Top ten road trips

2012-12-14 12:32
 Aah the open road... My little Golf has carried me from coast to coast, from Jo'burg-to-Durban-to-Cape Town and from A to Z more times than I can count. I have always enjoyed discovering a different route and in the past this has lead me to the marvels of a Karoo gem like the Owl House, or the pleasant surprise that Bloem actually has a bubbly nightlife!

If you are like me and prefer to really experience a place without the pressure of a solid itinerary (and you can afford the ever climbing fuel price...), News24 Travel suggests these 10 trails, chosen based on their character, sense of adventure and dramatic scenery. Vroom Vroom!

1. Alaska's Seward Highway

Forget billboards, tollbooths and Fast Food pit stops. For its serene beauty and voidances of human distractions we place Alaska's Seward Highway first. Whales and waterfalls, icy blue glaciers and mountains, placid trout ponds are amongst the sights you can trade your Wimpy burgers in for. This animal lover's paradise stretches out from Anchorage along 204 km of ice and mountain passes, over sea until you reach the harbor town of Seward.

2. Italy's Amalfi Coast Drive

The coastal landscape of towering bluffs, impressionistic villages climbing the hillsides, plentiful gardens and amazing views over the glorious turquoise water of the warm sea strikes your breath away as the quintessential stretch of the Mediterranean coast. Mama Mia! Start the 50km drive from Naples and experience the narrow and twisting course that inspired the likes of Richard Wagner.

3. USA's Route 66

America is like a layer cake and a road trip on ‘main road USA' will give you a broad picture of the nation. At almost 4000km, you better take a bum cushion! Sadly, Route 66 doesn't technically exist anymore since it was officially removed from the United States Highway System back in 1985 as it had been 'replaced' by the more functional Interstate Highway System. Not to worry though, portions of the road that passed through Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, and Arizona have been designated a National Scenic Byway of the name "Historic Route 66". It has begun to return to maps in this . With a little bit of planning however, 80% of the route is still accessible and it presents you with a veritable cross section of America. From Chicago's skyscrapers, through the swamplands of Missouri, the ‘hick' middle-of-nowhere-towns in the states of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona before finally arriving in sunny California and Fabulous Santa Monica.

4. The South African Garden route

Our own Garden Route is world famous for its plentiful forest and marine reserves, abundant wildlife, stunning scenery and pristine beaches. For those who want more than just a feast for the eyes, activities include shark-cage diving, bungee jumping at Africa's highest bridge, kayaking and even canopy tours in the forests of Knysna. The corridor of road wedged between the warm Indian Ocean and the mountains cover 200km, winding its way through George, Wilderness, Sedgefield and Knysna before ending up on the holiday hotspot of Plettenberg Bay.

5. The Dutch Flower Route

Pristine images of windmills slowly pumping away amidst fields of soil covered in blankets of colourful tulips make this trip a must for any flower lover. At the height of the European spring you can quite literally stop to smell the roses (or tulips rather) and see nature in all her beauty. The ‘Bloemen' Route starts in Haarlem and runs the driver along 40 kilometers of dense bands of primary color that spurt as far as the eye can see.

6. Bolivia's Ruta del Che, Vallegrande

This historic, and mostly unpaved, 244km route in Bolivia's Andean Valley is the route Che' Guevara followed in his final revolution rousing days. Follow the trail from Santa Cruz to Vallegrande, tracing his steps to the city of Samaipata and the authentic South American villages of Pucará, and Quebrada del Churo, where Che' lived the last few years of his life. Although this route is for the inner revolutionary, the colonial architecture of the towns as opposed to the tough terrain of the rainforest make it an exceptional journey.

7. New Zealand's north island

Possessing some of the most varied landscapes in the world, it really is no wonder why this was the place to shoot an otherworldly epic such as Lord of the Rings. As a crossroads between Polynesian and European culture, several routes through Kiwiland will evoke your inner Frodo. We suggest the jaunt between Auckland and Wellington that cuts through the length of the North Island and is perhaps the best way to see a sizeable chunk of the country. This 740 km drive takes you through volcanic fields, lush rain forest, jagged mountains, rolling hills of farmland and the country's largest lake.

8. Jamaica's Pirate route

As the perfect base for bloodthirsty nomads intent on marauding Spain's New world Treasure ships, Jamaica has a lively collection of scars to show-off its turbulent past. Start in Port Royal, where the pirates claimed the city as their own when an Earthquake shook a large slice of the city into the sea. The spooky piers and tattered buildings make it seem like an Arg! could echo from any nook! From here a 612 kilometer circumnavigation of the island will take you through Sugarcane fields, green savannahs and mountains with the azure of the Caribbean and the promise of Rum around each corner.

9. Himalayas, Manilla to Ley

This Buddhist pilgrimage route is the quintessential mountain drive and is sure to get your yin and yang in check. Leaving in the Solang Valley, it climbs 430 km upwards towards Rohtang Pass alongside the glistening waters of the Chandra River. With spectacular mountain vistas capped in snow, chubby Buddhas and ‘Free Tibet' signs everywhere, you truly feel on top of the world.

10. Scotland's Western Highlands

On this 420km drive between Edinburgh and the Isle of Skye you can understand why grown men cry during Braveheart. This moving country rolls with meadows, has lochs a plenty, hides coves and beaches nestled between cliffs and impresses with drop-off gorges. The countryside is littered with immense castles, including the Linlithglow palace and Stirling castle, and for nature lovers there are seals and otters, foxes, deer and numerous species of birds.

So remember kids, don't drink and drive!


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