Roadtripping through 10 of the Most Scenic Drives in the World

October 25, 2016

We take a look at ten of the world's most spectacular road trips, from hair-raising highways in South America to incredible ocean rambles in Australia. With views this breathtaking, you'll want to hit the road as soon as possible.

Here's a travel quote we've all heard of: 'It's the journey that matters, not the destination.'

Cliche quotes aside, whether it's by motorcycle, by car or packed into a campervan with a few mates, we all love a road trip - especially when you're driving along one of the most scenic roads in the world. It's true we're head over heels for Mother Nature and her natural wonders but it appears man is capable of impressing us too. From winding routes in the mountains, to coastal roads hugging the ocean, we take a look at 10 of the best drives on planet Earth. Queue the cliche look-out point pictures...

1. Tianmen Mountain Road, China

View of the winding route at Tianmen Mountain Road in China.

Also known as Tianmen Shan Big Gate, this 6.8 mile road is located within the Tianmen Mountain National Park and is fairly new; it was only completed in 2006 after eight years of work. Those who tackle it have to endure a snakey route with 99 turns before they reach the top where a natural rock arch (known as Heaven's Gate) awaits which is said to connect the gods and the mortal world. The scenery is spectacular but drivers should be overly cautious, especially in the dark or wet - it's a long way down if you make a mistake and you may end up at a different heaven's gate to the one you planned on visiting. Alternatively, for those who don't feel confident taking the drive, you can take a tour and reach the top via the longest cableway in the world which runs from Zhangjiajie city. After, we suggest cooling off in the outdoor pool at the five-star Pullman Zhangjiajie Hotel.

2. Great Ocean Road, Australia

Helicopter view of Great Ocean Road.

Located in Victoria, Australia, Great Ocean Road is one of the world's most well known scenic drives. It's a firm fixture on the backpacker circuit, yet it attracts people of all ages who rent cars, bikes or campervans to travel along the miles of coastline. Many tourists opt to stop off at designated campsites along the way and make Great Ocean Road a two or three day trip (although it can still be done on a group tour in a day). Yet those who rush it will miss out on taking full advantage of the jaw-dropping lookout points where dramatic limestone cliffs take centre stage. Along this route you'll discover beautiful beaches, typically Aussie towns and a few picture-perfect landmarks such as the iconic 12 Apostles limestone stacks. The Great Ocean Road is a must do during a stay in Melbourne where we recommend Space Hotel as one of the coolest hostels around, complete with a roof terrace and Jacuzzi.

3. Seven Mile Bridge, Florida, USA

Aerial shot of Seven Mile Bridge in Florida.

If you're in Miami and fancy renting a car to take a drive down to Key West (or vice versa), you'll embark on one of the most scenic journeys in the US. This 150-mile route comprises of Florida's Seven Mile Bridge, arguably the best part of the drive with sparkling ocean views on either side. The Florida Keys are America's answer to the Caribbean with sun-kissed coral islands boasting laid back vibes and the tastiest seafood in the state. Once you reach Key West or Miami at either end, opt to stay for a night or two before heading back on your way; two of our favourite places are the super classy hostel Posh South Beach and Douglas House, which both offer superb value for money. 

4. Hai Van Pass, Vietnam

Hai Van Pass among the forested mountains in Vietnam.

TopGear fans may have seen this beautiful road feature on the show's 'Vietnam Special' when Jeremy Clarkson and co. travelled from one end of the country to the other on bikes. And as you may have noticed, Vietnam has a reputation for notoriously dangerous roads thanks to loose laws and a crazy bike-culture. However, the Hai Van Pass is actually relatively quiet with little traffic thanks to the Hai Van Tunnel built in 2005, making the Hai Van Pass a route of tourism and beauty rather than practicality. It winds its way across mountains reaching peaks of up to 1600 feet between the cities of Hue and Hoi An (we recommend stopping at Midtown Hotel Hue and the Hoi An Odyssey Hotel). Like the TopGear boys, most choose to travel on scooter or motorbike, although you could also take a bicycle tour if you don't feel confident. Just watch out for the few stray goats and cows when taking corners (yes, really).

5. Chapman's Peak Drive, South Africa

Chapmans Peak Drive

Between Hout Bay and Noordhoek in Cape Town, a 9km stretch of road known as Chapman's Peak Drive clings to the rocky mountain. The locals simply refer to it as 'Chappies' and this popular rocky roadway makes up part of the Cape Argus Cycle Tour and the Two Oceans Marathon. Rock falls were common in the past prompting the government into a civil engineering revamp seeing it re-open in 2009 - luckily for those who visit Cape Town and rent a car. Drivers can stop off at various look-out points which offer stunning panoramas of the Atlantic Ocean and at the right time of year, the odd sighting of whales and dolphins in the waters below too. You'll find a number of cheap, luxurious villas in Cape Town; Allstar Villa has to be one of our favourites. 

6. Grosslockner High Alpine Road, Austria

Aerial shot of the mountains and the Grossglockner High Alpine Road.

Austria is one of Europe's best ski and hiking destinations. It's packed with snowy slopes in winter and challenging mountainous terrain all year round making it one of the most visually spectacular countries. As such, it's no surprise that the Grosslockner High Alpine Road which offers overwhelming views of Austria's largest mountain, is one that is considered among the most scenic in the world. Although it originally opened in 1935, a lot of work has been carried out on the road in an effort to make it safer, wider and a blissfully engaging experience for the driver. Cruise 30 miles of high-alpine paradise as you climb through pine forests, past waterfalls and alongside the blue ice of Pasterze. The road is only open between May and November and many rent a car from nearby Salzburg as it's only a 90-minute drive from Grosslockner. Some excellent accommodation can be found around Grosslockner such as the cosy Panoramahotel Lärchenhof.

7. California State Route 1, California, USA

Bridge on the California State Route 1.

Stretching across the Pacific Coast in California, SR1 is an American dream. You can choose to travel all the way from San Francisco to San Diego (or vice versa) passing LA, Santa Barbara and various other cities, towns and attractions. Yet arguably the best part of the route is found between San Simeon and Carmel where drivers are met with beautifully rugged cliffs that hug the bordering deep blue waters of the Pacific making for dreamy uninterrupted ocean views. For the ultimate experience, rent a Mustang or convertible to embark on this part of the journey and it will feel like you're in the movies. This part of SR1 can be driven in just over two hours but no doubt you'll want to stop off at the many look-out points and beaches on the way. Or break up your trip with a stop-over in Carmel at Horizon Inn & Ocean View Lodge?

8. North Yungas Road (Death Road), Bolivia

Two cyclists on Death Road in Bolivia.

With the nickname Death Road, you won't be surprised to hear that North Yungas Road is regarded as the world's most dangerous. It's another route which has featured on BBC's TopGear and it's estimated that up to 300 people lose their lives here every year. This 40 mile adrenaline pumping road is found between Coroico and La Paz (the quirky Bunkie Hostel is popular) with an edge that has no barriers separating you from the sheer 12,000 feet drop below. At some points the road narrows to just three metres wide and sees cars, buses and trucks all tip-toe along the fringe. Those who brave it however are greeted with unimaginably stunning views of the Amazon Rainforest, passing cascading waterfalls, peaceful streams and lush coca fields on their way round. That being said, we wouldn't recommend driving it; instead opt for a mountain bike tour with an experienced guide.   

9. Icefields Parkway, Canada

Icefields Parkway stretch of open road with mountains in the background.

Running through the Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta, this 140 mile mountain road takes at least three hours to complete, although most will make a day of it, taking a picnic and stopping off at the various waterfalls, lakes and attractions on the way. Many even head for one of the gorgeous nearby lodges such as Emerald Lake Lodge and enjoy the national parks for longer. The peak time to travel is between June and September when road conditions are excellent, wildlife is abundant and the scenery is at its most colourful. Overlooked by emphatic snow-capped mountains in the distance, there's no denying Icefield Parkway is one for the nature-enthusiast. During winter and even in late autumn and early spring, snowy and icy conditions can make for an unpleasant experience, so stick to the good weather if possible. If you decide against renting a car, there's always the option of heading here with a guide like on the Jasper to Banff One-Way Tour

10. The Atlantic Ocean Road, Norway

Aerial shot of the Atlantic Ocean Road in Norway.

Sometimes referred to as just the Atlantic Road, this Norwegian 5.2 mile coastal stretch is considered one of the best summer drives in Europe. It's part of Country Road 64, a two-lane highway that goes through an archipelago in Eide and Averøy in Møre og Romsdal. Along the Atlantic Ocean Road, drivers and bike-riders are presented with dips, curves, arches and bridges giving it a roller-coaster feel while still retaining gorgeous scenery on either side. Yet although the road can be fun to drive in good weather conditions, treacherous storms bringing high winds, snowstorms and blizzards can make it a pretty scary experience, especially when waves come crashing into your car. But rain or shine, we're guessing you'll be wasting no time renting a car and heading for the Atlantic Road if you're in this part of Norway, and who could blame you?

Have any other scenic roads to add to the list? Tweet us @travioor or post a comment on Travioor's Facebook page.

Ben Leach
After 15 months in Australia and south-east Asia, Ben now shares his experiences with Travioor from London. Luckily, after spending so long staring at cheesy sunsets, drinking too much Goon and eating his weight in Pad Thai, he can still manage to put a few words together.