World's Best Road Trip Destinations
Do you love road trips but can’t figure out which country you want to explore next? We’ve got you covered! In this article you’ll find 10 of the world’s best road trip destinations, taking into account the beautiful scenery, variety of things to do and see, road conditions, and overall safety. Not only do you see so much more when traveling by car, but you also get to experience the destination on a deeper level on road trips. You’ll pass through the most remote towns and places you’d otherwise miss. Enjoy the freedom and flexibility that comes with the open road!
Do you love road trips? Don’t forget to check out our road trip quotes! We’ve compiled the best in the world.
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1. The American Southwest
With its long straight roads, a wealth of drive-thru restaurants, and quirky motels, the US is our top pick for road trips around the world. This is because of its infinite diversity and sheer beauty. From the desert landscapes in Nevada to the mountains in Utah, slot canyons in Arizona, and beach towns along the California Coast. There's something for everyone to explore.
And what’s even more exciting? Amidst all that diversity are some of the most iconic natural highlights of the country. You'll find world-famous natural landscapes like the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Monument Valley. Some of the country’s best national parks, including Zion National Park, Arches National Park, and Yosemite National Park also fall along this road trip. And some of the most interesting cities, such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas all lie within reasonable proximity!
So if you want to hit the road and you haven’t been to the Southwest, the time is now! While the summers are hot, the fall and spring are the perfect time to visit due to to its mild climate. But it’s possible to get to most destinations even in the winter (without the crowds!). Check out our video for more inspiration below. We were on the road for 6 weeks during January/February, taking in 4 states.
With its wide-open spaces, variety of African wildlife, and dream-like landscapes, Namibia is a road trip destination unlike anywhere else in the world. It's home to the world's oldest desert, the tallest sand dunes, a vast unexplored coastline, and the largest population of free-roaming cheetahs. Who could ask for more?
Add to that the fact that Namibia is the second most sparsely populated country in the world, and you've got an ideal road trip destination. It has a population of approximately 2.5 million (2019) who mainly live around the three main cities - Windhoek, Swakopmund, and Walvis Bay. For this reason, public transportation is limited and by going by car is the only way to explore this vast country.
The Namibian roads, even though largely unpaved, are well-managed and maintained. And you’ll find plenty of camping facilities along the way to break up your road trip journey, whether it is right on the beach along the Skeleton Coast or amidst the wildlife at Waterberg Plateau. You also won't have to worry too much about seasons since it's warm all year long!
We journeyed around Namibia for 2 weeks in a 4x4 jeep with a roof tent. We started in Windhoek and explored mainly around the central part of the country. Find our suggested 7, 14, and 21-day itinerary around Namibia here.
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3. Iceland's Ring Road
Being home to some of the world's most dramatic landscapes, Iceland is one of the world's best road trip destinations. It's an unforgettable experience to drive past giant volcanoes, hundreds of waterfalls, immense glaciers, and volcanic formations such as geysers, hot springs, and lava fields.
Iceland's Route 1, or "Ring Road", loops around the entire island, giving you the perfect taste of what the country has to offer. From national parks to quaint fishermen villages, black-sand beaches, and dramatic waterfalls, there's tons of variety along the main road! Make sure to soak in the Blue Lagoon, visit the mesmerizing Seljalandsfoss, explore Thingvellir National Park, and hike to the red-colored layered rock Hengifoss, one of the best day hikes in the world.
Thanks to its relative size, it's possible to drive around the island in less than a week. However, to truly take in the gorgeous scenery, we'd recommend spending at least 2 weeks. The best time to visit is undoubtedly the summer as the days are long and the weather is mild. It's also the perfect time to go camping, which makes your self-driving adventure much more affordable.
4. South Island, New Zealand
Who isn't dreaming about a road trip around New Zealand? Being on almost every traveler's bucket list, New Zealand is a truly special place. Its otherworldly natural beauty is formed by volcanic activity, a dramatic coastline, and rugged mountain peaks. But aside from the views, it's also known for its unique Maori culture, its charming cities, its friendly people, and interesting European history. Can it get any better than that?
While the North Island is more populated and known for its Lord of the Rings-inspired locations, the South Island is where the true beauty and ruggedness lies. From driving around Coronet Peak and the Crown Range near Queenstown to the ice-carved fjords in the Fiordland National Park, the turquoise lakes in Pukaki and Tekapo, and hiking in Mount Cook National Park, the South Island is the definition of wild and untamed.
Allow yourself at least two weeks to visit the South Island, and at least three if you want to combine the North Island as well! The best time to visit is from November through March as it is summer in the southern hemisphere.
5. The Canadian Rockies & B.C.
Rated as one of the most beautiful road trip destinations in the world, the Canadian Rockies should be on everyone's bucket list! Well-connected roads and highways wind through the snow-capped mountains and lush valleys, from town to town and to the most beautiful lakes and attractions. The Canadian Rockies are a true nature and adventurer's paradise, home to tons of wildlife, raging rivers, and endless hiking and biking trails.
The most popular and scenic route is the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) which connects the charming alpine towns of Banff to Jasper, with natural wonders and vistas along the way. Take in the grandeur of the world-famous Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, the impressive Athabasca Falls, the immense Columbia Icefield, and the gorgeous Mistaya Canyon. Even though the road is only 230km (140 mi) long, it is absolutely mindblowing how much there is to do and see along the way.
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Extend your awe-inspiring Canadian Rockies road trip journey to the west of Canada. The province of British Columbia (B.C.) borders the Rockies and expands to the Pacific Ocean. It's home to hundreds of breathtaking provincial parks with even more wildlife, waterfalls, and mountain vistas. Don't forget to add Garibaldi Provincial Park and Joffre Lakes Provincial Park to your bucket list! Tired of mountains? Then, drive the scenic Sea-to-Sky Highway, visit the beaches of the Sunshine Coast, explore Vancouver Island, or sip wine in the Okanagan Valley wine region!
Make sure to visit during the high season, from mid-June to September, as the mountains are covered in snow for the rest of the year!
Check out our video from our 2020 Canadian Rockies road trip and hiking adventure.
6. Western Norway
Another world-class road trip destination is Western Norway. The Norwegian West Coast is the perfect mix of city culture and jaw-dropping mountain and coastal landscapes defined by dramatic fjords, snow-capped peaks, and waterways. From the breathtaking views of the Sognefjord and Geirangerfjord to the immense glacier in the Jostedalsbreen National Park, the iconic rock formation of Trolltunga, the charming towns of Flåm and Loen, and the cultural character of Bergen and Ålesund. Drive around the stunning scenery while enjoying a variety of activities like hiking, kayaking, and biking.
Unlike what you might expect, road tripping is the most affordable way to explore Western Norway. This is especially true if you combine your road trip with camping. Norway has the amazing "allemansretten", which is a law that allows everyone to camp in nature for free as long as it is at least 150 meters from a house or cabin. This means that you can save a lot of money on accommodation! The best time to visit is from June to August, with longer days and fewer rainy days.
Whether it's the world-class food, romantic cities, or cultural and natural wonders, Italy truly is an irresistible destination. And what better way to explore the country than on a road trip?
Drive along Italy's most scenic roads. From the Amalfi Coast to Tuscany's vineyard-dotted landscape and the breathtaking Dolomites, every region brings something new and exciting. And it is your choice to mix and match these different regions! Visit the quaint fishermen villages of Cinque Terre, sip wine in the Chianti wine region, explore romantic Florence, and hike one of the many gorgeous trails in the Dolomites.
The best time to visit Italy is from May to September, when the weather is pleasantly warm, the cities are alive, and the mountains lively and colorful. However, this is also the peak time, meaning more tourists!
Ireland is one of the world's best road trip destinations and that's why we introduced it as a travel bucket idea for 2021! It made it to our top pick as it's a small country, meaning that driving times are shorter, with tons of interesting things to do and see along the way. A scenic drive around the island takes you to the historic capital of Dublin, the rolling hills of the Ring of Kerry, the dramatic coastal Cliffs of Moher, the natural wonder of Giant's Causeway, and some of the best whiskey distilleries in the world. Ireland is the perfect destination for anyone who loves nature, hiking, discovering castles, Irish culture, and coastal scenery.
The best time to visit Ireland is during the summer months from June to September. However, thanks to its mild and temperate climate, Ireland can be visited year-round. Expect more rain but fewer crowds during the other seasons!
9. South Africa
South Africa was one of our favorite road trip destinations and that's why we've added it to the list. Not only is the country extremely diverse in terms of landscapes and cultures, but the roads and highways are also in outstanding shape. Safety also was not an issue at all and it was extremely affordable!
South Africa has many scenic road trip routes to choose from. Whether you want to explore the many waterfalls and the famous Blyde River Canyon along the Panorama Route, or you prefer the rolling hills and vineyard-dotted landscapes of Paarl and Stellenbosch in the Western Cape region. Or you may opt to get a taste of the coast and drive the Garden Route, known for its lush mountains, golden beaches, indigenous forests, and incredible wildlife.
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The best time to visit the South African coast is from November to February as it is warm. However, there is also more rain during this time, meaning it is rarer to spot big game in the safari parks. We visited South Africa in February and road tripped from Cape Town all the way to Johannesburg. Watch our road trip video below to get inspired!
Last but not least, Portugal is one of the best places to visit in Europe. Filled with spectacular coastlines, fabulous flavors, and historic cities that are only a few hours apart, Portugal is also one of the world's best road trip destinations. From the northern rolling hills and vineyards in the Douro Valley to some of the world's best surfing destinations along the west coast, and to the spectacular cliffs of the Algarve, there is so much to explore.
The best time to visit Portugal is from March to October as the weather is pleasant. However, keep in mind that the northern part is usually cold and rainy during early spring and fall.
These were our selection of the world's 10 best road trip destinations. We hope that these will inspire your future journeys. You can also check out some other road trip destinations suggested by CNN and Rough Guides.
If you are looking for more incredible destinations, make sure to download our free 100 bucket list destinations and start checking them off!