Great Drives: The ten best road trips

It isn't always the views that make a route great. Take Australia's Savannah Way - its glory lies in the characters you meet on the way, says Jeremy Hart
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The Independent Travel


The road, which officially opened this year, travels coast to coast from Cairns, in Queensland on Australia's east coast, to the historic pearling town of Broom on the west coast.

HOW FAR IS IT? 2,300 miles.

WHAT WILL I SEE? From the seat of your 4x4 (the best way to tackle it as there are untarred sections), you'll see slipping by Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia. The route takes in 15 national parks, including Kakadu. You'll also see five Unesco World Heritage sites, including the spectacular Bungle Bungle rock formations in Purnululu National Park, salt pans, the world's longest volcanic tubes, hot springs and mile upon mile of sun-baked landscape.

HOW DO I FIND IT? "Cairns to Broom on the Savannah Way", Hema, £6.50. Also see online at

2. The Alaska Highway

WHERE DO I START? Dawson Creek, British Columbia,then via Yukon Territory to finish at Delta Junction, Fairbanks, Alaska.

HOW FAR IS IT? 1,422 miles.

WHAT WILL I SEE? The Alaska Highway was built in the Second World War to get troops and munitions to Alaska, when a Japanese invasion was imminent. It's remote, and you should see bears and other wildlife, sub-Arctic terrain and natural hot pools.

HOW DO I FIND IT? AAA Road Map, Alaska & Northwest Canada, £3.99.

3. Route 66

WHERE DO I START? Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California.

HOW FAR IS IT? 2,400 miles.

WHAT WILL I SEE? Route 66 is a window on the US heartlands - the road to freedom for Americans in search of a new life out west. Art Deco buildings litter the towns along the highway, and you will see the change from Great Lakes to plains to desert to California coast.

HOW DO I FIND IT? Lonely Planet's "Road Trip Route 66", price £5.99.

4. Ruta Del Che


HOW FAR IS IT? Around 600 miles from Santa Cruz to Sucre.

WHAT WILL I SEE? When Che Guevara tried to mount a revolution in Bolivia, the CIA and Bolivian army chased him through the Andes in 1967, until he was shot in the hill village of La Higuera, near Sucre. Now you can trace his last days , and death. Roads are twisty but the drive fantastic.

HOW DO I FIND IT? "Che's Route", De Dios, price £9.95.

5. 1,000 Lakes

WHERE DO I START? Central Finland.

HOW FAR IS IT? Around 200 miles around Jyvaskyla.

WHAT WILL I SEE? Each year Finland hosts the 1,000 Lakes Rally. It's fun to watch cars leap through forests at 120mph, but don't speed like the rally men - fines are high. And do take in the stunning wilderness and lakes.

HOW DO I FIND IT? Finland Road Map 1:200,000, sheet 5, Jyvaskyla-Mikkeli, £10.95.

Africa: Coast to coast

WHERE DO I START? South Africa.

HOW FAR IS IT? 1,100 miles from Richard's Bay to Cape Town.

WHAT WILL I SEE? From South Africa's far south-east on the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic; this is the only way to cross Africa in anything less than a Land Rover. The coast is your boundary on one side, on the other the lush KwaZulu Natal, then the towering Drakensburg Mountains and the famed Garden Route.

HOW DO I FIND IT? Southern Africa Road Map, MapStudio, price £9.50.

7. Mourne Mountains

WHERE DO I START? Northern Ireland.

HOW FAR IS IT? A 100-mile loop from Belfast via County Down.

WHAT WILL I SEE? On the coast road to Newcastle from Belfast are some of the best beaches in Ulster. At Kilkeel, the B27 rises into the Mourne Mountains, where there is great driving and invigorating walking.

HOW DO I FIND IT? The Mournes, Sheet 29, Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland, price £5.40.

8. South Island

WHERE DO I START? New Zealand.

HOW FAR IS IT? 300 miles long, Christchurch to Queenstown.

WHAT WILL I SEE? New Zealand's most jaw-dropping scenery, including Mount Cook and the locations for "Lord of the Rings". Around Queenstown, NZ's adventure capital, are a network of mountain roads to old gold mines, vineyards and ski slopes.

HOW DO I FIND IT? South Island, Hema Maps, price £6.50.

9. Nurburgring

WHERE DO I START? Eifel Mountains, Germany.

HOW FAR IS IT? 14 miles/73 bends.

WHAT WILL I SEE? The old Nürburgring hosted the German Grand Prix until Niki Lauda's famous crash in the 1970s. Petrolheads are allowed, sometimes, to drive the corkscrew course, but the area is lovely in itself.

HOW DO I FIND IT? Nordschleife-Rhineland Eifel 1:150,000, ADFC, £6.50.

10. Dubai Dune Driving


Al Maha Desert Resort and other locations.

HOW FAR IS IT? No set limit.

WHAT WILL I SEE? Lots of sand. Alongside sunbathing and shopping, Dubai is well known for its desert. Dune bashing, or taking a Land Rover into the sand sea for a few hours is exhilarating, as you romp up and down walls of sand like a roller-coaster. HOW DO I FIND IT? Al Maha (00 971 4 303 4222; Dubai, UAE, Qatar & Bahrain, "Rough Guide", £5.99.