As much as I enjoy taking local buses and trains, one of my favorite ways of enjoying a country leisurely is driving through the countryside, soaking in the landscape and scenery. Especially in massive countries like Australia, driving from one region to another gives a real sense of he back country. A recent driving trip in Ireland allowed me to reacquaint with that love. I’d previously written about ideal driving tour destinations, now I’m going deeper to dig out the world’s 7 most scenic drives.
1. Great Ocean Road, Australia
Weaving through the Southern Ocean coastline in Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road offers sights of the scrubby landscape, craggy coastal rock formations and the surrounding Otways rainforest. The scenic drive starts from the picnic-heaven Torquay, passing through the surfers’ paradise, Bell’s Beach, and culminates at the Twelve Apostles (pictured below) – an impressive display of limestone rock stacks rising from the tumultuous waves. If you’re planning to spend your holidays in Australia, be sure to rent a car to cruise through this incredible scenic route.
Flickr photo by [mapu]
2. Milford Road, New Zealand
An essential part of NZ holiday includes the jaw-dropping scenic drive in South West New Zealand, journeying through valleys, lakes and waterfalls. Running alongside a 14-mile fjord, the drive offers views of the Tasman Sea, and the surrounding snow-peaked mountains. The route takes you through Fiordland National Park and portions of the Te Wāhipounamu World Heritage Area, one of the great wilderness areas of the southern hemisphere.
Flickr photo by jdegenhardt
3. M8, Scotland
The mountainous and craggy landscape of Scotland is often overlooked by travelers, but the country’s diverse geography is definitely worth checking out. Mountain passes that mark the transitions between the highlands and lowlands snake past steep slopes and hilltop castles. M8 is the main motorway – its secondary roads lead to interesting spots and some have bends so sharp that will send you screaming.
Photo by Stuart Pinfold
4. Pacific Highway, California
Perhaps one of the world’s most photographed route, the Pacific Highway that cuts through California meanders languidly along the shoreline. Starting from San Luis Obispo, the route brings you through hairpin bends, cliffs and oak woodlands and ends at Monterey. Some of the essential stops include Morro Bay – where a volcanic rock stands 536 feet above the bay, the Hearst Castle and the Point Lobos State Reserve to catch gray whales migrating past (December through April).
Photo by nancydowd
5. Leh-Manali Highway, India
Those who have been to the Indian Himalayas would have passed through this hugely famous route – fame for its unworldly beauty and notorious for the dangers and harshness of the terrain. The Leh-Manali Highway is a highway in India connecting the Kashmir region to the Himalayas. It crosses some of the highest mountain passes in the world and is open only for 2 months in a year (between June and mid-September) when snow does not pose too much of a threat. Travelers who have done this by bus vouch that this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience – nowhere else offers such raw beauty.
Photo by Wilson Loo
6. Seward Highway, Alaska
The Seward Highway is a major highway in Alaska that extends 127 miles (204 km) from Seward to Anchorage. Backdropped by majestic snow-capped mountains, the highway snakes through plundering waterfalls, verdant forests and calm lakes. Watch for the rare Beluga Whales, or mooses and bears near rapids and creeks. Wildlife and nature are abundant here, so take your time to explore the area and you’ll be generously rewarded.
7. Grossglockner High Alpine Road, Austria
The single most breathtaking drive in Europe is the Grossglockner High Alpine Road that winds around the highest mountain in the Alps (at 3,798metres above sea level). The 4,000km journey to the Arctic passes through all types of vegetation – from green meadows to dry cornfields and the eternal ice. The highlight of the route is definitely the Hohe Tauern National Park: the highest mountain and the largest glacier in Austria.
Photo by daneen_vol
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