Best road trips in North and South America: The top 10 drives in the Americas

ICEFIELDS PARKWAY, CANADA

Though it's just 232 kilometres long, this highway connecting the resort towns of Lake Louise and Jasper is one of the world's most scenic road trips. It winds its way through the Rockies on Canada's Continental Divide, from the roadway you'll see glaciers and waterfalls and emerald lakes while passing through two of Canada's largest national parks (Jasper and Banff), keeping an eye out for bears. See icefieldsparkway.com

PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY, CALIFORNIA

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Rent a convertible, download some Eagles tunes and take to California's longest highway – the 1050-kilometre-long Pacific Coast Highway. Starting south of Los Angeles and continuing beyond San Francisco, the road winds its way up California's Pacific Coast, atop seaside cliffs and through redwood forests. Stop off at Big Sur, Malibu and cross the Golden Gate Bridge. See visitcalifornia.com

ROUTE 40, ARGENTINA

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South America's version of Route 66, it's a 5000 kilometre highway that takes in almost the entire length of Argentina. One of the longest highways in the world, Route 40 passes through 20 national parks, 18 major rivers amd 27 Andes mountain passes, soaring to 5000 metres from sea level. Dubbed the "Drive to the end of the world", you'll get to understand Argentina's diversity. See turismoruta40.com.ar/en

TRANS-CANADA HIGHWAY, CANADA

How much time can you spare? Take the epic route across all of Canada – from Victoria on Vancouver Island - crossing all 10 provinces of Canada - finishing at St John's in Newfoundland. It's a 7800 kilometre trip that passes through every kind of Canadian landscape – from the Pacific Coast to the Rockies, and the prairies that roll on almost to the Atlantic. See transcanadahighway.com

ROUTE 66, US

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The world's most famous highway doesn't actually exist anymore. Starting in Chicago, working its way through eight states and three time zones and ending 4000 kilometres west at Santa Monica, it was decommissioned by the Interstate Highway System. But most of it is still there somewhere – you just have to find it. Parts are marked Historic Route 66… the rest, go look for yourself. See roadtripusa.com

RUTA SPONDYLUS, ECUADOR

This 850 kilometre highway winds its way down Ecuador's Pacific Coast. Watch for migrating whales, and stop for swims and surfs along a coastline of white-sand beaches. Sleep in tiny fishing villages, eating corviches (local pastries) in open-air restaurants on the sand. The landscape varies from dry scrub and cactus to mountainous cloud forests, home to pre-Colombian ruins. See thisisecuador.com

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ALASKA MARINE HIGHWAY

There's no other road trip like this on Earth – it's a route that takes in 6000 kilometres of Alaska, British Columbia and Washington. Take car ferries between 32 terminals which provide the only access to many of the roads and communities. Part of the National Highway System, you can access the planet's Last Frontier. Note: the locals can be scarier than the bears. See alaska.org

VIKING TRAIL, NEWFOUNDLAND

Conveniently located near the region's largest airport, ride Newfoundland's foggy, wild Atlantic coastline for 489 kilometres. Watch for breaching whales, oh, and moose on the road, as you pass by fiords, glaciers and waterfalls which cascade beside the roadway as you traverse seaside cliffs above the ocean. This is where Norse sailors first settled on the continent, go meet their ancestors in quaint fishing villages along the way. See vikingtrail.org

THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL, US

It's America's most famous hiking trail (and the world's longest). But who wants to walk 3500 kilometres? A driving route parallels the hike, taking you through 14 states from North England to Georgia in the Deep South. The drive cuts across 2500-metre mountain ranges, past quaint mountain towns and right into Deliverance country (you'll drive along the Chattooga River – where the iconic 1972 movie was set). See roadtripusa.com

CARRETERA AUSTRAL, CHILE

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The most beautiful drive in South America… on the continent's least known highway. This road runs south for 1240 kilometres through Patagonia in Chile's south, passing through forests and the Andes, beside fiords, glaciers and flamingos and guanaco. Much of it is unpaved - and to do it in its entirety requires three ferry services – but the views are worth it. See chile.travel/en/

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