This blog post covers the world’s 12 most picturesque, scenic highways spread in several continents and various countries.
There are so many blogs that expose to us all the beautiful places in the world such as beaches, hills, islands and islets, historical monuments, hidden waterfalls and lakes in offbeat places, mysterious natural wonders, and many more.
Have you ever bothered to ask how so many sightseeing attractions are found and written about? Can they be self-revealing to those travelers who fly by night and fly back in the morning?
No, certainly not!
All of the world’s extraordinary tourist attractions are discovered by passionate travelers whose only reliable mode of transportation is a car.
They traverse the world’s remotest corners in cars and blog about their findings for our benefit.
Discover picturesque villages, meet local people, stay in the locals’ house and eat their home-cooked food, pitch up a canvas tent by the curb and stay overnight, eat street food and fresh fruits are some the pure pleasures of adventurous travelers by the car.
12 Thrilling, Dangerous, Scenic Highways in the World
Based on various travelogues and blog post, I have curated 10 of the world’s best most spectacular, scenic highways. Come on; let us hit the road!
The Most Scenic Highways in the World: The Great Coast Road, New Zealand
Time and again, I have spoken to and written about, emphasizing the facts that New Zealand is the best country to see around in a car. The scenic highways are good and the scenes that roll by are simply breathtaking.
Several scenic highways in New Zealand come to my mind and out of them, the Great Ocean Road tops my bucket list.
The Great Ocean Road on South Island’s west coast, New Zealand can be matched with Australia’s Great Ocean Road.
The world has numerous scenic beach highways wherein, the sea gives you company on your side as you drive. The Great Ocean Road in New Zealand runs along the Tasman Sea. On the other side of the road is dark and thick forest. Can you ask for more when you drive on a smooth road?
You can easily spot the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks.
Have you heard about “spurting blowholes”?
Here, see a very short video clip.
Yes, when the whales come up to the water surface and exhale, the water spurts from its snout like a fountain. This is called ‘spurting blowhole’ and you can see them often on your road trip on the Great Ocean Road, South Island, New Zealand. It runs from Westport to Greymouth.
What will you see during this Scenic Highways trip in New Zealand?
- Shantytown Heritage Park, Greymouth
- Point Elizabeth Walkway
- Rapahoe Scenic Reserve
The Most Dangerous and Scenic Highways in the World: Great Ocean Road, Australia
Wow! That’s quite a long road running for nearly 250 km on the southeastern coast of Australia. What a senic highway, tall mountains on one side of the road and the otherside way below is the ocean.
Before reading more about the beauty of this most traversed scenic highways for its scenic beauty along its way, look at this aerial view of the Great Ocean Road, Australia.
It connects the cities of Torquay and Allansford and dedicated as a war memorial in remembrance of those who fought World War I.
It is a major tourist attraction in the world. Passionate car riders from remote parts of the world arrive in Victoria, Australia in great expectation and I am sure they are not disappointed.
Surprisingly, this big tourist attraction is only a two-lane highway.
The scenic Aussie highway is too spectacular to put it in a few words. Here are the prominent tourist landmarks on this world’s most scenic highway:
- Twelve Apostles-limestone stack formations
- Surf Coast
- Shipwreck Coast
- Cape Otway
- Bass Strait
- Deserted beaches some of which wear black sand
- Tall cliffs that act as viewpoints
- Loch Ard Gorge
- The Grotto
- London Arch
Great Ocean Walk
Great Ocean Walk is a latter-day addition. A scenic walking trail along the coast is thronged by passionate walkers during the winter season when the temperature is mild and is pleasant for the long walkers who covers the 105 km stretch in about 5 days. The Great Ocean Walk starts from Apollo Bay and ends at 12 Apostles.
Route #40, Argentina
OMG! That must be a very long road indeed. I read it runs for a whopping 5000 km! However, surprisingly the entire stretch of this scenic highway in South America’s Argentina is not fully paved in spite of attracting adventure lovers from all parts of America who love the challenges of driving through 5000 km stretch of diverse landscapes.
Route #40 alternatively known as Ruta40 runs along the western coast of South America starting from Punta Loyola, Santa Cruz Province La Quiaca, Jujuy Province in the direction from south to north.
The mighty Andes Mountain range will give inseparable company to you as you drive along.
The Ekevation of the Scenic Highways Route #40
A unique aspect of this long road trip is the gaining of elevation as you surge forward.
When your car leaves Río Gallegos city, it is at the sea level. Slowly, the elevation of the highway increases and at one point, you stand at a mind-boggling 16,000+ feet! This is at Abra del Acay in Salta Province.
When you drive, you have to carry a notebook too to write down the names of 20 national parks. You can imagine the diverse flora and fauna of 20 national parks located along the 5000 km! The landscapes that pass by include:
- alpine deserts,
- green mountain,
- River deltas,
- mountain passes,
- Nature Park of Talampaya
- Ischigualasto national park
Since you are driving at high alpine altitudes, you will go through as many as 27 passes.
South American countries are known for rivers and rapids. Ruta40 witnesses 18 rivers.
5000 km stretch highway means you will be going through several provinces of Argentina that include:
- Santa Cruz
- Río Negro
- San Juan
- La Rioja
If you are alert enough when you drive through the scenic highway named Ruta40, you will see several graves located in almost no man’s land. I meant the vast wilderness that surrounds the graves.
Scenic Highways in the World: East Cape, New Zealand
For a change, I am taking you to the North Island, New Zealand. It is also a land of several coastal highways and black sand beaches of vast stretches. This scenic highways is part of the easternmost part of North Island, New Zealand.
The East Cape scenic highway starts from Rotorua and ends at Gisborne. The distance of this spectacular road in New Zealand is 270 km.
What are you likely to see during your road trip on Pacific Coast Highway (SH35)?
- Sun-drenched surf beaches
- Black sand beaches
- Maori sculptures
- Sunrise at Gisborne city
- Tairawhiti Museum
- Tolaga Bay Wharf that runs into more than 2km long
- East Cape Lighthouse
- Maraehako Bay
Did you notice the black sand on the Maraehako Bay?
Denali Highway, Alaska
I was a skeptic when I read about a scenic road trip in Alaska that I consider as an unfriendly state of the United States because of vast tracts of wilderness that see no human movements and perennial snowy climate.
If you do some research on Denali Highway, a scenic highway in Alaska, you will find that it attracts few visitors. However, that doesn’t take away the beauty and challenges of this road trip.
Denali Highway starts from Paxson and ends at Cantwell. The length is measured at 220 km approximately.
Naturally, its main attraction is the Denali National Park that carries another name “Mount McKinley National Park”.
Attractions to see on Denali Highway
- Alaskan Mountain Range and Alaskan glaciers
- Tangle Lakes
- Mount Hayes peak, 14000 feet
- Mount Hess, 12,000 feet
- Mount Deborah, 13,000 feet
- Wrangell Mountains,
- Chugach Mountains
- Amphitheater Mountains
- Maclaren Summit
- The Maclaren River
- Maclaren Glacier
- Denali Clearwater Mountains
- Susitna River
- Nenana River
I think your skepticism too is blown away by so many natural attractions that await you on the picturesque Denali Highway, Alaska.
Most Dangerous and Scenic Highways: Karakoram Highway, China, and Pakistan
That is Hunza River, one of the many rivers that you will see if you happen to drive through the world’s highest paved road, Karakoram Highway.
Isn’t that river so dramatic and looks out of the world? There is a sense of eeriness to such a water body at alpine altitude.
There are many such beautiful rivers, glaciers and mountain ranges one can witness if a drive is started from Pakistan’s Punjab region and complete the 1300 km drive in China.
Out of the 1300 km, you will be driving 887 km in Pakistan and the remaining 413 km is located in China.
Yes, Karakoram Highway is the most scenic and challenging road trip in the world. The world’s most daring adventurers only come forward to have a go at this world’s highest highway situated at an elevation of 15,000 to 26,000 feet!!
The most scenic highways Karakoram Highway is maintained by the highways authority of two countries namely China and Pakistan.
The mountain ranges, the elevation, glaciers and rivers, high passes and harsh weather conditions all make this as the Eighth Wonder of the World.
Mountains and glaciers that cross your path during your road trip in Karakoram Highway:
- Nanga Parbat at nearly 27,000 feet in the Gilgit–Baltistan region of Pakistan
- Rakaposhi mountain range at 26,000 feet
- Diran mountain in the Gilgit–Baltistan region of Pakistan
- Shishpar Mountain
- Ultar Peak
Glaciers on the Karakoram Highway
- Baltoro Glacier
- Siachen Glacier
- Minapin Glacier
- Passu Glacier
- Ghulkin Glacier
- Khunjerab Glacier
Rivers and Lakes that you will come across on the scenic Karakoram Highway are mostly formed out of melting glaciers.
- Indus River
- Hunza River
- Khunjerab River
- Gilgit River
- Attabad Lake
- Karakul Lake
Incredible rock art.
Everybody that include invaders, traders, pilgrims, and vagabonds who passed through the picturesque and also dangerous Karakoram Highway have contributed towards the 50k plus rock art that can be seen in a region called ‘Chilas’, between Hunza Valley and Shatial.
Here is a stunning picture of Hunza Valley, Pakistan.
Sani Pass, South Africa
Picturesque but dangerous, Sani Pass is in South Africa, located at 9,400 feet. South Africa’s most visited tourist destination is the Kwazulu-Natal region and it is where the beautiful road Sani Pass is located.
Terrific and gorgeous mountains-eh?
The road is steep and unpaved thus making it dangerous to even highly experienced drivers. Even though the Sani Pass is 9 km, many people who traversed in unfit vehicles have lost their lives.
We know all of Romania is stunningly beautiful. The Transfagarasan road is just an example of the picturesque settings of scenic highways in Romania.
The Transfagarasan is a fully paved mountainous road built on the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. It is the second-highest paved road in Romania.
The starting point of Transfagarasan is Bascov and ends at short 90 km away place called Sibiu.
During your road trip in Transfagarasan, you will see two breathtaking mountain peaks namely:
In addition, you will have to drive through numerous hairpin bends, tunnels, jaw-dropping descents, and sharp blind curves.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
Italy, the world’s one-stop tourist attraction that offers just about everything a tourist to another country would like to see such as:
- Beautiful road trips
- Sunny beaches
- Churches and cathedrals
- Castles and forts
- Great public squares
- Rivers and canals
- Cliffs and mountains
- Islands and islets
- Clean and serene villages
Of Italy’s numerous attractions, the Amalfi Coast is the most mentioned place to see and is seen by the tourists as well as the resident Italians.
This picture of Amalfi Coast is more than enough to convince anyone to book his flight tickets to Italy. It’s a 50-kilometer stretch of beach in the Sorrentine Peninsula.
As you drive your car up on the mountains abutting the Amalfi Coast, you will be compelled to stop at several viewpoints and stiff cliffs to look down at the Mediterranean Sea with awe and shock.
The Amalfi Coast road starts at Salerno and terminates at Sorrento. En route, you will scenic countryside, sea-facing villas, and terraced vineyards.
Guoliang Tunnel, China
Scary, very scary looking road in the world! Did you notice the road that is going through a mountain tunnel? The walls of the canyon are imposing. The abyss that a passenger traveling in a car would avoid looking down is dizzying. This is definitely the world’s most dangerous and at the same time thrilling road to drive on.
Here is another view of the Guoliang tunnel road. Do you know that the 1.2 km tunnel and road wad dug and built by the residents of the village located on top of the Taihang Mountains?
Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road, UAE and Oman
Would call it a scenic or picturesque road without an iota of greenery? Yes, I would! It is certainly picturesque to me; the emptiness can also be attractive in the wilderness. The panorama that unfolds you when you travel through barren and vast wilderness such as this 11.7 km road or the Sahara desert where you are surrounded by nothingness is eye-catching and exciting too.
The Jabal Hafeet Mountain Road is one of the wonderful roads in the world. It runs through the Hajar range of mountains on the side of U.A.E. and bordering Oman, another middle-east nation.
When you reach the end of this spectacular highway, you would have reached a height of approximately 4000 feet!
There are too many bends along the way. I read it numbers to as many as 60. Oh, that must be dizzying as you drive at great speed.
Once you reach the top of the mountain, you will immensely appreciate the view below. If you time it smartly, you can watch the sunset also from the top of the Jabal Hafeet Mountain highway that was visualized and executed by a German construction company.
Overseas Highway, Florida
The official route number is U.S. Route #1. It runs for 180+ km through the Florida Strait, on the Atlantic Ocean.
The route #1 begins somewhere in Miami city, Florida. The road built on the sea is the longest in the world. The scene that unfolds as you begin your journey is nothing short of dramatic.
On either side of you, the turquoise blue sea gives you a cheerful company.
During your 100 minutes of driving, you will see several islands of Florida Keys archipelago pass by before you finally enter the Key West Island itself through the ‘7-mile bridge’ that is part of the Overseas Highway, United States.
By the way, when you go to a beach at the southern side of Key West Island, be aware of the fact that you are standing at the end of North America at its southernmost tip.
Key West Island is a crowded American island throughout the year in spite of its diminutive size (6.4 kmx1.6 km).
In addition, one of the most coveted island escape for the Americans, Cuba is just about 3 hours ferry-ride away from Key West Island.
Look at this short video clip below showing the most picturesque beach road in the world.
Now, you must be wondering why this U.S. route 1 is not appearing at the top of my list of scenic highways in the world.
To be frank, I did not compose the article on any kind of logical order but at a random only.
This list of most picturesque, thrilling and sometimes dangerous Scenic Highways in the World in the world is certainly a small list. There must be more such scenic highways in the world that will make us discover untold beauties and mysteries hitherto unknown.
I request you to add to this list of adventurous Scenic Highways in the World.
A great post. Great set of pictures.