Drives of a Lifetime: 500 of the World's Most Spectacular Trips

Drives of a Lifetime: 500 of the World's Most Spectacular Trips

by National Geographic

ISBN: 9781426206771

Publisher National Geographic

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Sample Chapter


From the adrenaline rush of a Formula One track to the sedate pleasures of a quiet Alaskan highway, here’s our choice of roads that are fun to drive

Highway 89, Arizona/Utah/Idaho/Wyoming/Montana

From the Sonoran Desert to the Rocky Mountains, this geological field trip of a drive from Flagstaff, Arizona, to the Canadian border traverses cactus-filled desert, a volcanic plateau with lava flows, the red rocks of Sedona, and the Great Salt Lake. Open roads rarely come finer.

PLANNING: Visit the route’s national parks, including Yellowstone.

Denali Highway, Alaska

Completed in 1957 to give access to Denali National Park, this largely gravel road offers bracing views of untamed wilderness with few signs of human occupation. It was replaced in 1971 by a newer road, now known as the George Parks Highway.

PLANNING: The highway leads from Paxson Junction to Cantwell Junction and is closed in winter.

Ruta 40, Argentina

Ruta 40 stretches along the whole country from Cabo Virgenes in the south to

La Quiaca in the north, extending more than 3,045 miles (4,900 km). It runs parallel to the Andes, crossing 236 bridges and many rivers, lakes, national parks, and mountain passes. From sea level, it ascends dramatically to 16,404 feet (5,000 m) in the north around Salta.

PLANNING: Ruta 40 is largely paved, but the southern part crosses mostly barren terrain.

Nürburgring, Nürburg, Germany

Designed to flaunt Germany’s automotive prowess, the original mountain ring track emerged between 1925 and 1927 for the country’s first Grand Prix. A new track was completed in 1984, but the original 12.9-mile (20.8 km) Nordschleife (Northern Loop) regularly opens to the public as a toll road. This is probably the world’s most challenging purpose-built racetrack, featuring a relentless series of hairpin or blind bends.

PLANNING: Check opening times. There’s no speed limit but German driving laws apply; unlicensed racing is banned.

Davos to Stelvio via Bormio, Switzerland/Italy

Implausibly etched through the peaks of the eastern Alps, this dizzying zigzag road built in the early 19th century is a hardcore workout for even the very best of drivers and automobiles. The 60 hairpin turns bring you up the mountains to a height of 9,042 feet (2,756 m). The heady views are mostly yours alone.

PLANNING: The road often closes in winter. Midway along, Bormio offers year-round skiing.

E4, Norway

Starting in southern Norway and driving as far north as you can is an excellent way of testing both you and your car’s endurance. This rugged 1,499-mile (2,412 km) road leads from Haugesund on the west coast, Norway’s oldest settlement, into the Arctic Circle, ending up at the bleak headland of Nordkapp, one of the most northerly points in Europe.

Visual highlights along the way include fjords, forests, fishing villages, glaciers, mountains, and tundra, as well as the northern lights. Expect little traffic, but watch out for roaming reindeer.

PLANNING: Allow 36 hours for the drive. In summer expect continual daylight.

Col de Turini, Alpes-Maritimes, France

With as many hairpin bends as a tightly coiled spring and the skimpiest of barriers, this vertiginous death-trap of a mountain pass looks designed for a James Bond car chase. It’s a high point of the Monte Carlo Rally, held every January, when spectators throw snow on the normally ice-clad track for added fun.

PLANNING: Focus on the road and try not to look down.

A18 Snaefell Mountain Road, Isle of Man

The Isle of Man has been a leading motorsport destination since 1904, when racing was legalized on public roads. This 15-mile (25 km) road between Douglas and Ramsey is the motorcycle-race circuit used for the Isle of Man TT and the Manx Grand Prix. The Isle of Man is one of the few British territories with no national speed limit, a key attraction for many.

PLANNING: The TT runs from late May to mid-June; the Manx Grand Prix starts in late

August. Both last 14 days.

B4560, Wales

Crossing some of Britain’s loveliest open countryside and frequently used for testdrives, this narrow winding road packs in panoramic views over Brecon Beacons National Park and the Black Mountains—along with plenty of challenging mountain corners and dreamy villages.

PLANNING: The B4560 runs north from Beaufort to Talgarth via Llangynidr, Bwlch, and Llangors, but the prettiest part is between Llangynidr and Bwlch. Ice and snow sometimes close the road.

Atlas Mountains, Morocco

From Marrakech, take the N9 southeast toward Ouarzazate across the majestic Atlas Mountains. The road’s twists and turns provide a test of skill and nerves for drivers, while the ascent into the Khaki Mountains provides passengers with panoramic pleasures.

PLANNING: Snow may close the road in winter. The 200-mile (322 km) drive takes about four hours.


Excerpted from "Drives of a Lifetime: 500 of the World's Most Spectacular Trips" by National Geographic. Copyright © 0 by National Geographic. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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