Forget the road less traveled. Taking in magnificent island scenery, these multi-day motor routes are certain to give road trippers the rides of their lives.
1. Iceland: Ring Road
Bar none, the hottest cold destination right now is Iceland, and is it any wonder? The Nordic island is a cornucopia of peaceful fjords and thundering waterfalls, spurting geysers and steaming hot springs, black volcanic beaches and enormous glaciers. To see it all in 10 days or fewer, ready the discographies of Sigur Rós and Björk and hit the 1,335-kilometer Ring Road circling the country’s coast, ideally in July or August when nights are bathed in the surreal glow of the midnight sun.
2. New Zealand: Southern Scenic Route
New Zealand boasts many itinerated road trips, but this South Island route is repeatedly hailed as the most beautiful. Forming a slanted U with Queenstown on one tip, Dunedin on the other, and the island’s southern coast in between, it takes in must-see sites like Milford Sound and Lake Wakatipu along with a host of rare natural phenomena: sea elephants and yellow-eyed penguins at Nugget Point, the fossilized forest of Curio Bay, and the Southern Lights that dance above Stewart Island during the colder months.
3. Canada: Cabot Trail
Winding through forested highlands roamed by black bears and along the Gulf of St. Lawrence’s cobblestone shores, the Cabot Trail (pictured above) loops around the northern end of Nova Scotia’s crown jewel, Cape Breton Island. It’s a place as enchanting in looks as in cultural depth—a melting pot of Acadian and Gaelic traditions—and nights along the route are spent dining on lobster in old fishing villages and dancing to bagpiped folk tunes at ceilidhs. The Trail can be driven in a day, but with beauty like this, why rush?
4. Ireland: Wild Atlantic Way
Running 2,400 kilometers down the Emerald Isle’s west coast, this touring route, billed as the longest in the world, requires more than a bit of time (at least two weeks) and curiosity. Although there’s scenery in droves—craggy headlands dotted with lighthouses, windswept beaches backed by table-top plateaus—the Wild Atlantic is about more than that. Awaiting off the road are 157 “Discovery Points”: famous Irish sites such as Clare Island, once ruled by a pirate queen, and the Yeats-immortalized Isle of Innisfree.
This article originally appeared in the June/July print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Route Awakenings”).