What’s better than a road trip for a healthy dose of escapism?
In fact, think of it as your hero’s journey where you step out of your ordinary life into an adventurous experience and enter your ordinary life once again as a new person.
But how do you make sure that your road trip is a memorable movie-like experience rather than just, well, a plain bad one? The answer is simple. You’ll have to do some work and hit that fine balance of planning and spontaneity.
Whether it’s the hostels you are going to stay in while backpacking through Europe or the spots you will visit on your next trip to Japan, you have to research and plan!
To help you with the researching part, here’s a list of top 10 places to explore by a road trip:
Leh – Ladakh, India
The Leh-Ladakh route via Manali is easily every biker’s dream with its gorgeous yet thrilling roads which consists of the highest motorable passes in the world. This 476 km route has everything that you would expect from a memorable road trip – from snowcapped mountains to challenging roads with insane bends.
Here are the places that you absolutely MUST visit here:
- Pangong Lake – a 134 kms long lake set against the pastoral mountains.
- Namgyal Tsemo Gompa – One of the most famous monasteries in Ladakh.
- Zanskar Valley – a lush valley surrounded by snowy mountains on all sides.
- Nubra Valley – Popularly known as the ‘Valley of Flowers’
- Shanti Stupa – Set at an elevation of 4267 meters, come here for the serenity and sunsets.
- Khardung La Pass – Set at a dangerous height of 18,379 feet, it’s easily one of the most heart-wrenching motorable roads.
- Royal Leh Palace – this 17th-century royal historical palace stands at a height of 9 stories. From its roof, you can enjoy the scenic view of Zanskar ranges and Indus Valley
- Magnetic Hill – If you aren’t already clued in by the name, this magical hill has a special kind of magnetic force that can pull the vehicle uphill.
While these are the highlights, and you might have to make a slight detour or two to visit them, the route itself is full of natural wonder including lakes, valleys, villages, monasteries, temples, and moore plains.
Further, the roadside dhabas, local cuisine, flora, and fauna, and its rich culture will definitely make you fall in love with it.
Visit Hokkaido in Spring and Autumn to experience its full beauty.
The traffic-free wide roads make up for a laidback road trip experience which coupled with its whimsical beauty, stunning coastal and mountain views almost make the setting fairy-tale like.
For a short trip, we would recommend making Shikotsu- Toya National Park your starting point. Here, you can enjoy the Shikotsu and Toya lake. Then, move towards the scenic Shakotan Peninsula. To experience the famous carpet of lavenders in full bloom head towards the farms in Furano.
Other highlights along the route are:
Tokachigawa Onsen – a moor spring heated by peats, famous for its moisture retention.
Akan National Park – three lakes, and a famous campsite.
Asahiyama Zoo – Observe Japan’s fauna through the unique glass domes.
Tailored for your road trips, Lille is located between the three main tourist hubs – London, Paris, Brussels, and linked by all the major roads. It is the perfect place to experience the local culture of France with its stunning historical architecture, frequent cultural events and festivals, flea markets (as well as fashion boutiques by local designers), and a myriad of typical French cafes and terraces.
Some of the highlights that you should definitely check out are:
- The Palais des Beaux-Arts Museum – Built in the 19th century, the museum has a huge art collection (second only to Louvre) consisting of paintings from 17th century to 20th century as well as sculptures, prints, and drawings.
- The Wazemmes Market – a wholesale market for everything from gadgets to souvenirs.
- La Grande Braderie – The flea market event kicks off in the month of September and is a huge attraction among the travellers.
Andalusia is an autonomous community in Spain, and unlike Lille, it’s not on the list for its connectivity or as a single stop on your road trip but with 17.3 percent of the territory of Spain if you had to choose a region for a single road trip to experience the whole of Spain – this is it!
Why choose Andalusia for your Spanish road trip? Here’s the tea:
- Stunning Historic Sites: With its turbulent history and rich cultural heritage, this one is a given especially for its churches and old towns. Check out the Mezquita in Cordoba, the Alhambra in Granada, the Alcazar in Sevilla and the Puente Nuevo in Ronda.
- Scenic Views – Lush countryside, mountain ranges, stunning beaches, “white Villages”, quaint towns, need we say more? Definitely check out the amazing viewpoint – Mirador del Estrecho; Playa de Los Muertos near Almeria; Frigiliana; old town of Cadiz.
Its rich art scene (Pablo Picasso Museum), cultural festivals ( Semana Santa), sunny weather, Spanish food, and the dynamic nightlife further makes it an obvious choice!
Bergen to Trondheim, Norway
For nature’s awe-inspiring beauty and Norwegian wilderness and landscape, check out the Arctic fjords along the route of Bergen to Trondheim; a perfect road trip for the thrill junkies among us. The scenic 920 km route offers the highlights of Fjord Norway.
Here’s an overview of what you are in for: coastal landscape, narrow roads, waterfalls, small farms, ferries, hiking routes, snowy peaks and of course, FJORDS.
Some highlights of this route:
- Geirangerfjord – a UNESCO world heritage site, the town is known for its magnificent “seven-sisters” waterfall. Hire a boat, and experience the seven waterfalls with an average fall of 250 meters!
- Ålesund – The town is full of several Art Nouveau buildings which are full of meticulous details and decorated with towers, turrets and vibrant ornaments typical of this architecture style.
- World’s Longest Road Tunnel – The Lærdal tunnel is a 24.51 km long route under the mountains and is officially the world’s longest tunnel. If nothing else does it for you, this definitely would!
Grand Canyon – Arizona, USA
Every memorable American road trip needs a grand ending, and what can be grander than the Grand Canyon itself?
Grand Canyon, Arizona’s most popular landmark, stretches 446 Km from end to end and attracts thousands of tourists.
It’s one of those nature’s wonders that you have to see for yourself to actually believe it.
Here are the seven routes – each with adventures of its own – that you can follow to reach it:
- California to the Grand Canyon Road
- Denver, Colorado to the Grand Canyon Road
- Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon Road
- New Mexico to Grand Canyon Road
- Phoenix to Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon Road Trip
- Route 66 Road Trip
- Utah National Parks Plus Grand Canyon Road Trip
Obviously, if you are planning your next great American road trip this overview isn’t enough, for more details and “adventure-packed itineraries complete with interactive maps and best places to stop”, you can check out this amazing My Grand Canyon Blog.
Maui’s Hana Coast – Hawaii, USA
Now for a restorative and relaxing road trip experience, we present to you Maui’s Hana Coast in Hawaii. Make the journey through the Hana Coastline, the 95-Km long highway, and along the way, you’ll get to see black-sand beaches and magnificent waterfalls. The driving part itself might be a bit tricky as the route has almost 600 curves and 59 bridges.
Here are its main attractions:
- Garden of Eden and Botanical Arboretum
- Lower Puohokamoa Falls
- Pua’a Ka’a State Park
- Waianapanapa State Park
- ‘Ohe’o Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools)
- Wailua Falls
- Pipiwai Trail
- Hana Lava Tube
- Ho’okipa lookout
If these breathtaking natural sites aren’t enough for you, then you can also check out the Kahului’s Alexander and Baldwin Sugar Museum, and the Maui Arts and Cultural Center which offers live music and dance performances (Yup, hula as well!).
Northern Mississippi River, USA
If you are looking for more than natural wonders for your road trip, Northern Mississippi River route would be the perfect fit for you. To experience this beautiful, and equally, culturally rich route, you’ll have to start from Minneapolis and finish at Iowa through Minnesota and Davenport.
From Museums to artist retreats, let’s talk about what main artistic offerings would you find along the route:
- Minneapolis – Walker Art Center, Frank Gehry’s landmark Weisman Art Museum, Guthrie Theater, “Endless Bridge”
- Anderson Center – an artist’s retreat with a small but famous collection of paintings by famous artists such as Matisse, Warhol, and Man Ray.
- Winona – the Great River Shakespeare Festival, Minnesota Marine Art Museum, Minnesota Beethoven Festival in the Summer, Frozen River Film Festival in the winter.
- National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium
- Galena – Chicago Contemporary Art Museum
- Lanesboro – Visual art Community and the Commonweal Theatre
- Davenport – River Music Experience, a concert hall, and Museum, Figge Art Museum
Along the way, you will find quaint bars, motels, and coffee houses where you can either grab a quick bite while listening to live acoustic jazz music or sit down for a prix-fixe French cuisine.
Auckland to Wellington, New Zealand
While there are many routes and places to see in New Zealand, we picked this route for its sheer natural uniqueness.
Take this route to explore New Zealand’s geothermal sites. Take the route via Turangi, and you can experience river boating, wide gardens, and a bird aviary.
As you’ll move, you’ll reach Waitomo which is famous for its vast network of caves. Then head on to the hot water beach of Kawhia.
The next phase of your journey will take you to the volcanic town of Rotorua bubbling with erupting geysers. You can also explore various adventure activities including mountain biking trails here.
Your route would end in Wellington which is a hub of restaurants, cafes, museum, and concert venues.
Along the way, you can enjoy the Orakei Korako thermal park, Huka Falls, Lake Taupo, farmlands, and Owlcatraz Wildlife Park.
The Great Ocean Road – Melbourne, Australia
This 664 km long Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s most popular road trip route. Start at Melbourne, and expect to see breathtaking views and wildlife along the way.
Here’s the route and its highlights:
- Melbourne to Apollo Bay – Surfworld, Bell’s beach, Kangaroos, Kennett River, Koalas, Apollo Bay, Otway National Park, Cape Otway light station
- Apollo Bay to Port Fairy – Otway Fly Tree Top Walk, the famous 12 Apostles (a group of rock stacks rising up from the Southern Ocean), Tower Hill State Game Reserve, Gundidj Visitor center.
- Port Fairy to Melbourne
Port Fairy, Old whaler’s cottages and grand public buildings, cruise out to the seal colony.
For more details, you can check out this blog on the Great Ocean Road.
After reading this, we are sure that you have already added quite a few places to your bucket list. Wherever you go, it’s always better to step out and experience that place in all its glory whether that’s through road trips or backpacking.
If you are planning to do just that, then you absolutely need to add backpacking through Europe in your list. Don’t be the noob traveller and leave everything up to spontaneity, but be proactive and start planning. Here’s a detailed list of hostels all across the Europe that you can plan your stay in.
Abhyank Srinet holds a Masters in Management degree from ESCP Europe & has an
engineering degree with a specialization in Instrumentation & Control. His interest in the digital landscape motivated him to create an online startup for Masters in Management application consulting (MiM-Insider.com), focused on spreading quality information about the MiM degree & performing application consulting services for clients. He is the chief consultant of the company and takes care of Business Development and Digital Marketing side of the company. He is very passionate about writing and marketing.