12 Trips For 2017
Twenty years ago, the idea of the fly-drive holiday was associated with a handful of destinations: Florida and a few other US states, Spain and Portugal, perhaps Italy – even Australia’s coast roads for the intrepid. But as highways and safety have improved, the freedom of the open road now beckons travellers in many countries – some of them exotic-sounding, many only really doable if you have your own wheels.
Below is a special selection of twelve great road trips ideal for completing in 5-7 days. Some are circular, others designed for pick-ups and drop-offs at major airports, a few involve backtracking – but always with good reason. We’ve mapped them out roughly parallel with the seasons, and 12 months, should you wish to attempt them all!
Lancashire born Chris Moss is an expert in Argentina and has visited every South American country at least once. Having spent over a decade in the Argentine capital, he returned to the UK and now writes online for The Guardian, The Telegraph, Wanderlust and Condé Nast Traveller magazines.
Banner Image Credit: iStock.com/MikeMareen
1. North Island Loop, New Zealand
Image Credit: iStock.com/Timmyboy710
The small population, wonderful back roads, and a keen campervan/driving culture makes New Zealand’s North Island a perfect place to explore by car. This route takes you from the lively city of Auckland – NZ’s biggest, but still very walkable – down to Rotorua, where you can learn about Maori culture. Continue past serene Lake Taupo down to Napier, where there’s an excellent coastal bike path around Hawkes Bay. The ride gets wilder as you head inland towards the multihued volcanic fields of the Tongariro National Park and Whanganui, a beautiful forested area where you should visit the Bridge to Nowhere across the Mangapurua Gorge. Loop back north to make your way back to Auckland.
2. Chile’s Lakes Along The Southern Panamericana
Route: Temuco-Pucón-Valdivia-Osorno-Puyehue-Frutillar-Puerto Varas-Puerto Montt
Image Credit: iStock.com/Dimitry_Saparov
Chile’s Route 5 – part of the mighty Panamerican Highway – runs for around 2,240 miles from the Peruvian border to Chiloé island. Only the most extreme asphalt-addicted, not to mention time-rich, tourist would want to do the whole thing. For a perfect week’s holiday, use the main highway and its many picturesque spurs to explore Chile’s stunning lake district. Many national parks have been created to protect the lakes, lagoons, volcanoes and Andean mountain scenery here, with great campsites, spa hotels, lively cities in Valdivia and Osorno and some spectacular hiking opportunities. You can drop the car off at Puerto Montt before flying home or backtrack up the Panamericana to Temuco at the end.
3. Amsterdam To Rotterdam Via The Flower Route
Okay – so you get to see two of the Netherlands’ most buzzing cities. That’s great, but what about the perfect spring-time drive in between, taking in a region that has the highest concentration of blooms in Western Europe. Ogle the vivid colours and the vast fields of hyacinths, tulips, narcissi and daffodils along the 250-mile Bloemen Route (Flower Route) between Haarlem and Leiden.
4. Explore Three Mountain Ranges On Wales’ “Legendary” A470
Route: Cardiff-Pontypridd-Brecon-Llandrindod Wlells-Rhyader-Betws-y-Coed-Conwy
Image Credit: iStock.com/Andy-Coleman
For 2017, Visit Wales has declared itself a “land of legends”, in reference to the Arthurian myths that swirl around the mountains, as well as more locally celebrated tales of Welsh princes, poets, folk heroes and mysterious lakes. Why not take part by driving the legendary A470 from south to north, passing through the Brecon Beacons, southern Britain’s tallest peaks, the “green desert” of the Cambrian range, and Snowdonia (rich in its own legends), finally arriving at the coast via Conwy castle, a mythic landmark for the Welsh people.
5. Liverpool to Hull (Without Motorways)
Route: St Helens-Manchester-Peak District-Wakefield-Pontefract-Hull
Image Credit: iStock.com/wamp
Hull, the “capital” of East Yorkshire, is the UK’s Capital of Culture in 2017, which promises to fill the friendly city with music, theatre, parades, food fairs, bookish gatherings – Philip Larkin penned many of his best poems here – and all manner of local fiestas. Celebrate the event with a classic trans-Pennine drive by avoiding the M62. You can explore lesser-known towns such as St Helens (home of the North West Museum of Road Transport and a dazzling glass museum), and Wakefield (the setting for the novel This Sporting Life and close to the National Coal Mining Museum of England). You’ll also have a chance to stop over in the gorgeous northern edge of the Peak District en route – be sure to allow yourself time to climb up to the peaty moorland of Bleaklow, and do the dramatic drive over the iconic Snake Pass.
6. Cabot Trail, Canada
Route: Sydney-St Anns-Baddeck-Margaree-Cheticamp-Pleasant Bay-Cape North-Ingonish-Sydney (in Cape Breton)
Image Credit: iStock.com/lightphoto
Canada is 150 in July 2017, with events planned for the whole year and right across the massive country. The Cabot Trail in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, makes a 185-mile loop around the island, taking in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park at its northern extreme. This is the place to look out for black bears, moose and bald eagles. Much of the route clings to the coast, with spectacular cliffs and stunning beaches along the way, plus places to swim, hike, fish, kayak, ride horses and even scuba dive. Golfers have six top-class courses to take on, including Cabot Links, Canada’s first genuine “links” golf course.
7. Finland’s Bothnian Coast Road And Beyond
Image Credit: iStock.com/TanyaSv
In 2017, Finland celebrates the centenary of its independence from Russia – the republic was declared on December 7, but there’ll be events year round. This drive is best suited to summer, when days are long and the climate kind. From the captivating Finnish capital, head for Vehmaa to drive the so-called Bothnian Coast Road, launched in 2010 as an official tourist route and connecting the south with the gateway to Lapland at Tornio. But veer right before the end to head for Hossa, site of a new 27,000-acre national park created especially for the centenary. See shamanistic paintings, hike on well-marked trails and go canoeing on the pristine lakes. Return to the capital using Route 5.
8. Alaska – Birthday Ride
Route: Edmonton-Dawson Creek-Whitehorse-Delta Junction-Fairbanks
Image Credit: iStock.com/keeperofthezoo
The 1,387-mile Alaska Highway celebrates its 75th birthday in 2017. It was built during the war to connect the isolated state with the rest of the USA. To attempt the whole drive sounds epic, but it’s paved and open all year, and we think it’s a perfect trip for a week, aiming for around 200 miles per day. Along he way, see the parks at Banff and Kenai Fjords, enjoy the jaw-dropping scenery of the Rocky Mountains, plus the chance of wildlife spots such as bears, wolves, cougar and elk.
9. USA: Round the Rust Belt (And The Great Lakes)
Image Credit: iStock.com/marchello74
California’s Highway No 1? A cliché. Route 66? It’s passé! Coast to coast? Everyone does that. For car-lovers, one of the most intriguing areas to explore is the so-called Rust Belt, the former industrial regions of the Midwest that made America rich and great and wonderful – and now present the budding psychogeographer with Ozymandias-like ruins and memories in orange iron and mouldering steel. This little loop – a mere 1,000 miles – provides beauty in the shape of lakes Ontario, Erie and Michigan, plus renascent sometime auto-capital Detroit – with start and stop in former “pulse of America” Chicago.
10. See Scotland’s Early Autumn
Route: Edinburgh-Pitlochry-Aviemore-Inverness-Fort William-Loch Lomond-Glasgow
Image Credit: iStock.com/RyanDeanMorrison
When London is still in shorts and shades, Scotland starts to go golden, misty and a wee bit romantic. Any Highland route will open up this wonderland, but this one combines two great cities with trips to the Cairngorms National Park – close to Aviemore – and Fort William. From the latter you can take the glorious 84-mile round-trip rail journey to Mallaig – as featured in the Harry Potter films – and, if you’re up for it, climb Ben Nevis, too.
11. Namibia’s Wild Highways
Route: Windhoek-Sossuvlei- Swakopmund- Damaraland- Etosha National Park-Caprivi Strip
Image Credit: iStock.com/muha04
Namibia’s highways are often lonely and its deserts dramatic, but the good infrastructure and overall quality of the roads means that it’s one of the best destinations in Africa’ for a fly-drive trip. Given the amazing hospitality of the locals and the many opportunities to observe wildlife, including elephants, lions, plains zebra and rhino, and rare species such as the African dog and the puku antelope, this is a road trip to remember.
12. Argentina’s Iconic Ruta 40: Calchaqui Valleys
Image Credit: iStock.com/kavram
The “cuarenta” or 40 is Argentina’s longest road, stretching from the Bolivian border to the Magellan Strait. This 320-mile loop in the province of Salta in the Andean northwest is a tiny stretch, but it takes in stunning cactus-studded cowboy country, the extraordinary red-rock canyon of the Conchas river, the beautiful oasis town of Cafayate and the mystic village of Cachi. A classic drive for Argentines, it’s one to take slowly and dreamily.