We can’t altogether blame drivers for not noticing what flashes by their car windows – it could be dangerous if they did! However, there are many roads around the world that really do need our attention, and are well worth a few stops.
The A82 towards Glencoe, Scotland
The mountains that tower over motorists on either side of the A82, heading towards Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands, are awe-inspiring in their magnificence. And yet it is an image softened by the contrast with fertile valleys and clear streams, to produce some of the most stunning scenery in Scotland.
Sognefjellet National Tourist Route, Norway
The Fv. 55 runs between the Sognefjord, Norway’s largest fjord, and the Gudbrandsdalen Valley. The highest mountain road in Northern Europe, it claims another record when it passes the Jostedalsbreen, the largest glacier on the mainland. It’s also a lung-expanding and jaw-dropping ride for hardy cyclists.
The Amalfi coast, Italy
This southern coastal road is the most scenic in Italy. Its sudden turns and sheer drops follow the twisting coastline, while the other side hugs the steep rock face that provides a backdrop for flowers enriched in colour by the fertile volcanic soil. Picturesque towns such as Ravello, Amalfi and Positano cling to the hillside, while Sorrento nestles at its base.
New England fall foliage, USA
Autumn is the time to experience the vibrant colours of Maine’s foliage, and the “leaf peepers” who follow the turn of the leaves. As if that’s not enough, the Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway between the towns of Mexico and Madrid runs past mountains and lakes that are home to bears, moose, bobcats and eagles. Meanwhile, over on the Swift river, canoeists shoot the rapids.
The Hawaii Belt Road
This highway encircles the Big Island, the only Hawaiian island that is still volcanically active. It climbs and dips past deserts of lava and active lava flows, lush jungles and rich farmland, white beaches, mountains and valleys. The Polynesians have lived on Big Island for over a thousand years, and the sense of history is strong.
The Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia
The Great Ocean Road was built by WW1 veterans between 1919 and 1932, and was dedicated to those who didn’t return. It covers two hundred and forty three kilometres of some of Australia’s most spectacular coastal scenery, encompassing the Surf Coast and the Shipwreck Coast, and passing close to the rainforest of the Otway Ranges. Great limestone stack formations, known as the Twelve Apostles (although there are only nine), rise from the Southern Ocean. The Great Ocean Road Marathon is run over a forty five kilometre stretch every May.
Milford Road, South Island, New Zealand
New Zealand has a landscape that seems to be made for road tripping, with scores of picturesque roads and highways traversing the two islands that make up the country. There are a number of companies offering great fly drive holidays in New Zealand which are well worth a look, but it can be more fun to plot your own course. State Highway 94, on the south island, otherwise known as Milford Road, provides one of the most scenic routes. The road rises and falls over the Eglinton Mountains above Lake Gunn, offering spectacular views that will be familiar to fans of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. The road also goes through the stunning Fiordland National Park, dissecting the steep sides of the Southern Alps. Stretching over 250 kilometres, this route is packed full of excitement and beauty.
It’s a pity that nowadays we don’t take time to enjoy the journey itself as well as the arrival. Roads such as these demand that we acknowledge them with the respect that they deserve.
Jenny Scott is a freelance travel writer.