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Top 10: most scenic drives in the world

Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.

Today (June 30, 2014): Top 10: world’s most scenic roads.

Our planet is paved by more than 18 million kilometers or 11 million miles of roadways. However, only few of them are worth the drive, be it because of the adrenalin factor, the amazing scenery or the expectation of adventure. Some roads are so stunningly beautiful that they became iconic destinations in their own. Here’s my countdown of the top 10 most beautiful roads in the world (with more information below the slideshow).

Think I missed one? Share your favorite scenic road in the comments section or take my poll below!

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10. PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY ONE, CALIFORNIA, USA

One of the crown jewels of America’s national scenic byways system, the Pacific Coast Highway stretches just over 190 km (120 miles) between Monterey and Morro Bay. The narrow two-lane road hugs the impressive cliffs of California’s Central Coast, towering over the waves crashing into the shore below. Some of the best spots for a break along this roughly five-hour drive include the Monterey Peninsula and the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, one of the most beautiful (and photographed) places in all of California.

PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY ONE, CALIFORNIA, USA


9. RUTA 40, ARGENTINA

Winding its way from the top of Argentina to the southern tip of the mainland, Argentina’s Ruta 40 is one of the longest stretches of highway in the world, covering more than 4800 km (3000 miles).  Most of the highway runs alongside and sometimes within the Andes Mountain range, passing through some of the most extraordinary landscapes on the planet and connecting 20 national parks. One of the most spectacular views along the way (weather permitting!) is that of the Fitzroy and Cerro Torres ranges which kick in when you get close to El Chalten in Southern Patagonia.

RUTA 40 (NEAR EL CHELTEN), ARGENTINA


8. TRANSFAGARASAN HIGHWAY, ROMANIA

Europa has no shortage of mountainous roads with spectacular vistas, yet it is the Transfagarasan Highway in Romania that tops them all. Named by Top Gear as one of the world’s best driving roads, the Transfagarasan is dotted with endless twists and turns and with spooky, pitch black tunnels (the longest is more than 800 meters or 2600 feet), making for an exciting trip through Dracula territory. The winding road from Cartisoara goes south to Curtea de Arges then zigzags from Transylvania into Muntenia, and later ascends to 2,034 meters (6673 feet), to the highest peak in Romania (Moldoveanu Peak).

TRANSFAGARASAN ROAD, ROMANIA


7. GOING-TO-THE-SUN ROAD, MONTANA, USA

Going-to-the-Sun road is a spectacular 50 mile (80 km), two-lane highway that bisects Glacier National Park – my favorite National Park in the USA – east to west. The road spans the width of the park and crosses the Continental Divide at the 2025 meters (6,646 foot) high Logan Pass. It passes through almost every type of terrain in the park, from windswept alpine tundra atop the pass to large glacial lakes and cedar forests in the lower valleys. In 1983, the Going-To-The-Sun Road was included in the US National Register of Historic Places and in 1985, it was made an US National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

SAINT MARY’S LAKE ALONG THE GOING-TO-THE-SUN ROAD, MONTANA, USA


6. AMALFI COAST DRIVE, ITALY

The Amalfi Coast is widely considered Europe’s most scenic stretch of coastline, a landscape of towering, green-swathed mountains, pastel-hued villages with cobblestoned streets, palatial renaissance mansions, and expansive vistas over the turquoise waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. In 1997, the coastal landscape was rightfully awarded a coveted spot on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. The scenic Amalfi drive (formally Strada Statale 163) winds for about 80 km (50 miles) along the shoreline and cliffs of the Sorrento Peninsula, with plenty of viewpoints along the way to take in the spectacular coastal views. 

POSITANO VILLAGE ALONG THE AMALFI COAST DRIVE, ITALY


5. LYSEBOTN ROAD, NORWAY

The Lysebotn Road, traveling over the mountains of Rogaland and Vest Agder, is considered one of the most breathtaking roads in Europe, although is only accessible during 5 months of the year, when it is snow free and safe. It starts with a trilling ascent – with 27 challenging hairpin turns and average climbing percentage of 9,4% –  up the steep walls of the Lysefjord, providing stunning panoramic views. To make things even more interesting, the way down to Lysebotn includes a 1.1 km (3600 feet) long tunnel with 3 switchbacks as well as incredible vistas that will put a smile on every driving enthusiast’s face.

LYSEBOTN ROAD (ON THE LEFT), NORWAY


4. ICEFIELDS PARKWAY, ALBERTA, CANADA

To travel the Icefields Parkway is to experience one of Canada’s national treasures and most rewarding destinations. Stretching 232 km (144 miles) through the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains’ World Heritage Site, this world-class journey offers access to a vast wilderness of pristine mountain lakes, ancient glaciers, exciting wildlife and broad sweeping valleys. This special travel route winds its way through the national parks of Banff and Jasper, boasting a unique and irreplaceable landscape rich in history and natural beauty second to none.

PEYTO LAKE ALONG THE ICEFIELDS PARKWAY, ALBERTA, CANADA


3. SEWARD HIGHWAY, ALASKA, USA

Visiting Alaska is a superlative yet deeply personal, tranquil and inspiring wilderness experience, with bears, moose, whales, glaciers and mountains everywhere. One the highlights on every Alaska trip is the scenery along the Seward Highway, connecting Alaska’s capital Anchorage to the coastal town of Seward. The first 50 miles (80 kilometers) skirts the base of the Chugach Mountains and the shores of Turnagain Arm, where it’s common to see beluga whales, Dall’s sheep, waterfalls, and eagles. The remainder of the drive winds through the mountains of the Chugach National Forest, offering dramatic views of Alaska’s famous landscape.

SEWARD HIGHWAY, ALASKA, USA


2. CHAPMAN’S PEAK DRIVE, SOUTH AFRICA

Chapman’s Peak Drive, the most spectacular marine drive in the world, winds it way between Noordhoek and Hout Bay on the Atlantic Coast of the south-western tip of South Africa. The 9 km or 5,6 mi route, with its 114 curves, skirts the rocky coastline of Chapman’s Peak (593m or 1768 feet tall), with sheer drops to the sea below and towering mountains rising above you. The drive is affectionately known as “Chappies” and offers stunning 180° views with many areas along the route where you can stop and take in the exquisite scenery.

Chapman’s Peak Drive also features in my top list of places to visit in & around Cape Town.

CHAPMAN’S PEAK DRIVE, SOUTH AFRICA


1. MILFORD ROAD, NEW ZEALAND

This is sort of the landscape that gives hobbits wet dreams, and we don’t blame them. Winding through Fiordland National Park in the heart of the Southern Alps, visitors will find this stunning 230 km (144 mile) long road, in our humble opinion the most scenic road in the word. The road is part of State Highway 94 and connects the town Te Anau with the majestic Milford Sound. Along the scenic Milford Road, travelers get to see ridiculously beautiful rainforests, crystal clear lakes, thundering waterfalls, mighty cliffs, and snow-capped summits.

MILFORD ROAD, NEW ZEALAND


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1 Comment on Top 10: most scenic drives in the world

  1. South Africa drives are way overrated, like the rest of the country. Stick to USA; by far the most beautiful country in the world. S Africa townships are evident and the coastal road is nothing special. Just like the so called Table Mountain which is a barren flat-topped boulder.

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