The world’s greatest roads

27/10/2017 10:52

Written by Bradt Travel Guides

The Muscat–Dhofar Coastal Route, Oman

Camels on road, Dhofar, Oman by Jurate Buiviene, ShutterstockBe prepared for other road users when driving in Dhofar © Jurate Buiviene, Shutterstock

If you want lots of beach camping in unspoilt landscapes, have your own 4x4 and are completely self-sufficient in supplies, this route may appeal to you. It is so full of unexpected interest and stark beauty that it may well be the most pleasurable long-distance drive in OmanAt Ras Ruwais the dunes collapse into the sea and, as if running out of material, the splendid hills of sand are almost immediately replaced by the endless sabkha at Bar Al Hikman. The beaches here are a magnet for thousands of birds throughout the year and occasional turtles haul themselves up to lay eggs.

The Carretera Austral, Chile

Cerro Castillo Carretera Austral Chile by Hugh Sinclair© Hugh Sinclair

Stretching from the Chilean Lake District to southern Patagonia, the Carretera Austral offers South America’s greatest road trip. It runs through Chile’s wildest region, where towering forests sit alongside monumental glaciers and Andean condors soar above aquamarine lakes. Bordered by craggy cliffs and mountains, the 1,270km road snakes past secluded settlements, exclusive lodges, vivid marble caves and mist-shrouded hot springs – not to mention countless snow-tipped volcanoes and national parks. Although challenging, it is undoubtedly worth the effort.

Transfăgăraşan Highway, Transylvania

Transfagarasan Highway Transylvania Romania by Rechitan Sorin, Shutterstock © Rechitan Sorin, Shutterstock 

Route 7C, also known as the Transfăgăraşan Highway, is the most spectacular drive in Transylvania and maybe even Europe. Romania’s highest asphalt-covered road is an unforgettable experience for the passenger as well as the driver. In a 24 March 2008 article in The Guardian, Uneasy Rider author Mike Carter described the Transfăgăraşan Highway as ‘the best biking road I’ve ever ridden’, and in 2009, Jeremy Clarkson of BBC’s Top Gear pronounced it ‘the best road in the world!’

The Cabot Trail, Canada

Cabot Trail Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia Canada by © chensiyuan, Wikipedia© chensiyuan, Wikipedia

This is the official name for the road which loops around Nova Scotia's northern Cape Breton Island. This region is justly renowned for its spectacular unspoilt beauty and regularly features high on lists of the world’s best scenic drives. The most spectacular stretch of the approximately 300km trail is the 115km between Cheticamp and Ingonish Beach, much of which passes through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. From early summer well into autumn, pilot, minke, fin and humpback whales come to feed in the Gulf of St Lawrence and off the northern tip of Cape Breton Island.

The Skeleton Coast, Namibia

Skeleton Coast Namibia by dconvertini Flickr © dconvertini, Flickr

This hauntingly barren stretch of coast in the northwest of Namibia is best explored by 4x4 and takes about 5 hours in one hit. Stretching from Swakopmund in the south to the Angolan border in the north,  the C34, runs parallel to the ocean, and often feels like a drive along an enormous beach – with the sea on one side, and the sand – or gravel – continuing forever on the other. It’s a tribute to the power of the ocean that, despite the havoc wreaked on passing ships, very few wrecks remain visible.

Pamir Highway, Tajikistan

Truck Pamir Highway Tajikistan by Michal Knitl Shutterstock© Michal Knitl, Shutterstock 

The prize for the world’s best drive is hotly contested, and Tajikistan's Pamir Highway certainly comes close to perfection. Magnificent mountains, gushing rivers and waterfalls, summer settlements with nomads and sheep, and scarcely another vehicle in sight are all points in its favour. Whilst it’s not a route for the faint-hearted, if you have the physical and mental stamina it’s a once in a lifetime experience whether you’re travelling by two wheels or four.

Gotthard Pass, Switzerland

Tremola Road Gotthard Pass Switzerland by Ivo Scholz Switzerland TourismThe Tremola section is probably the trickiest part of the drive, Switzerland © Ivo Scholz, Switzerland Tourism 

The Gotthard Pass is perhaps the most famous of Switzerland's alpine passes and for centuries has been associated with hazardous and punishing travel. It has long been a major trade route between northern Europe and Italy and in centuries past, before the Gotthard and Base Tunnel were opened, was a perilous route made by horse-drawn post buses. Thankfully, it is a lot safer by car today and a roadtrip means being able to savour the views of the lush mountains above and sweeping valleys below, just watch out for wandering cows! 

Transylvania, the Bradt Guide by Lucy Mallows and Paul BrummellBradt guide to Tajikistan by Sophie Ibbotson and Max Lovell-HoareSwitzerland A guide to exploring the country by public transport by Anthony Lambert 

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