The road trip is a rite of passage here in the States. But it’s also, in many respects, not hard to pull off. Once you turn 16, all you need is a driver’s license, jalopy and enough cash for gas.
But now that you’ve got a 4G smartphone, temperature-controlled seats and quite a few more ponies under the hood — it’s time to move beyond Route 66.
While the whimsical cover and travel-porn premise — 300+ vibrant pages detailing “the planet’s most thrilling road trips” — may seem to infer this is another tome that will collect dust on your shelf, the beauty here is in the practical value.
Immediately, the table of contents categorizes the routes by region (Africa & The Middle East, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania) and difficulty level (Easy, Harder and Epic). So even if you find yourself in, say, Morocco for the first time, just flip the page and there’s a first-hand account of a scenic drive you can tackle. Helpful hints include taking a French and Arabic phrase book and watching out for “overzealous hawkers.”
And that’s only the “Harder” level.
Of the 50 trips curated from Lonely Planet’s writers, we’ve picked six of the best from six continents, all categorized as “Easy." So next time you find yourself in a foreign land (or with some free time at home), pack a bag and hit the road — with an International Driving Permit and this book in tow.
On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine (United States)
This slow roll through the Blue Ridge Mountains starts in Virginia and ends near the western tip of North Carolina. And by slow, we’re talking molasses, as the two main drags — Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway — never go above 45 MPH. All the better to enjoy the blazing foliage of fall, sweet rolls and coffee you pack, and black bears roaming the woods.
Driving Down Brazil’s Costa Verde
How easy can a Brazilian road trip be, what with ecosystems ranging from rainforest to desert? This Rio to São Paulo route bypasses those, in favor of mountains and ocean, along the country’s longest highway BR-101. The writer suggests a pitstop in Paraty, “one of two spots in Brazil famous for producing cachaça, the country’s homegrown firewater distilled from sugar cane” — an overnight pitstop.
Passing Over the Panorama Route (South Africa)
The variety of creatures you’re bound to see on this gold-rush expedition (donkeys, klipspringers, galagos, kudu, leopards, vervet monkeys and “alarmingly long-toothed baboons”) is reason enough to go. But it’s standing at the precipice of some of the most astonishing wonders of the world, from the Three Rondavels to God’s Window, that makes it obligatory.
Fit For a King: Jebel Hafeet (United Arab Emirates)
Although known as one of the best motorcycling roads in the world, you won’t be faulted for taking four wheels out on the Al Ain road, as a quick Google will bring up headlines alluding to the speed-demonry. It’s a must for the lead footed, but the writer notes, “you do need to worry about the local drivers who whistle past at [124 MPH] and then suddenly slam on the brakes as soon as a speed camera looms.”
Winding Up on Norway’s West Coast
“Winding” is the operative word here. Trollstigen (or the Troll’s Ladder) in Rauma comprises 11 hairpin turns down a steep hillside. But that’s child’s play after Stalheimskleiva, a one-way, 20-degree climb up and around 13 hairpins. Don’t forget to stop and take some photos along this Bergen-to-Kristiansund route, because your friends back home will never believe you.
The Great Alpine Road
This pitstop-and-go jaunt from Wangaratta to Bairnsdale offers equal parts picturesque drives as out-of-car adventures. Mountain biking trails dot the 195-mile course, as do a variety of primo hotels, chalets and campgrounds, so you don’t have to stave off cramps in the car after Mount Buffalo's 3,675 feet of trail elevation.