The 10 Greatest Scenic Drives in the World
Published on: January 5th, 2018
Last modified: July 27th, 2023
Some of the best films revolve around car journeys, and for good reason.
Whether you hire a car or go with a guide, set out on a memorable adventure along one of the greatest scenic drives in the world.
Feel the wind in your hair as you fly past breathtaking views and enjoy the freedom to explore majestic landscapes en route.
The Andean Lakes
Ruta 40 stretches down the entire length of Argentina, winding through the Andes and connecting 20 national parks over 4,800 kilometres. The route therefore encompasses a number of different scenic drives with wildly diverse landscape and hugely varied driving conditions too.
The Andean Lakes route covers 184 kilometres from the city of Bariloche, through the villages of Dina Huapi and Villa la Angostura and on to the city of San Martin de los Andes, with the seven great lakes along the way, giving the route its name. The trip can be done in a day but by staying overnight at points along the way, there’s more time to explore. Be sure to refuel and buy supplies when passing through each town.
Argentina and Chile
El Calafate to Torres del Paine
In a day, travel from the Argentine town of El Calafate to Chile’s world renowned Torres del Paine National Park. The scenic route winds through Argentina’s Andean landscape to the Chilean border, then continues on to the spectacular national park where the mountains, lakes and lagoons can be explored on foot.
By crossing the Argentina-Chile border at Puerto Natales, you’ll have the opportunity to fill up on fuel and pick up some Chilean currency too. Travel during the southern hemisphere’s summer months – October to March – for warmer weather and better driving conditions.
Iceland‘s Route 1 – commonly called the Ring Road – is the main road around the edge of island, making it possible to circumnavigate the country in 7 days, with more days allowing for exploration of sites along the way. This 1,322-kilometre route connects each of the island’s towns and national parks, amidst extraordinary natural phenomena of volcanoes, glaciers and waterfalls.
Don’t miss Seljalandsfoos and Skogafoss waterfalls or Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. The entire ring road is open throughout spring, summer and autumn, with the best weather in the summer months.
Irohazaka Winding Road
In Japan and North of Tokyo, the renowned Irohazaka road winds through forested mountainside from the historic city of Nikko at 530 metres to the highlands of Okunikko that reach up to 1,475 metres. What makes the road really stand out though is its 48 hairpin turns, each of which are labelled with a character of the 48-character Japanese alphabet Hiragana.
Look out for the route’s two waterfalls, an observation deck that overlooks the winding road and another with views of Lake Chuzenji, and for an even more scenic drive, make the journey in autumn when the forest is in full autumnal colour. The spectacular route has cultural significance too, as the road pilgrims once took to reach Lake Chuzenji.
The Atlantic Road
Jutting out from the dramatic Hustadvika coastline of Fjord Norway, the islands that lie between the towns of Kristiensund and Molde are connected by the famous eight-kilometre Atlantic Road.These small islands are linked by eight bridges, with the tallest bridge Storseisundet drawing the most attention. The setting is one of great natural beauty but there are also ancient churches to seek out and a cave where artifacts from 10,000 years ago have been unearthed.
Geirangerfjord to Trollstigen
Trollstigen mountain road covers the 106-kilometre stretch between Lake Langvatnet and the Sogge Bridge in Fjord Norway’s district of Romsdal. The steep incline zigzags through the mountainside with 11 hairpin turns and six panoramic viewpoints overlooking the UNESCO-protected Geirangerfjord Valley. While driving amidst the fjords and valleys, take a detour to pristine waterfalls and the sunken whirlpools of Gudbrandsjuvet that lie by a 20-metre gorge.
The Amalfi Coast
Located just south of the Bay of Naples, the beautiful Amalfi Coast hosts some of the most dazzling scenery in Europe. Stretching for 60 km between Sorrento and Salerno, the road that connects the two is positioned precariously above sheer cliff faces.
Make time to stop off at two of the most famous cities of Positano and Vietri sul Mare where you can enjoy the colourful old buildings and delicious cuisine, absorbing the glamour and charm of this region.
Running alongside the rocky coastline, this route covers nine kilometres with 114 curves en route and observation points for panoramic ocean and mountain views. For the surfers and beach-goers, there are many pristine coves to stop off and enjoy the waves.
Great Ocean Road
This listed Australian National Heritage is 243 kilometres of scenic, winding roads stretching along the south-eastern coast of Australia. Encompassing everything between the Victorian cities of Torquay and Allansford, the Great Ocean Road is best explored over a few days, enjoying the landscapes and surroundings.
Stop off to explore some of southern Australia’s most famous sights, from the mighty Twelve Apostles rising out of the sea to the Great Otway National Park, with thundering waterfalls and lush tropical forest and also home to the country’s oldest lighthouse. This area of Australia is also renowned for its iconic wildlife such as southern right whales, kangaroos and dolphins.
Situated in the spectacular Scottish Highlands, with incredible scenery at every turn, Applecross is a particularly famous route in the region. A remote peninsula in Wester Ross, and one of the highest roads, this winding road with hairpin bends spoils you with fantastic views across the highlands and over the the Isle of Skye.
Navigating the hairpin bends of the road deserves a reward! Take a break at one of the local villages at a traditional pub or stop off for photo opportunities.