Ten of the most amazing races worth travelling for

The Australian Formula One Grand Prix is a big tourism magnet, and brings thousands of visitors to Melbourne to watch. But watching Lewis Hamilton and friends whizz around Albert Park isn't the greatest racing spectacle in the world. And here are some that are definitely worth travelling to see…

The Monaco Grand Prix

Where? Monaco

If you're going to pick one Formula One Grand Prix, then the one with the romance is held in Monaco. Taking place on the streets of the tiny, precipitous principality, the twists and turns come with reliably incredible views of the Monte Carlo Casino, Mediterranean and French Riviera cliffs. The race itself can often be disappointingly processional due to the narrow streets, but it's all about the setting. In 2020, it takes place on May 24th. See formula1.com

The Palio

Where? Siena, Italy

Almost certainly the most ferociously dangerous horse race in the world, the Palio takes place in Siena's Piazza del Campo. Horses representing ten city districts skirt the edge of grand buildings, jockeys are bareback, and it's taken very, very seriously. The pageantry around it is immense – the whole city throws itself into it – and it takes place twice a year, on July 2nd and August 16th.

The Kentucky Derby

Where? Churchill Downs, Kentucky

Most countries have their own iconic horse race – for Australia it's the Melbourne Cup, for the UK it's the Grand National. But for that sense of romance, handily helped along by being the muse of writers such as Hunter S Thompson, the Kentucky Derby is the one that makes it into bucket list territory. It's held on the first Saturday in May. See kentuckyderby.com

The Cape Town Cycle Tour

Where? Cape Town, South Africa

Most bike race routes make a big play of taking in the sights, but frankly Cape Town has more sights than anywhere else. Most of the action takes place under the looming shadow of Table Mountain, while the rest circles the Cape Peninsula, climbs along clifftops and trundles through outrageously scenic beachside suburbs. It takes place in early March each year. See capetowncycletour.com


Olympic Super Saturday

Where? Tokyo, Japan

Getting a ticket to watch Olympic events is generally worthwhile – it's hard not to get sucked into whatever you're watching – but 'Super Saturday' in the main stadium is the big one. This is when many of the key events on the track reach their finale – and on August 1st this year, there will be 21 medal events to choose from.

The Badwater 135

Where? Death Valley, California

There are plenty of hardcore ultra-marathons around the world, but few that cross such an astonishing landscape. The Badwater 135 goes from the lowest point in the 48 contiguous states to just below the highest. Starting at Badwater Basin – one of the hottest places on earth – in the height of summer, the race finishes at Whitney Portal, where the road up Mt Whitney finishes. That's an elevation gain of 2,633m with plenty of visually stunning climbs en route. See badwater.com

Cooper's Hill Cheese Roll

Where? Gloucestershire, England

One of the world's great annual wacky events, this absurdity sees dozens of people risking knackered ankles and embarrassing faceplants. They charge down a rural hill, in pursuit of a giant, rolling, out of control cheese. Originally a locals-only event, it now draws in competitors from around the world, undaunted by the safety concerns. It takes place on the last Monday in May. See officialcheeserolling.com

The Marathon du Médoc

Where? The Gironde, France

This shameless excuse for a booze up likes to bill itself as the longest marathon in the world – but that's all about the continual distractions, rather than the distance. Running through vineyards, there are plenty of opportunities for wine tasting stops. Oh, and there's also a scheduled oyster-eating break, orchestras playing concerts along the route, and a steak feast at the 39th kilometre. See marathondumedoc.com

The Tour de France

Where? France

The world's biggest annual road cycling event is arguably best watched on telly, but the mountain climb stages have a peculiar had-to-be-there factor to them. Spectators line the narrow, twisting, turning, switchbacking roads as the world's best cyclists struggle up. Alpe De Huez near Grenoble, with 21 switchbacks and an average 8.1% gradient, doesn't feature every year, but when it does it's the stage to turn out for. See letour.fr

The Henley-on-Todd Regatta

Where? Alice Springs, NT

Are the races of this improbable regatta the fastest or the most electrifying? No, of course not. But they might well be the silliest. Taking part on the third Saturday of every August, the event sees dozens of 'boats' being raced, with Flintstones-style footwork, along a dry river bed. And, around the 'river', a big boozy party kicks off. See henleyontodd.com.au

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