 highway from Baden Baden to Freiburg in Germany’s Black Forest is guaranteed to please.
Even though it’s only 40 miles long, this gorgeous drive will allow you to experience old-time Germany, with half-timbered houses dotting the villages along the way, cozy coffee shops, cuckoo clock workshops, and local distilleries being just a few of the highlights you’ll find along the way.
This road is also perfect for those in nature, as you’ll get the chance to stop at plenty of trailheads for hiking. There are also many accommodation options inside the Black Forest in case you want to spend the night in nature!
5. Florence to Ravello, Italy
If you’re up for exploring the gorgeous Amalfi Coast in Italy, there’s no better way to do that than by driving the highway from Florence to Ravello.
Not only will you get the chance to make a pit stop in Rome along the way, but you will also feel as though you’re in 1953’s Roman Holiday movie as you make your way through the rugged Italian coastline.
Culture, colorful medieval villages atop hills, and picture-perfect coastal views are all elements of this beautiful road, not to mention you’ll also drive past several of Italy’s top destinations like Rome and Positano in case you want to stop for a few days to explore them!
6. Ring Road, Iceland
If a road trip made up of extremely rugged and untouched landscapes is what you’re after, the 837-mile Ring Road across the entire island of Iceland is one of the most beautiful roads in the world you can take.
Starting and ending in the city of Reykjavik, this road is a loop where you’ll get to stop and see some of the most famous highlights in Iceland, including the Blue Lagoon, the Hallgrimskirkja Church, and Reynisfjara beach (a black beach), to name just a few! Of course, sights like waterfalls, glacier lagoons, and geysers are guaranteed!
7. Highway 395 (Sierra Nevada Mountains), United States
Starting in Los Angeles and ending in the idyllic Lake Tahoe, Highway 395 is a 450-mile route. This is of the most beautiful roads in the world, not only for its striking views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains but also for the wide array of incredible stops you can make along the way.
A few of the best stops to make along Highway 395 include Mono Lake to see otherworldly-looking landscapes, Bristlecone Pine Forest to witness some of the oldest trees in the world, the Devil’s Postpile to gaze at rare geology, and Bodie to explore a real-life ghost town!
As a bonus, a short detour from the main highway will get you to places like Death Valley National Park and Joshua Tree National Park, both of which are two of California’s most interesting national parks to visit!
8. Ring of Kerry Scenic Drive, Ireland
The Ring of Kerry is a full loop that begins in the city of Killarney and ends there, taking you all around Ireland to see the best this island country in Europe has to offer.
Over a total of 111 miles, you’ll drive past some of the most quintessential Ireland sights, including medieval castles, expansive fields of green, ancient forts, windy shorelines, and just about everything in between!
While an entire post would be required to list everything single stop worth making on the Ring of Kerry, some of the absolutely can’t-miss ones include the Ross Castle, Torc Waterfalls, Killarney National Park, and the Gap of Dunloe. We guarantee you’ll LOVE it!
9. Garden Route, South Africa
Stretching all over the South African coast from Mossell Bay to Tsitsikamma, the Garden Route is a coastal road where you’ll get to experience some of the best South Africa has to offer.
From basking on golden beaches to going on thrilling safaris on game reserves, there’s a little something for everyone to do on this incredibly interesting highway.
Some of the best activities to do along the Garden Route include visiting ostrich farms in Klein Karoo, seeing meerkats at sunrise in Oudtshoorn, gazing at sea lions at Plettenberg Bay, hiking over mountains, eating world-class oysters at Knysna, seeing migrating whales in winter, and going vineyard-hopping in the quaint town of Stellenbosch.
Looping over 233 miles in Colorado, the Million Dollar Highway is one of the most beautiful roads in the world not only for the gorgeous mountain views you’ll get to see mile after mile, but also for the fantastic stops you can make along the way.
Driving the Million Dollar Highway can be done in under two hours, but this type of drive is more about the journey rather than the destination, so we recommend allowing at least a few days to complete it.
Along the way, you’ll get the chance to stop at some of the most beautiful alpine towns Colorado has to offer, including those like Durango, Ridgeway, Telluride, and Ouray, all of which provide wonderful hiking trails and outdoor adventures.
Moreover, if you’re into hiking, make sure you also make a stop at the San Juan National Forest, a park made up of a whopping 1.8 million acres and different ecosystems like high-desert mesas and mountains.
11. Marseille to Aix-en-Provence, France
Although short, the highway from Marseille to Aix-en-Provence is one of the most beautiful roads in the world that will give you the opportunity to see what the Provence region in France has to offer.
Not only does this drive start and end in two of the most important cities in southern France, but it will also give you the chance to see one of the most beautiful regions in the entire Europe.
Along the way, you’ll get plenty of opportunities to stop at small villages, discover vineyards spread all over, and get lost in expansive lavender fields that have made this region a photographer’s paradise.
As you drive further from the coast, you’ll quickly understand how Provence inspired many of Vincent Van Gogh’s early paintings. He actually lived in the region for a while because of the creativity boost he got there!
12. Transfăgărășan Highway, Romania
No words can quite capture the majestic beauty of this 115-kilometer-long route through the Carpathian mountain range of Romania. Starting in Sibiu and ending in Bascov village, north of the capital Bucharest, this postcard-perfect drive spells road-trippers delight.
Aside from the picturesque alpine scenery, what drivers love most about the Transfăgărășan are the hundreds of hairpin turns and sudden ascents and descents.
Now, before you go grabbing the Kwells, there are plenty of pullover stops such as the Poenari Citadel, Vidraru Lake, and Bâlea Lake to break up your journey – with a tunnel that connects the northern and southern halves of the route at it’s the highest point, more than 2000 meters above sea level.
You need to time it right to drive the Transfăgărășan, though. Icy conditions in the winter make the road unpassable, so you can generally only use the entire length of the road from late May through until October. In the peak of summer, forget your Top Gear dreams; you’ll be going at a crawling pace around most of the bends!
Pack your picnic as you need at least a complete day to undertake the drive, or stay overnight at the Ice Hotel!
Road Trip Ready?
- Before you hit the road, make sure you check out our road trip essentials checklist – it comes with a printable PDF you can tick off as you go preparing your car and your family ready for their next great family road trip.
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