World's best road trips: The top 10 drives

From the wild and magnificent to the nostalgic and picturesque, here are 10 of the best drives on the planet.

1 LA ROUTE DES GRANDES ALPES, FRANCE

Wild and magnificent, this spectacular road trip winds its way north from the French Riviera to Lake Geneva through the French Alps, one dramatic mountain pass after another (17 if you care to count). Snowbound in winter, it's a midsummer drive on some of the highest roads in Europe. Grande-traversee-alpes.com/en; 684 kilometres.

2 STELVIO PASS, ITALY

Not for the faint-hearted, this legendary piece of road straddling the Swiss/Italian border with its notorious wall of 48 hairpin turns between Bormio and Stilfs (Stelvio) attracts driving enthusiasts (and masochistic cyclists and skateboarders) from around the world for the few summer months of the year it's open. Stelvio.net; 42 kilometres.

3 ROUTE 66, USA

A road trip in nostalgia, Route 66 was once the main route from Chicago to California and for many, the way to a new life. It doesn't really exist as a designated highway any more, but you can still drive sections and follow roughly the same path – a classic, and often decidedly retro, journey through small town America. Roadtripusa.com/route-66; around 3800 kilometres.

4 PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY, USA

California's famous coast road, Highway 1, is a spectacular ribbon of road between San Francisco and San Diego. Highlights include Big Sur, where jagged mountains plunge down into pounding surf, fabled beach communities such as Venice and Malibu, old Spanish mission towns, art colonies, wine regions and the glitz and glamour of LA. http://www.visitcalifornia.com/trip/highway-one-classic around 1000 kilometres.

See also: A 20,000km epic road trip across the USA

5 ICEFIELDS PARKWAY, CANADA

Expect mountain scenery on a grand scale on this drive through the heart of the Rockies. Writhing its way through two national parks between Lake Louise and Jasper via Banff, this is a ravishingly photogenic stretch of road, with glaciers, waterfalls, lakes and lots of rocky peaks. You've also got a good chance of seeing bears, moose and caribou. Visiticefieldsparkway.ca; 232 kilometres.

See also: Road tripping through Canada's stunning Rocky Mountains

6 HIDDEN HIGHWAY, UK

Follow the black-and-white village trail (or the cider trail if you prefer) through archetypal English countryside, all endless green fields criss-crossed with drystone fences and hedges and studded with rose-clad cottages, as you meander your way along the English and Welsh border between Ross-on-Wye to the south and Chester to the north. Visitbritain.com; around 280 kilometres.

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7 THE GARDEN ROUTE, SOUTH AFRICA

Hugging the curve of the coast around the very southern tip of Africa from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, this celebrated touring route travels past white sandy beaches and over mountain passes through South Africa's holiday heartland. Named after the region's bountiful wildflowers, other attractions, beyond the majestic scenery, include forests with 800-year-old trees, vineyards and plenty of wildlife. Southafrica.info; 800 kilometres.

See also: The best stops on South Africa's Garden Route

8 THE RING ROAD, ICELAND

A lap of Iceland on the ring road (Highway 1), is one of the most desolate, but beautiful, drives in the world through an almost mythical landscape of active volcanoes (sometimes too active), glaciers, waterfalls, geo-thermal pools, spouting geysers, snow-capped mountains and iceberg-filled glacial lagoons. Visiticeland.com; 1332 kilometres.

See also: A chilled out way to see Iceland's spectacular scenery

9 SOUTHERN SCENIC ROUTE, NZ

Our Kiwi cousins have always been good at calling it as it is (the island in the south is the South Island, etc) so you know that when they call a route scenic, it will be. Trailing along the southern edge of the South Island west from Dunedin before curling north through Fiordland to finish in Queenstown it delivers the best of the South Island – deserted beaches, native forests, rolling hills, snow-covered peaks, waterfalls, lakes and sounds – in one trip. Southernscenicroute.co.nz; 610 kilometres.

See also: A drive through New Zealand's wild side

10 GREAT OCEAN ROAD, AUSTRALIA

You can drive around the world as much as you like, but as far as great coastal drives go it really is hard to beat our own Great Ocean Road. Tracing the coastline between Geelong and Warrnambool west of Melbourne, its mix of cliff-hugging curves, seascapes and rainforest offers a new view at every turn. Visitgreatoceanroad.org.au; 275 kilometres.

Lee Atkinson is the author of The Big Lap, a pictorial diary of her 10-month road trip around mainland Australia; see ozyroadtripper.com.au.

See also: 16 weird road signs you could only see in Australia
See also: Australia's new great ocean road

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