The world's greatest road trips
Wind down your window and watch the scenery go by, says Aaron Millar as he revs up
Wednesday 06 March 2013
What's the attraction?
"Get your motor running, head out on the highway, looking for adventure and whatever comes our way." Nothing captures the liberated spirit of the road trip quite so succinctly as Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild" lyrics. But it doesn't have to be on an epic adventure, nor do you have to be behind the wheel. Whether you're pottering through the countryside on a weekend break or crossing continents as part of an organised tour group, road trips are all about the freedom of the open road. Keeping moving also gives you a better overview of a region and allows you to see more in between, watching the landscape change around every bend.
Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper's 1969 film Easy Rider is the epitome of road-trip cool and this year a new guided trip will recreate the movie's iconic 2,700-mile motorcycle journey across the US (minus the free love and liberal drug use). Live the dream as you follow the highways of southern California to the historic roads of Route 66 on the back of your very own "Captain America" Harley Davidson motorcycle. Eagle Rider (001 310 321 3180; eaglerider.com) offers the guided 15-day Easy Rider tour from £2,647 per person. The price includes vintage motorcycle hire, fuel, guide and accommodation. Flights not included. Scheduled departures from May to October. Motorbike licence required.
Off the beaten track
The Cabot Trail in Canada is the best road trip you've never heard of. This 185-mile loop around Cape Breton Island on the northern tip of Nova Scotia connects remote fishing villages on the wild Atlantic coast with the hills of Cape Breton Highlands National Park and the salmon-filled rivers of Margaree. It's named after the explorer John Cabot, who discovered the island 300 years ago. Head out this year to celebrate – festivities are planned throughout the summer. Discover The World (01737 214250; discover-the-world.co.uk) offers a seven-day trip taking in the Cabot Trail and other highlights of Nova Scotia; the price of £612pp includes accommodation and car hire, but not flights. Recommended departures June to October.
"Road trips are as much about the journey as the destination. Watching the scenery change hour by hour, day by day is an immersive experience. Make sure you have the correct vaccinations and visas before heading off. Never forget first aid, flip-flops, a torch and a good book. The most important thing is to be prepared for the unexpected. But, it's often these unexpected deviations that prove to be the highlight of the trip." Luca Alfatti, overland guide for Dragoman
A new overland adventure is pushing the boundaries of extreme road trips. Travel the Pan-American Highway from Ushuaia, Argentina, on the southern tip of South America, to Anchorage in Alaska. Cover 10,000 miles, across two continents, in 207 days, taking in many of the world's greatest sights, such as Torres del Paine in a 4x4 truck. Dragoman (01728 885 531; dragoman.com) offers the group tour for £11,553 per person, including drivers, guides, kitty, accommodation and activities, but not flights.
The Amalfi coast is one of the most scenic – and challenging – drives in the world: 44 miles of winding, narrow roads pitched precipitously above the sea. From the small town of Sorrento, just south of Naples, weave gently east to Salerno through pastel-coloured cliff-top villages, rocky coves and hidden beaches. Stop off at Ravello and Amalfi to enjoy fine dining as dreamy as the views of the Mediterranean sunset. British Airways (0844 493 0758; ba.com) offers an eight-day fly-drive package to Naples; £219 per person, which includes car hire and return flights from Gatwick. Accommodation not included. Sprintage (00 39 081 401 925; sprintage.it) offers classic-car hire from €200 for two days.
Classic car tours
If classic American motors are your thing then Blacktop Candys (001 919 439 8733; blacktopcandys.com) has a fleet of old-school rides – including a 1967 Camaro and a 1955 Chevy Bel Air – to take you on Route 66 in style. A 19-day trip costs from £4,950 for two people, including car rental, insurance, accommodation and roadside assistance, but not flights. Departs from either Chicago or Los Angeles.
Nearer to home Classic Car Tours (01355 260422; classic-car-tours.com) offers a six-day Grand Tour of Scotland; the price of £899 per person includes accommodation, guide and all meals. Take your own vintage car or hire one such as an MGB or Triumph TR6 from an extra £648.
The Stelvio Pass in Italy is recognised as one of the greatest driving roads in the world. Classic Travelling (0845 230 1678; classictravelling.com) has a six-day Lake Garda & Stelvio Pass self-drive classic car tour. The price of £1,150 includes hire of a 1960s Alfa Romea Giulietta or similar, and printed hardback itinerary. Accommodation and flights must be booked independently.
If you fancy pottering around the nooks and crannies of Sicily in an authentic Fiat 500 then the Grand Hotel Timeo (00 39 0942 627 0200; grandhoteltimeo.com) offers its guests the chance to hire the car from £230 for a five-hour tour.
The British & Irish Lions Rugby 125th anniversary tour takes place in Australia this June. Follow the team between Brisbane and Sydney on the 572-mile Legendary Pacific Coastal Route – one of the country's most popular road trips. Cruise beside perfect surf beaches and national parks – stopping to catch two of the series' crunch test matches. Flight Centre (0800 587 0058; flightcentre.co.uk) offers an 11-day trip; the price of £999 per person includes return flights from Gatwick and car hire, but not accommodation. Maps and itineraries are available from pacificcoast.com.au. Tickets to rugby matches are extra; see lionsrugby.com.
Close to home
Londonderry is the inaugural UK City of Culture this year – with shows from Buena Vista Social Club and the Turner Prize planned – and the 195-mile Causeway Coastal Route will get you there in style. From Belfast, head north through the villages and rural valleys of the Glens of Antrim to the dramatic basalt columns of the Giant's Causeway and the cliff-top Dunluce Castle: renowned as one of Ireland's most photogenic spots. Causeway Coast and Glens (028 7032 7720; causewaycoastandglens.com) can provide information about the Causeway Coastal route including maps, accommodation and suggested itineraries.
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