There’s nothing like a road trip to really experience a country. From coastal highways and dizzying mountain passes, to scenic routes through national parks and bridges over great spans of water; roads are the circulatory system that connects a country. After an extensive search online, the Sifter has compiled a list of some of the most beautiful, challenging and unforgettable roads in the world.
While hardly exhaustive, this list should provide great inspiration and bucket list fodder for those planning an upcoming trip.
1. Atlantic Road, Norway
Opened on July 7, 1989, the Atlantic Road is a National Tourist Route and was honoured as Norway’s Construction of the Century in 2005. The Atlantic is an 8.3 kilometer (5.2 miles) section of Country Road 64 which runs between the towns of Kristiansund and Molde, the two main population centres in the county of More og Romsdal in Fjord, Norway. The road is built on several small islands and skerries, which are connected by several causeways, viaducts and eight bridges. For more information check out this featured post on the Sifter.
2. The Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road , UAE
The Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road in the United Arab Emirates extends for 7.3 miles with 60 turns up the mountain of a height of 1,219 m. The UAE road scales the mountain with a beautiful view of the desert below and ends at a parking lot with only a hotel and of course, a palace, belonging to the country’s rulers. The road is a mixture of fast straights and sweeping curves that merge perfectly from one to another forming this amazing driving road in the middle of the desert.
3. Guoliang Tunnel Road, China
In terms of visual impact, this road in China takes the cake. It is located in the province of Henan and the road is carved from the edges of the Taihang Mountains. The ride may be short at just three quarters of a mile, but it is definitely sweet because of the stunning path that you will have to traverse.
4. Great Ocean Road, Australia
Imagine a kinder, gentler version of Big Sur tucked away in the Southern Hemisphere. The Great Ocean Road passes arresting natural rock formations such as Loch Ard Gorge and the Twelve Apostles. It’s a 151-mile coastal thruway not to be missed by relaxed road trippers who simply can’t get enough clear skies–and exotic road kill.
5. Tianmen Mountain Road, Hunan, China
Tianmen Mountain is a mountain located within Tianmen Mountain National Park, Zhangjiajie, in northwestern Hunan Province, China. A cable car operates from nearby Zhangjiajie railway station to the top of the mountain. It features 98 cars and a total length of 7,455 meters and an ascent of 1,279 meters. The highest gradient is an unusual 37 degrees. There is also an 11 km road with 99 bends that reaches the top of the mountain and takes visitors to Tianmen cave, a natural hole in the mountain at a height of 131.5 meters.
6. Seven Mile Bridge, Florida Keys
The Seven Mile Bridge is a famous bridge in the Florida Keys, in Monroe County, Florida, United States. It connects Knight’s Key (part of the city of Marathon, Florida) in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys. Among the longest bridges in existence when it was built, it is one of the many bridges on US 1 in the Keys, where the road is called the Overseas Highway.
7. Highway 1, Big Sur, California
Highway 1 enters the Big Sur region crossing the San Carpoforo Creek just south of the Monterey County line. For about 90 miles (140 km) from the San Carpoforo Creek to the Carmel River, the road winds and hugs the cliffs of Big Sur, passing various coastal parks in the area. The road also briefly leaves the coast for a few miles and goes through a redwood forest in the Big Sur River valley. This segment of the highway, built between 1919 and 1937, also crosses several historic bridges, including the scenic Bixby Creek Bridge shown above.
8. Karakoram Highway, China/Pakistan
The Karakoram Highway (KKH) is the highest paved international road in the world. It connects China and Pakistan across the Karakoram mountain range, through the Khunjerab Pass, at an elevation of 4,693 m/15,397 ft. It connects China’s Xinjiang region with Pakistan’s Gilgit–Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa regions and also serves as a popular tourist attraction. Due to its high elevation and the difficult conditions in which it was constructed, it is also referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”
9. Ruta 40, Argentina
National Route 40 or RN40 (often called Ruta 40), is a route in western Argentina, stretching from Cabo Virgenes in Santa Cruz Province in the south to La Quiaca in Jujuy Province in the north, running parallel to the Andes mountains. The southern part of the route, a largely paved road through sparsely populated territory, has become a well-known adventure tourism journey.
10. Dades Gorges, High Atlas, Morocco
Carved over the centuries by the Dades River, the Dades Gorge is now a very popular destination for travellers in Morocco. Travellers in 4WD (with a guide) can follow a mountain loop (at certain times of the year), following Dades Gorge as far north as Agoudal, then turning south to head for Todra Gorge. It can be accessed from the small town of Boumaine which lies 116 km northeast of Ouarzazate and 53 km from Tinerhir. A sealed road runs for 63 km through the Gorge as far as Msemrir, after that 4WD is necessary. The best time to visit the lower valleys is from March to May and the mountains are best from May to July.