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Drives Around the World Offer Immersive Experiences

Amalfi Drive, Italy

Those in search of shorter drives also are in luck. The narrow road that hugs the steep hills of the Amalfi Coast in Italy is only 30 miles long but is world famous for passing through some of the most magnificent scenery anywhere.

By Victor Block

Road trips provide an opportunity to see the world up close and personal. Vacationers who would like to explore a region or an entire country by driving have a wide choice of options.

Some thoroughfares pass through magnificent scenery. Among the best is a route that follows one of the highest roads in the world. Another hugs an ocean coastline at sea level. And some highways carry travelers to restaurants that serve outstanding food and wines.

Here are some of the more memorable automobile trips that are available worldwide.

To New Heights

The Khardung Pass

A hair-raising drive in northern India takes people to the top of the world. The road through the Khardung Pass reaches an altitude of 18,379 feet, where the air is thin and the views are breathtaking.

In the past, this route through soaring mountains was used by people riding on horses or camels. Today, drivers who make the trip often describe it as the adventure of a lifetime.

Equally as beautiful, albeit in a different way, is the Great Ocean Road in Australia, which skirts that country’s southeastern coastline. Travelers pass near lush rainforests, steep cliffs and inviting beaches. The road has been named a “top tourism experience” in Australia.

Among other outstanding driving trips known for the magnificent scenery through which it leads is the Southern Scenic Route on New Zealand’s South Island. Travelers see lakes that were carved out by glaciers and an unusual fossilized forest. They view dramatic limestone outcrops and deep caves formed by underground streams. They also pass areas that are home to penguins, seals and other wildlife.

Hawaii is known for its scenery-rich roads. One of the most popular is the Mamalahoa Highway, known as the “Hawaii Belt.” It consists of three connected routes that lead around the perimeter of the island of Hawaii, the state’s biggest land mass.

Along the way, travelers have opportunities to view both active and hardened lava flows, lush jungles and deep valleys. Sugar-white beaches add more beauty to the setting.

A shorter ring road is Route 1 which encircles Iceland. The trip passes through mountainous terrain and skirts tiny fishing villages, stunning fjords and a 197-foot waterfall with the tongue-twisting name of Seijalandsfoss.

Not Just for Day Trippers

Sommet des Cornettes de Bises – Chablais Alps

Some drives are perfect for people seeking to spend several days on the road. Argentina’s Ruta 40 (Route 40) is one of the longest stretches of highway in the world. It spans more than 3,000 miles and rises from sea level to a height of 16,000 feet. In places the route leads to pristine lakes. It goes through 27 passes below the snow-capped peaks of the Andes mountain range.

A different setting greets those who follow the Alaska Highway, which runs for some 1,400 miles from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada, to Tok, Alaska. The route passes through the Rocky Mountains and offers glimpses of abandoned towns which serve as reminders of prospectors who came to the area seeking gold at the end of the 19th century. Another attraction is the opportunity to look for wildlife including black bear, moose and bison.

Those in search of shorter drives also are in luck. The narrow road that hugs the steep hills of the Amalfi Coast in Italy is only 30 miles long but is world famous for passing through some of the most magnificent scenery anywhere. As it snakes along steep cliffs that rise out of the Mediterranean Sea, the route provides views of pastel-painted villages clinging to the hillsides and others nestled in deep valleys.

People seeking the beauty of soaring mountains rather than seascapes often head for the European Alps. The Route des Grandes Alpes(Road of the Big Alps) runs from Lake Geneva, Switzerland, to a town near Nice, France. It traverses 17 of the highest mountain passes in Europe. Because of its altitude, the road is open only between June and October, when the snow which blankets the area at other times has melted.

The route through the Stelvio Pass in Italy is only 15 miles long, but is perched at a height of 9,000 feet, and requires drivers to navigate 48 sharp switchbacks. It packs a lot of challenge into a short distance. Some adventurous people who live in the area often make the drive just for the challenge it presents.

Seeing the Sights

Hawaii Belt Road – View over crater

There also are trips which are memorable for the attractions through which the road runs. History buffs enjoy the Via de la Plata(Silver Route) in Spain. It follows an ancient Roman road and travelers may stop to view villas, walls and other artifacts remaining from when the Romans invaded the region in the second century BC.

A sense of history also resides in castles that date back to medieval times. The Castle Trail in Scotland leads visitors to 19 historic structures.

Balmoral Castle was built in 1390 and has been a residence of Britain’s royal family since 1852. Construction of Castle Fraser began in 1575 and continued until 1636. It is one of the grandest fortresses in Scotland.

Food and wine lovers can combine memorable road trips with opportunities to please their palate. French cuisine long has been recognized as among the most outstanding in the world and each region of that country has its own special ingredients and preparations. Visitors may map out a driving route which allows them to sample a variety of local specialties or confine their trip to one area.

The same is true for French wines. France ranks third behind Italy and Spain and just ahead of the United States and China in the amount of wine produced each year. In terms of quality, French wine long has been recognized as among the very best.

The districts of Burgundy and Bordeaux are famous for the both their food and wines. People may plan a driving trip in either region — or both — which provides a true gastronomic treat.

Whether it’s outstanding food and wine, history, magnificent scenery or many other subjects, it’s likely that there is a driving trip — and probably many of them — somewhere in the world that focuses on a traveler’s special interest.


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