There is no better way to explore the world than to have the freedom of moving at your own pace and having the flexibility to change your itinerary as you please.
So we asked some experienced travellers to not only come up with the best road trips of the world, but to also let us in on why it should be added to your travel bucket list.
This is the fourth part in our series of posts which will show you some of the most famous road trip locations around the world, the ones you will most likely already have seen or heard about, but some other suggestions are sure to surprise. They sure surprised us.
Now let’s finish packing the car (or Campervan) and get this show on the road. We begin with a road trip in a place better known for huge Resorts but has so much more to offer.
Riviera Maya, Mexico with Cristal from Tofu Traveler.
The best thing about a road trip around the Riviera Maya is that it can suit many different travel styles. For those who want a different town every day, there are many unique places and activities to choose from. If you’re looking for a relaxing beach vacation then you can choose two or three spots to live out your tropical paradise fantasies.
My ultimate 7 day road trip is a great balance of all that the Riviera Maya has to offer. Start in Playa Del Carmen to begin de-stressing with a cocktail, sun lounger and clear skies in one of the beach clubs. Once you’re ready to explore check out the nearby cenotes or hop on the short ferry ride to Cozumel Island. Head further south from here with a quick stop to see the Tulum Ruins, including a swim in the clear waters looking up at the ancient site.
Then on to Laguna Bacalar to experience the Lagoon of 7 Colours, the second largest body of freshwater in Mexico. Bacalar is also one of the only places in the world to see stromatolites, living stones that are considered the oldest form of life on the planet.
From Bacalar, head north and west to Valladolid. Valladolid has a lovely small town feel and you won’t see any big hotels or tour groups here. Take the opportunity to sample some local food, visit the Mayapan Distillery, and this is your chance to spend time in one of the Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza. From Valladolid you’re less than two hours away from Cancun airport so you can head straight back on your last day.
- Visit one of the New Wonders of the World: Chichen Itza
- Learn about living stones on a boat trip around the Lagoon of 7 Colours
- Swim in both the warm Caribbean Sea and cool cenotes along the coast
Croatia with Dani from A Baby Abroad.
Croatia has an amazing geography, which is why the best way to explore it through a road trip. It is also very easy to get around by car as a foreigner.
The total distance between Zagreb and Dubrovnik is 687 kilometers – around 11 hours. Start by renting a car at Zagreb airport, and get a SIM card in order to access a GPS.
If you are looking for beach parties, then Novaljia and Zrce Beach is your first stop. Popular for its very wild parties, Zcre beach and the surrounding landscape is spectacular. Skip this and head on to Zadar if you are looking for a more calm atmosphere.
Zadar is 285 kilometers from Zagreb. Once there, you will find a cozy small town, with a small pier, several green and blue water beaches and small local seafood restaurants. 177 kilometers to the south is Split. It has a famous old town filled with stone constructions, beautiful cafés and restaurants, ruins, and of course, amazing beaches.
Getting your car onto a ferry for less than two hours will take you to Hvar, which is unmissable. This island has amazing views and several beaches to explore. It is filled with restaurants, cafés, bars and clubs, and a pier filled with fancy yachts and boats.
A 4 hour drive away – including a short ferry trip – will take you to Dubrovnik, the last stop. Here, you will continue to find amazing landscapes and another old town filled with things to do, see and eat. You can drop your car off at the Dubrovnik airport.
- Plitvice Lakes
- Game of Thrones filming locations
- An amazing coastline
Vietnam with Mike from Live Travel Teach.
If you are looking for an ultimate road trip than look no further than Vietnam. This country is famous for its motorbikes which can be easily bought and sold for $200-$300 and willing mechanics to fix your bike for just a few dollars.
This 7 day journey was the highlight of my 6 week adventure driving a motorcycle across Vietnam Top Gear’s also found the Hai Van Pass to be “one of the best coast roads in the world!” Your journey starts on coastal roads before taking you along the Ho Chi Minh Trail into luscious jungle covered mountains.
Bikes can be loaded onto a buses or trains too if you’re in a hurry!
Starting in Hoi An and if you’ve got time, take a day or two to explore the countryside with a scenic drive through the farmland, along the beach or a longer trip to My Son Sanctuary. If you’re on a tight schedule then jump on your bikes and ride for Hue immediately, the drive is only 130km but it could easily take you the whole day because you’re going to want to stop at least once on the Hai Van Pass!
When you get to Hue you’ll have to pick between royal palaces, tombs, beaches and even an abandoned amusement park. Driving into the mountains you’ll soon find the Ho Chi Minh trail and the toughest roads of the journey. The jungles encompass the mountain roads near the Laos border as you approach Khe Sanh Combat Base. Spend the night there then get up early for a long driving day through the mountains to Phong Nha where you can explore some of the world’s largest caves!
- Try the national passtime of motorbike riding
- Be brave and experience all the incredible food
- Feel the history
Finland with Mary from The Lifelong Adventures.
A winter road trip through the Arctic wonderland of Finnish Lapland is an epic adventure suitable for people of all ages. We did this trip in December and enjoyed every minute of it.
The roads are covered with snow and hard-packed ice and the sun rises for only a few hours each day. Start in Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland and home to Santa Claus. At Santa’s Village you can mail a postcard home, step across the Arctic Circle, and have your picture taken with Santa Claus.
On Day 2, meet a local representative of the Sami people for a traditional welcome and authentic lunch. Then leave the capital behind and head out into the remote wilderness toward the Russian boarder and Salla (2-3 hours).
Spend your third day at the Salla Reindeer Park on a Reindeer Safari. Board a sled pulled by reindeer and venture into the still, snow-covered forest. Enjoy a picnic lunch and bonfire in a traditional Sami hut.
On Day 4, drive across Lapland toward the resort area of Yllas (4-5 hours). Spend a night under furs in the Ice Hotel and relax with a drink and traditional Finnish dinner at the Ice Bar.
The next morning, drive slightly north to Levi (1-2 hours). Spend your fifth and sixth day engaging in the winter activities like dog sledding, snow shoeing, and skiing. Visit the Snow Village or head further out into the vast expanse surrounding the village to try and see the Northern Lights.
On the seventh day make your way back past frozen lakes to Rovaniemi (3 hours).
- Arctic Circle Crossing – Rovaniemi
- Reindeer Safari – Salla
- Ice Hotel -Yllas
Whisky Tour, Scotland with Amanda from Wandering Spirits Global.
For whisky lovers, a visit to Scotland is almost certainly a bucket list item. There are over 120 active distilleries in Scotland, with the number growing each year as new ones are erected, and old ones resurrected.
There are many regions in Scotland that make for an epic road trip, but with such a high concentration of iconic distilleries in a fairly small but spectacularly beautiful area, my favourite whisky destination is the Isle of Islay. Located just off the west coast of Scotland, Islay is a 2.5 hour drive from Glasgow (or 3.5 hours from Edinburgh ), through the magnificent scenery of the Scottish West Highlands to the port of Kennacraig.
The ferry ride from Kennacraig to either Port Ellen or Port Askaig will provide you with stunning views of Jura and her Paps. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for dolphins and whales.
You will find the distilleries of Islay conveniently grouped into three areas – the Port Ellen trio of Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig; the Port Askaig pair of Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain (soon to be another trio with the opening of Ardnahoe in 2018); and Kilchoman, Bruichladdich and Bowmore. I recommend you attempt no more than two distillery tours in a day. By all means do a tasting at a third, but you will struggle to fit it all in otherwise.
Distillery tours are very popular, especially in the summer months, so make sure you book your tickets well in advance (at least the week before). Hot tip: most distilleries have take-away tasting samples available for the designated driver so make sure you ask for your dram ‘to go’ if you’re the one driving.
- 8 active distilleries (soon to be 9!). My favourites are Bruichladdich and Laphroaig for their plentiful tastings, and Bunnahabhain for the spectacular views of Jura. Bruichladdich also has gin tours and tastings (they make the sublime The Botanist gin).
- Beautiful beaches, an abundance of wildlife (birds, otters, seals and occasionally dolphins and whales), Mesolithic and Neolithic ruins (stone circles, standing stones, cairns) and Celtic relics (Kildalton High Cross, Kilchoman Cross)
- The Isle of Jura is a short ferry ride (5 minutes) across the Sound of Islay from Port Askaig. The Jura Distillery (in Craighouse) adds an additional whisky distillery option, and there is also the Lussa Gin Distillery at the northern end of Jura.
Smoky Mountains, USA with Ashley from A Southern Gypsy.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park lies on the Eastern side of Tennessee and the Western side of North Carolina and has always and will always be one of my favorite places in the world.
A few years ago I put together a one-week road trip itinerary starting in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and traveling to Asheville, North Carolina through the Smoky Mountains before hopping on the Blue Ridge Parkway and heading North to Linville Falls.
Gatlinburg is a great starting point for this road trip because it has a little something for everybody: moonshine distilleries, restaurants, themed attractions, beautiful wildlife, and scenery. I would spend two days here. The first checking out the town of Gatlinburg, the trails near town including the ghost town of Elkmont, Roaring Fork Motor Trail and more. The second day, I would spend exploring Cades Cove. Cades Cove is an 11-mile paved loop where you can drive or bike the loop while making stops along the way and exploring the trails. Here is your best chance of seeing black bears!
There are so many amazing spots between Gatlinburg and Asheville. See the elk in Cataloochee Valley, Maggie Valley, Soco Falls, and many more beautiful spots. Asheville is a lovely city. Don’t miss checking out local breweries, touring Biltmore Estate, the Battery Park Book Exchange, and Champagne Bar.
On the way to Linville Falls, North Carolina, you’ll pretty much be on the Blue Ridge Parkway the entire way. The fog wasn’t on our side at all but it was still a wonderful trip. A few of my favorite spots included Mount Mitchell and Little Switzerland (a small Bavarian-themed town). Once in Linville Falls, the Linville Falls, Gorge, and Caverns are all absolutely breathtaking. Using Linville Falls as a base, take your second day here to explore Grandfather Mountain, Boone, and Blowing Rock.
- Cades Cove
- Cataloochee Valley
- Little Switzerland
Slovakia with Maya from Maya Maceka.
Slovakia is a beautiful country located in the heart of Europe. With unspoiled nature, countless medieval cities and more castles per capita than any other European country, it is a destination not to be missed among travelers.
Due to its small size and decent road coverage, Slovakia also happens to be an ideal road trip hotspot! Here’s the perfect itinerary:
Bratislava: Start your Slovak road trip in the capital city of Bratislava, where you can witness some unique Socialist architecture and get a litre of beer for under 1 Euro! Spend at least 2 nights in the city.
Trencin & Zilina: After exploring Bratislava, head north towards the enchanting small town of Trencin. It’s a great place to spend a couple hours. Continue on to Zilina and if possible, spend the night in the nearby Mala Fatra National Park.
High Tatra Mountains: If you like fresh air and sweeping mountain views, you will love the High Tatras in Slovakia. Book a couple of nights in one of the resort towns like Stary Smokovec and enjoy the many activities this region has to offer.
Levoca & Kosice: From the mountains, take a short drive to Levoca, where you can visit the famous castle called Spissky Hrad. You can easily spend a couple of hours exploring the area. Continue driving East until you reach Kosice, the second-largest city in Slovakia. If you want to live like a Slovak king for the night, book a stay at the Bristol hotel.
Back to Bratislava: The journey back to Bratislava will take anywhere from 6-8 hours, so it’s best to get an early start to the day. Alternatively, you can drive north into Poland or head south to Hungry.
- Take a glimpse behind the Iron Curtain
- Cheap beer!
- Castles and beautiful scenery
South Africa with Cristina from Travel for Wildlife.
South Africa is arguably one of the top countries for road trips. This road trip covers great mountain scenery, game reserves and national parks, and ends right at the Pacific Ocean, so pack your binoculars and your swimming suit.
Leaving Johannesburg, head northeast towards the town of Graskop. From here join the Panorama Route, which is a great road trip on its own, and one of the main attractions in South Africa. Spend the day stopping at Blyde River Canyon, God’s Window, and Bourke’s Luck Pot Holes.
After marveling at the geology of this incredible part of South Africa, head east towards Kruger National Park and enter through the Orpen Gate, which you can reach before the gates close. Spend the next two days watching wildlife while making your way down to Kruger’s South Gate.
After your time at Kruger drive south along the Swaziland border where your next stop is Ithala Game Reserve. Ithala is mountainous and apart from a great variety of wildlife you can see some of the world’s oldest rock formations dating back to 3,000 million years.
Leaving Ithala join the N2 south toward Durban. In this short stretch of road many incredible game reserves and national parks are well worth the visit. uMkhuze Game Reserve, Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, and Lake St. Lucia, being the last one only a 3h drive from Durban. For a taste of Zulu history stop at one of the many Zulu heritage points, like King Shaka’s Grave or Mgungundlovu.
- Blyde River Canyon is quite a sight!
- Camping under the stars at the unfenced campsite at Ithala.
- Don’t leave Durban without trying a Bunny chow!
Norway with Niels from The Road Trip Guy.
During my 30,000 Km road trip trough 41 European countries, I was most keen on visiting the beautiful country of Norway. Many people had told me that the breathtaking mountains and mesmerizing fjords would offer a great scenery for a road trip.
There are actually two routes going from Oslo to Bergen. Once you start driving you will have to make a decisions at the city of Hol;
Route RV50/E16: Oslo – Hol – Aurland – Flåm – Voss – Bergen, 532 km, 7,5 hours
Route RV7: Oslo – Hol – Hardangervidda – Hardanger – Bergen, 513 km, 1 ferry, 9 hours
I decided to take the first route as it would take me past these standout places.
- Borgund Stave Church
The Borgund Stave Church is a stave church located in the village of Borgund in the municipality of Lærdal. It is exceptionally well preserved and one of the most well known stave churches in Norway. Check out the roof carvings of the dragons’ heads! Spooky is it not?
- The longest tunnel in Europe: the Lærdalstunnel
The Lærdal Tunnel is a 24.51-kilometre long road tunnel connecting Lærdal and Aurland. Construction started in 1995 and the tunnel opened in 2000. Construction cost was 1.082 billion NOK and the tunnel has beautiful blue lighting with yellow lights at the fringes to give an impression of sunrise so you won’t fall a sleep during the 20-minute drive.
- City of Bergen
Bergen is a populair city, which is located on Norway’s southwestern coast. It is know as the city that is surrounded by beautiful fjords, the colourful wooden houses on the wharf, mountains and Norway’s longest and deepest fjord: The Sognefjord.
Loire Valley, France with Wendy from World Wide Wendy.
If you like history, nice scenery, delicious food and lovely wines, you need to go to the Loire region in France. In the 15th century this was a popular area for hunting and the royalty built magnificant castles to spent their holidays.
About 140 castles were preserved and therefor the Loire Valley is listed as Unesco World Heritage. I don’t know any other place in the world where you find so many historical sites in such a small area. Everything breathes history over here. As I am a big fan of all the legends and myths that go with these historical buildings, it’s one of my favourite places in the world.
For me, Chenonceau is the most beautiful castle in the Loire. It also has a rich history. The castle is on pillars in the water and in good weather the reflection in the water is beautiful. It is clear that the women ruled over here. You have to visit the gardens too as they are magnificant.
You can start your tour in Saumur to end in Bourges. You should spend at least a week in the region, but if you really love castles and mediaval towns, you could stay here for weeks.
You see, this region is the Walhalla for lovers of castles and history. Add a pleasant climate, delicious food, and tasty wines and you have a top holiday destination.
- Other amazing castles: Cheverny, Chambord and Villandry
- Fontevraud with its giant abbey ‘L’abbaye de Fontevraud’
- Vendôme is a medieval town with nice hiking routes