As long as the Earth has been large, it’s been fun to wander. That’s all that travel is at its heart: wandering across the Earth, constantly in awe at what you’re witnessing. But, with the advent of ever-faster means of transportation, the journey has taken a back seat to the destination—red-eye flights and jet speeds give way to a tunnel vision focused on point B. Think about it: when was the last time you were excited about the airport or got goosebumps looking out a plane’s window?
The more travel speeds up, the more the tried-and-true road trip stands tall. The magic of a road trip is intertwined with everything that’s always made travel worth it — getting to witness the surrounding scenery slowly morph and shift in passing, the open road only matched in size by the expanse of the big sky and the potential possibilities lying ahead, the slow burn of anticipation as you count down the moments until arrival. Here are some of the best in the world for your consideration.
Ireland — The Wild Atlantic Way
The fables of Ireland’s enchanting countryside stretch back to the time of fairies and castles — a sense of magic still very much present today. Where the Atlantic Ocean greets the western side of the island is a stretch of road that’s been dubbed “The Wild Atlantic Way:” approximately 1,600 miles of adventure threaded between wave-worn cliffs and rolling green hills, with quintessential charming towns dotted in-between. Passing through nine coastal counties, the pacing of your road trip is entirely up to your preference. You could make the focus of the day the drive from pit stop to pit stop, or you could opt to drive in the mornings and evenings for the chance to spend the day immersed in each town’s cultural gems and activities—whale watching in West Cork, the Roman Catholic cathedral of Letterkenny, the views from the Slieve League’s cliffs, the golf courses of Strandhill and Kylemore Abbey’s timeless grounds in Connemara, just to name a few.
Australia — The Great Ocean Road
There’s much to be said about the near-mystical nature of Australia’s great outdoors: mindbogglingly massive, utterly lush with a variety of ecosystems and scenes, unique wildlife found nowhere else on Earth thriving in a countryside nearly devoid of human existence beyond the cities—it’s as close as you can get to unblemished mother nature. Plenty of places encapsulate this, from the legendary Outback to the Great Barrier Reef to the thick foliage of Kakadu National Park, but none make for as scenic a drive as the Great Ocean Road.
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Running from the towns of Torquay to Allansford, the Great Ocean Road is exactly what the name implies: a seaside drive stretching for over 400 miles of Australia’s south-eastern coast. The juxtaposition of sharp-cut limestone cliffs next to nearly perfect picturesque beaches makes for a surreal view all the way through, but as with any road trip, the treat is the pit stops. Both Torquay Surf City and Bells Beach are the prime places to shred some waves (or, watch others do so from the comfort of the sandy beach), while other picture-perfect options exist inland. Great Otway National Park houses thundering waterfalls amongst its ancient mossy trees, and Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve hosts the unique wildlife staples — emus, koalas and kangaroos. No matter where you stop along the way, expect to find wonder.
New Zealand — West Coast & Milford Sound
New Zealand is known for a great many things — hobbits, rugby and a phenomenal landscape of the breathtaking sort. From the depths of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves to the enchantingly blue Bay of Islands, it is significantly difficult to find a section of New Zealand that doesn’t provide the setting for soon-to-be-treasured memories. But, for the setting of an epic road trip, look to the South Island’s West Coast.
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Stretching nearly 700 miles, the West Coast is what all drives aspire to be: dramatic in commanding your attention, a steady slew of ever-changing views and scenery. Stop in Westport for seal spotting, eel feeding in Hokitika, glacier hiking in Franz Josef — the adventures are as varied as a fruit salad, though the apex of your journey will certainly be Milford Sound. Milford Sound is the geographic echo of a long-ago colossal glacier — cliffs and fjords combine with mountains and waterfalls for a retreat with serene highs and lows. A half-day canoe trip is the perfect opportunity to soak up all of the surroundings. Out there on the water, the journey is refracted in a lens of greater meaning, elevating what was already a stellar drive to the point of pilgrimage.
Argentina – Route 40
Running parallel to the Andes Mountains, Route 40 is not only the longest road in Argentina, but also one of the longest roads in the world. Spanning a gargantuan distance of over 3,000 miles, traveling from top to bottom will see you crossing paths with 20 national parks, 18 major rivers and 27 passes through the Andes mountain range — solidifying its claim to road-trip royalty.
With such a collection of experiences scattered amongst this stretch of road, the key to successfully crossing it is to have a plan, including a to-do list of the must-visits. Cueva de las Manos hosts cave paintings dating back 13,000 years, creating a surreal sight for those with a penchant for art history. San Carlos de Bariloche is a curious town, boasting architecture and chocolate lifted straight from the Swiss mountains and plopped down atop the Andes. Los Glaciares National Park is the largest national park in the country, featuring everything from subpolar forest, Patagonian steppe and the namesake ice cap feeding 47 large glaciers. Through and through, no matter where on the road trip you’re at, you’re not with want of world-class hiking possibilities, or ever too far from luxurious resort — Route 40 runs through almost half of Argentina’s provinces, after all.
To plan your international road trip, contact your travel professional today.