By Jordan Higgins
When it comes to travelling, people often visualise their destinations. Although this is the goal, the journey itself may be as significant. Sometimes the best views are those seen from the car as you drive along a dusty dirt track. The best food is the meal you find on the side of the road. And often the most fun comes from the thrill of cruising high above the sea on a beautiful coastal highway.
No need to be deterred if you do not have a driving license or is uncomfortable driving abroad. It is possible to hire a driver guide who takes the wheel, while you simply enjoy the scenes passing by.
Now that you might be considering a road trip for the next holiday, here are a few options to look through:
1. The Wild Atlantic Way – Ireland
The longest coastal road in the world, the Wild Atlantic Way stretches 2,000 km along the western coast of Ireland. With hidden beaches, delicious local seafood, and Europe’s highest sea-cliffs, there is plenty to do during this incredible road trip. The trip can take up to one month, although shorter options are available. The whole route is mapped out on the Irish Tourism Board’s website. However, if you are new to the region, consider hiring a driver guide who can help customise the trip to include interesting places such as the Achill Island, the Cliffs of Moher, and Skellig Michael (made famous after its appearance in the movie - The Force Awakens, 2014).
2. The Mongol Rally – London to Ulaanbaatar
To call the Mongol Rally a road trip would be an insult. The term “Odyssey” would perhaps be more suitable. It is an adventurous charity event wherein participants raise money for a social cause of their choice, before driving from London to Ulaanbaatar. The trip can follow any route and take any amount of time - perfect for thrill-seekers and adventure-lovers. You are the orchestrator of this voyage across two continents – pack in as much excitement as possible. With over 10,000 miles of mountains, deserts and wild country to be covered across Europe and Asia, this one is not high on comfort but on unforgettable memories.
3. Route 66 - The USA
Perhaps the most popular road trip in the world, Route 66 stretches from Chicago to Santa Monica for nearly 4,000 km. Although barren in places, the journey is awash with attention-grabbing stopping points - from a ranch full of old Cadillacs semi-submerged in the desert to the famed Grand Canyon. The road trip can be completed in two weeks; although most travellers recommend a whole month so that you can stop and embrace all the weird and wonderful roadside attractions.
4. Bordeaux Wine Routes – France
With six different wine-producing regions in and around Bordeaux, a road trip would not only be a feast for the eyes (and lens) but also takes you through the history of French wine-making. There is no set route for this particular road trip, but for wine and history lovers planning an itinerary of your own should be exciting. Cruising from vineyard to vineyard in sunny Southern France, sampling local cuisine and world-renowned wine cannot be missed. However, to indulge in a day of exploring and wine-tasting, a driver-guide is obviously required. Ask in Bordeaux city or search online for local guides with a good knowledge of wine and the area.
5. Cairo to Cape Town – African Continent
This mammoth 12,000 km journey is not for the fainthearted. As you traverse an entire continent you will encounter desert, jungle, grasslands, swamps, and megacities. Beginning at the Pyramids in Egypt, you can track the mighty Nile south to its source in Rwanda, and further south again as you amble towards South Africa. Travelling through at least fourteen countries, this road trip is no holiday – it is an expedition that requires at least three months. Prepare well and ensure you have the required documents to enter every country on your route!
6. Big Sur – The USA
Starting in San Francisco and finishing in Los Angeles, this road trip takes you to McWay Falls and Bixby Bridge. The trip can be completed in a day; but to truly experience its wonder, you should spend at least one night in Big Sur. Rent a kayak or a surfboard and make the most of your time cruising along the Pacific Coast.
7. Historical Rome to Venice – Italy
Road trips are not just for adventurists and foodies; they can also be enjoyed by history-enthusiasts. A fourteen-day, 870 km road trip from Rome to Venice allows travellers to absorb Italy’s rich history while journeying across the country. Including Rome, Pisa, Verona, Florence, and Venice, this trip is ideal for history buffs and culture-explorers. Be sure to hire a local guide to help you truly appreciate the region’s heritage.
8. The Hai Van Pass – Vietnam
Road trips need not be a time-consuming task. Driving the Hai Van Pass in Central Vietnam encapsulates the wonders of road tripping in a day-long adventure. Between the cities of Hue and Da Nang, the Hai Van Pass marks the historic border between north and south Vietnam, making it ideal for those looking to indulge in history as well. Additionally, the sea views are second-to-none. As the roads in Vietnam are rather hectic, tourists often opt to complete the journey on the back of a professional guide’s motorbike. These bike tours can be easily organised from Hue, Hoi An, or Da Nang.
9. North Coast 500 – Scotland
Famed for its castles, whisky, and coastal scenery, the North Coast 500 in Scotland is a traveller’s dream. This 800 km eight-day trip starts in Inverness and winds along Scotland’s northern coast. The charming locals and the stunning views make this trip hard to beat.
10. South Island – New Zealand
Exploring the untamed wilderness of New Zealand’s South Island is something that simply must be done independently. The landscape changes dramatically throughout the route, from magnificent sea views to rugged mountains. Circumnavigating the island should take you at least one month. It is also recommended that you pack a tent and embrace the wilderness!
Road tripping opens up a new world, often missed when travelling by rail or air. The best way to escape the tourist traps in cities and towns is to explore the hidden wonders that lie between them. Find yourself a car, bike, or driver-guide and start discovering the unknown.
Jordan is a student journalist and avid traveller. He has a strong interest in Asian countries but will never say no to a European excursion. He is particularly fond of (although not very good at) trying new outdoor activities and adventure sports.
Image detail and license: https://flic.kr/p/hGSVot (The Adventurists, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)