Often the most inspiring way to travel a country, the road trip lets you get under the skin of the place you’re in, allowing you to absorb the local lifestyle as well as enjoying amazing changing landscapes.
Scotland’s landscape, with its wide valleys, glens, inland lochs, picturesque villages and wilderness, makes a spectacular backdrop for a road trip. Driving here is an absolute pleasure, with open, winding roads that are usually deserted aside from the odd stray sheep or rust-coloured cow.
Start in Edinburgh or Glasgow and you can be in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park in less than an hour.
Head north through William Wallace country toward Scotland’s mountainous Highlands — dramatic waterfalls, peaceful woodland and tame red deer all make this a show-stopping route.
Continue on toward Glencoe and the atmosphere changes. The impressive mountains and empty glens are said to be one of the spookiest places in Scotland, not surprising given the turbulent history of the area.
After your journey, feast on the freshest of seafood from Loch Linnhe at Fort Wiliam or get your adrenalin going with the huge range of outdoor activities available in the area — dog-sledding, skiing and mountain biking are popular options.
From Fort William, you can head up to romantic mists of The Isle of Skye or head east and wind your way south down the A9 via the highest distillery in Scotland at Dalwhinnie, the stunning Blair Castle and the churning waters of The Falls of Bruar. www.visitscotland.com.
gardens and wine in south africa:
Combine beautiful flowers and fine bouquets with a road trip along the scenic southern part of South Africa. Starting in Cape Town, take the N2 toward the coast, and the Garden Route, which offers everything including Great White and whale-spotting, white sand beaches, great lakes, rolling ocean, dramatic oceans, game reserves and a choice of glamorous but affordable hotels and cosy bed and breakfasts.
Alternatively, take a shorter, scenic trip along Route 62, which claims to be the longest wine route in the world. Along the way you’ll be able to sample fine wines in the vineyards of Paarl, Wellington, Tulbagh, Worcester Robertson, Montagu, Barrydale, Ladismith, Calitzdorp and Oudtshoorn. www.route62.co.za, www.tourismcapegardenroute.co.za.
romantic amalfi coast:
This has got to be one of the most romantic road trips ever. This dramatic coastline south of the Bay of Naples, with its lemon trees, vineyards, olive groves and pretty pastel-coloured towns wedged into the cliffs has long inspired artists, poets, movie stars and authors, including Wagner, Greta Garbo, Joan Miro and D.H. Lawrence.
The road that links the towns is a winding ribbon carved into the cliffs with a sharp drop to the sea on one side, and given the rally-driving style of many locals it can be a hair-raising ride.
However, it’s worth it for the highlights along the route, including the picturesque towns of Positano, Sorrento, Ravello and Amalfi. You can also make a detour to visit Capri, or the breathtaking Roman ruins at Pompeii or Herculaneum.
Famous as a getaway destination for the rich and famous, it’s also possible to do this road trip on the cheap. Get a budget flight to Naples and hire a car at the airport, then stay at local bed and breakfasts and look for old-fashioned trattorie where the locals dine for reasonably priced dinners.
motorbike across the himalayas:
Dutch road trip experts Travel2Explore offers a unique journey to the highest motorable pass in the world — on the back of a vintage Royal Enfield Bullet 500cc motorcycle. The trip takes a group of six to 12 riders on and off-road through a spectacular landscape of dry valleys, snow-covered mountain tops, Buddhist monasteries perched in the mountains, salt lakes, deep ravines, wild rivers and green oases, and, of course, a ride through the highest driveable pass in the world, the Khardung La, high up in the Himalayas at 5,604 metres.
Trips are 13 or 18 days, and start in May, June, July, August and September 2008 and 2009. For more information, see www.travel2explore.com.
loop around north America:
Forget Route 66 — the mother of all road trips is one that takes in 33 states and provinces. Organized by adventure holiday company, TrekAmerica, this nine-week, 64-day trip takes a group of up to 13 travellers from all over the world, all the way around the continent for an all-encompassing cultural experience.
As they travel by van around the diverse country, passengers will take in cities, canyons, mountains, national parks, and other landmarks. Highlights include New York, Niagara Falls, Disneyworld, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Black Hills, where the presidents’ heads are carved into Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone National Park and Washington, D.C.
Tours start from $5,117 US and leave New York or Los Angeles every other week from May to September. www.trekamerica.com.