While most of us are dragging ourselves to work every morning and spend way too much time in traffic, others are cruising along some of my top 10 greatest roads in the world. What follows below is my selection of ten of the world’s most awe-inspiring roads.
Top 10 Greatest Roads in the World
1. Switchbacks for Daredevils:
Gorges du Dades, Morocco
In the heart of Morocco, not too far from Ouarzazate, the Dades Valley stretches out between the High Atlas mountains in the north and the Djebl Sarhro in the south. The Dades Gorge with its sheer walls of red-brown rock begins in the village of Boumalne du Dades. Sixty winding kilometers later, it ends in the settlement of Msemrir.
The desert landscape around the gorge is littered with kasbas and the Dades Valley is appropriately called the “Valley of thousand kasbas”. Four-wheel drive is more than just luxury here—the road is in pretty bad shape in certain places. The section with its many switchbacks often appears in the top five of the world’s most dangerous roads.
2. Cut-Out Beauty:
Combe Laval, France
The Combe Laval is a blindingly beautiful challenge for motorcyclists, a road cut out from the rocks and known as one of France’s most inspiring routes. The road was constructed between 1861 and 1898 to transport wood from Forêt de Lente to Saint-Jean-en-Royans, a village in the valley of Royans.
Nowadays, it’s a paradise for motorcyclists, cyclists and road trippers who try to tame this dazzling road to see the wonderful panoramas over the valley of Isère. A mandatory stop is the Col de la Machine, a mountain pass carved into the rocks at an altitude of 1,011 meters.
3. Scotland’s Finest:
North Coast 50, Scotland
Scotland’s answer to the legendary American Route 66 winds its way for 500 miles along endless country roads and hidden routes through a magnificent coastal landscape in the far north of the country.
The road begins in Inverness and zigzags along the west coast to Applecross. Then, it runs north towards the cozy towns of Torridon and Ullapool, before heading southward again via Caithness and John O’Groats. The entire route is only a year and a half old, but it’s already considered to be one of the greatest roads in the world.
4. The Ocean on Your Side, the Sun on Your Head:
Great Ocean Road, Australia
The ultimate road trip and the most famous road in Australia runs 243 kilometers along the south coast of that gigantic island, between the towns of Torquay and Warrnambool. This meandering road takes you past the Twelve Apostles, limestone rock formations that rise up majestically from the sea. The number of apostles has decreased to eight in recent years due to erosion, but they still manage to leave quite an impression.
The Great Ocean Road was built in the beginning of the past century to provide jobs to the thousands of soldiers who returned home after the First World War. In 1932, Australia’s most beautiful road was finished. Nowadays, in 2017, it’s the perfect route for driving a convertible car, stopping for a couple of hours of surfing, spotting koalas and whales, and taking photos of waterfalls and coastal cliffs. Its name is absolutely correct; this is one of the greatest roads in the world.
5. Past Blue Lakes…:
Icefields Parkway, Canada
Canada celebrates its 150th birthday this year and it grants all visitors free entry into all its national parks. That’s good news for those of you who want to drive the Icefields Parkway. This 230-kilometer-long road—officially known as the Alberta Highway 93—connects the immensely popular parks Banff National Park and Jasper National Park. With an average altitude of 1,700 meters, the Icefields Parkway is also one of Canada’s highest and greatest roads.
From Lake Louise, the parkway runs past the Crowfoot Glacier, the Bow River, the Mistaya Canyon, the Columbia Icefields, the Athabasca Waterfall and numerous other highlights. You can catch your breath at crystal-clear lakes such as Moraine Lake, Emerald Lake and Peyton Lake, which might just be the most photogenic place in the entire country.
6. …And Green Cliffs:
Suhua Highway, Taiwan
The Suhua Highway, also called the Suao-Hualien Highway, hugs the green cliffs on the east coast of Taiwan. As sweet as that may sound, the 118-kilometer-long road can be downright dangerous at times with some scary turns, steep ascents, falling rocks, landslides and plenty of big trucks.
The Highway is regarded as one of the most beautiful drives in Asia, and one of the greatest roads in the world, and combines jungle on one side with a lagoon-blue ocean on the other.
7. Four Seasons in One Day:
Garden Route, South Africa
Between Mosselbaai and Stormsrivier, the famous South African Garden Route snakes its way past wide sand beaches, deep bays, rugged coasts, wild inner regions and lovely wineries. The route gets its name from the abundance of flora that blooms all year round and makes this one of the absolute star attractions in the country.
Some natural highlights include bays such as Herolds Bay, Victoria Bay and Buffalo Bay, Wilderness National Park, the Cango Caves and Knysna Forest. The best time to visit the Garden Route is from October through April, spring and summer in South Africa. The Eastern Cape, where half of the Garden Route runs through, is notorious for its ever-changing weather and its “four seasons in one day”. While a convertible car might be awesome, make sure to get one with a roof that extends within ten seconds!
8. Waving to Whales and Seals:
The Atlantic Road, Norway
Norwegian architects and designers have been focusing on the natural world recently and have changed the appearance of eighteen roads in the country. Not to hide stuff, but to improve the views and create new experiences. This initiative is called the National-touristic Routes and one of them is the Atlantic Ocean Road.
This route of eight kilometers long is one of the world’s most dramatic and greatest roads, jumping from rock to islet along no fewer than eight bridges at the mouth of a fjord. The Atlantic Road connects the two most populous towns in the province of Møre, Molde and Kristiansund. It also offers phenomenal views of the Atlantic Ocean and all its fauna. While driving this road, you have the chance to spot whales and seals.
9. The Most Beautiful Road in the World:
Estrada Nacional 222, Portugal
The Estrada Nacional 222, also known simply as the N-222, runs between the two Portuguese villages of Peso de Regua and Pinhao, in the middle of the gorgeous Douro Valley. Car rental company Avis proclaimed in 2015 that the N-222 is the world’s most beautiful road. It leads drivers along the Douro River and through picturesque villages in this UNESCO World Heritage-listed wine region.
The grapes used to make world-famous port wine only grow on the hills along the banks of this river. The valley’s villages ooze charm. Workers plow fields while animals graze in meadows, local women gather at washing and bathing areas and village elders chat on the streets. In the hills behind the river, many other treasures await those who dare leaving the Estrada Nacional, without question one of the greatest roads in the world.
10. Highway to Heaven:
Karakoram Highway, China and Pakistan
Shortened as the KKH, the Karakoram Highway runs between the autonomous Chinese region of Sinkiang and Pakistan, across the Karakoram Mountains. This “highway” is literally a high road and is even said to be the highest paved road in the entire world. With an altitude of 4,693 meters, the Khunjerab Pass, which is part of the Karakoram Highway, is the world’s highest border crossing.
The Karakoram Highway leads past high peaks, through deep ravines and across a meeting area of no fewer than five different mountain ranges. During the road’s construction in the 60’s and 70’s, 500 construction workers are said to have been killed in Pakistan due to landslides and accidents. The number of deaths in China is unknown. Many parts of the highway are closed in winter—it’s not possible to cross the border at the Khunjerab Pass that time of year. It’s also not recommended to drive this road with a regular vehicle. A sturdy 4WD is advised to tackle this epic mountain road. The best time to do this is between May and November.
Have you ever driven one of these Top 10 Greatest Roads in the World? Share your experiences in the comments below!