The journey, they say, is at times more important than the destination. And when they say that, we think they mean roads – especially if you are driving to your destination. Despite the advent of transportation almost a century back, road safety is still a huge issue in many parts of the world. Sometimes, it’s the lack of funds or infrastructure for a country that renders it roads death traps instead of being navigable. Still other times, nature tends to have the upper hand with unpredictable weather and landslide-prone mountains that can turn a perfectly manageable road into a near-death experience for the motorists. Other times it’s simply a very stubborn geography that doesn’t allow for a road to become anything more than a passable route that most motorists would love to avoid if given half a chance.
But the simple thing is, to get to point B from point A in a vehicle; we all have to use roads. Some roads are so beautiful and wonderful to drive on that most would love for the journey to never end and the destination to never arrive. Still, other roads are so deadly that most drivers get through them with tons of hope, prayers and bone-crunching nervousness. Whatever be the case, its journeys like these that make life memorable. So here are the world’s 10 best roads to cruise on, and 10 that can scare the bejesus out of anyone!
20 Bad: North Yungas Road, Bolivia
Nicknamed as the “Road of Fate”, this motorway was once known as the most dangerous road of the world. The road has witnessed around 200-300 fatalities since 2006, within a 40-mile drive from La Paz to Coroico in the state of Bolivia. The road is the only possible thoroughfare for the commuters, and the unforeseen cloudbursts and unexpected landslides were the reasons why it is considered dangerous. Also known as Grove’s Road, it has become a popular tourist attraction for the thrill-seekers and bikers. The road is mostly downhill with just a single uphill patch that makes it a mountain biker’s dream destination for a solo or group ride.
19 Bad: Karakoram Highway, Pakistan-China
Considered as the world’s highest elevated road, Karakoram Highway took 20 years in making. Also known as China-Pakistan Friendship Highway, it stretches 810 miles long and passes through the Karakoram Mountain Range at a maximum elevation of 15,466 ft. Though it is a popular tourist attraction and is designated as the eighth wonder of the world, KKH is also doomed by the losses caused by erratic weather.
A part of the highway is usually closed during winters and landslides are common occurrences throughout the year.
Also, blind corners all through the highway pose a threat. At the same time, it is reckoned as the third best destination in Pakistan, according to The Guardian newspaper.
18 Bad: Passage Du Gois, France
This road connects Beauvoir-sur-Mer, a commune in western France, with an island off the Atlantic coast, called Île de Noirmoutier. This 2.58 miles passage gets engulfed twice a day when the tides are high, meaning it disappears under some 13 feet of water! And when the road resurfaces with masses of seaweed it becomes a greasy expanse, deceitful for bikers. The Passage is also used for the Tour de France for its Stage 1 and Stage 2 bicycle race. This bizarre location is exceptional and cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Which is also why it is considered as a national monument in France. Panels on both side of the road show when the road is safe to use.
17 Bad: Pan American Highway, Alaska-Chile
At 19,000 miles, this is the longest penetrable road in the world. It passes through two continents cutting across jungles, mountains, glaciers, and deserts. Though this long stretch has charm and beauty, it also afflicted with a couple of dangerous patches. One patch is when you are passing through Mexico and Central America, an area ill-famed for its drug cartel guerrillas. And, the other one comes when you are crisscrossing through Panama where you could bump into the FARC rebels, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Neither makes for good experiences. To make thing worse the PAH is also infamous for an isolated strip of jungle bordering Panama & Colombia - The Darién Gap.
16 Bad: Trollstigen, Norway
Trollstigen means Troll’s Path. The condition of the road is such that it is literally meant for trolls, as it’s not very navigable… This stunning serpentine mountain road encompasses a lot of tight turns making it a testing and perilous drive. A mostly single lane has a few patches where you will come across a rock overhang on one side and a ghastly 2000 feet drop on the other.
Officially declared as the national tourist route by the Norwegian Ministry of Transport and Communications, this road is closed during late autumn and winter.
This highway in Norway is also famous for its visual splendour that includes lofty waterfalls, gorgeous landscapes, and being part of world heritage.
15 Bad: Guoliang Tunnel Road, China
There's a story behind this road since the roadwork was actually initiated by 13 villagers. When they approached the government to build this road to connect their remote village to the highway, they were snubbed by the government. So they simply carved the road along the side of and through the Taihang Mountains in the Hunan Province of China. This 0.8 miles long tunnel is 16 feet tall and 13 feet wide took five years to complete and was thrown open for public in 1977. The tunnel’s width is the biggest concern here, especially during heavy downpours. The zero visibility during rains coupled with a narrow passage not enough for two cars to pass together poses a big threat for the commuters.
14 Bad: Zoji Pass, India
Zoji pass is an essential link between Kashmir valley and Ladakh. It covers just 5.6 miles in distance and 11,575 feet in elevation. It is still measured as one of the riskiest mountain passes on the earth because of zigzag roads and unanticipated landslides. Zojila Pass was the area from where the battle tanks had run during the Indo-Pak conflict in 1947 and at that time it was the highest altitude for any battle tanks operation in the world. The Government of India has initiated the work on a new 8.7 miles long Ziji La Tunnel project to cut the drive time to 15 min from 3 hrs and make it a safer road to drive on.
13 Bad: The Federal Highway, Russia
This Russian Federal Highway connects Moscow and Yakutsk, the capital of Sakha, touching the Trans-Siberian Railways. Also called as the A360 Lena Highway as it runs parallel to the Lena River, the road stretches almost 767 miles. The highway was nicknamed as Highway from Hell by the locals, as the roads turned into sludgy pudding during rains and swallowed a few light vehicles.
The winters are harsh too, averaging -45°F in January making the highway impassable.
Interestingly, Yakutsk is the coldest city on the earth and basically built on continuous permafrost. So its inhabitants live on houses that are fixed on concrete piles to avoid sinking.
12 Bad: Cotopaxi Volcano Road, Ecuador
Cotopaxi is an active composite volcano in the Andes Mountains and the second highest summit in Ecuador. Standing tall at 19,347 feet it is among the world’s tallest active volcanoes. Though it is revered as a “Sacred Mountain" and an abode of Gods by Andeans, it isn't a very benevolent peak since its eruptions last months on end. The last eruption happened in Aug 2015 and lasted for almost six months. The main hurdle is the 23 miles dirt road that is full of potholes and slippery slants. The dirt track also consists of streams that can cause flash floods anytime. And then it branches off to the Pan American Highway, which leads to another set of woes.
11 Bad: Ruta 5, Chile
Also known as Ruta 5, this road connects Arica to Iquique in Chile. The road passes through the famous Chilean Atacama Desert and is an endless drive on blank lines. This monotonous drive coupled with a sudden zero visibility caused by dense fog descending on the road bring about casualties every year.
Its empty roads, deep valleys, and mono-coloured landscape can temporarily blind travellers and result in losses.
Plus this two-lane paved road is also notorious for solid gusts that can shove you off the road and toss you down a valley. At 2090 miles, it is Chile’s longest route and cuts through Santiago, which is Chile’s capital and the largest city.
10 Must Try: Scenic Highway 12, Utah
As the title suggests, this state highway is a truly scenic drive all through. Also known as the State Route 12 and Scenic Byway 12, this one took almost four decades to be thrown open for public. In 1991 it was declared as the National Scenic Byway by the US Department of Transport so that this less-traveled road can be protected and preserved. The All-American Road is loved not only for its picturesque landscapes but also for its archeological, cultural, historic, natural and recreational values. The road touches popular tourist locations like Dixie National Forest and Bryce Canyon National Park, the Kodachrome Basin State Park, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the Anasazi State Park Museum.
9 Must Try: Garden Route, South Africa
This 190 miles route offers the best South Africa can for road wanderers. The all-inclusive passage is teeming with lagoons, desert beaches, lakes, and wildlife. Nestled between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, this excellent trip will take you through 13 miles of Wilderness National Park before reaching Buffalo Bay. And then you reach Knysna, a small town famous for its chalets and lagoons. Moving on you touch the mouth of Storms River via the sandy beaches of Plettenberg Bay. The list of beautiful places one can visit is endless. Dotted with beautiful Mountains, zigzagging shoreline, historical monuments, lagoons, National Parks, lakes, and rivers; this is certainly one of the best roads on the earth.
8 Must Try: Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road, UAE
This mountain road was built in 1980 and covers 7.3 miles at an elevation of 3900 feet. The road was carved out a mountain that was made of limestone. According to Edmunds.com, it is perhaps the greatest driving road on earth, for the sheer driving pleasure it offers.
This snake-like road is not just a smooth drive, but also a scenic one since it gives a panoramic view of Al-Ain, a city in Abu Dhabi.
On your way up you come across beautiful caves of depth up to 490 feet. The place also has a renowned tourist attraction call Green Mubazzarah that has a number of hot springs, lakes, pools and hot tubs, typical of Arabic hospitality.
7 Must Try: Big Sur, California
This national treasure is titled as the longest and the most picturesque expanse on an undeveloped shoreline in the conterminous United States. It’s beautiful and pristine coastlines are the best ones on earth. The Big Sur takes you through the tall highlands, gorgeous cliffs, immaculate beaches and soaring redwood groves. No doubt it is a popular tourist attraction, especially during the summer holidays. And of course with limited phone connectivity, you can stay away from all those annoying, unwelcome buzzes. In spite of a few inconveniences like a dearth of restrooms, expensive gas stations, jam-packed traffic and a limited parking space; The Big Sur has gained a lot of popularity for road trips.
6 Must Try: Snaefell Mountain Road, Isle Of Man
Heard of the Isle of Man? Well, any motorhead worth his salt has, for the Isle of Man TT is the best-known motorcycle racing around this side of the universe. Racers call the stretch between Ramsey and Douglas as the very best, and advice you tackle this road the way they do – starting from the Ramsey Hairpin, moving to Gooseneck, Mountain Mile and then heading to Hailwood’s Rise and Windy Corner before you end the run at Douglas. In case you are wondering where the Isle of Man is, it’s an island in the Irish Sea between England and Ireland. Just don’t run this road on race weeks.
5 Must Try: Great Ocean Road, Australia
The Great Ocean Road in Australia is a breathtaking strip in the state of Victoria that begins at Torquay. It travels 151 miles all the way till Warrnambool, which is also the biggest city on the strip.
Located along the southeastern coast of Australia, this road offers scintillating ocean views mated with one smooth, smooth ride.
You can keep driving until the sun goes down, or make use of all the museums, beaches and cafes dotted along this gorgeous route, plus stop and stare at the sea at designated whale lookouts too. Remember to stop at Shipwreck Coast, Apollo Bay, the Great Otway National Park – along with the Twelve Apostles (a limestone formation on the shore).
4 Must Try: The Atlantic Roadway, Norway
Norway in itself is one striking country, considering the Northern Lights. The Atlantic Roadway is just as striking and has been titled as a national tourist route. Its only five miles long, and basically part of the Norwegian National Road 64. What’s really beautiful about this stretch is that it jumps from island to island in Midwestern Norway, and connects the beautiful towns of Kristiansund and Molde. It was opened to the public way back in 1989, and pit stops have grown exponentially to house the flocks of tourists that come to enjoy the stark beauty of this land.
3 Must Try: Ruta 40, Argentina
As beautiful as this 3,045-mile long road is, it is also the longest road in Argentina. Called Ruta 40, meaning Route 40 – it starts in Puna and stretches all the way to the Cabo Virgins. What makes it absolutely stunning is that it runs parallel to the Andes, and goes as high as 16,000m above sea level. There are some hitches of course since a lot of this road overlaps rural areas. There are unpaved bits or stretches with no connectivity – but the drive is one of a kind. It crosses 18 rivers, 13 great lakes, 20 national parks and protected areas as well as an astounding 236 bridges.
2 Must Try: Côte d'Opale, France
A well-known secret of the French, the Côte d’Opale is a jewel bypassed by many tourists in a hurry to get inland from Calais. The road is only 26 miles long, but it runs parallel to beautiful coasts that teem with greenery and colour.
Its beauty is retained partly because it’s a road less frequented, but the French prize it for unending miles of sandy beaches coupled with charming coves.
Plenty of overnight stops, quaint markets and informal restaurants serving the most scrumptious of seafood can be found here – and you can get here by following the D940 south from Calais.
1 Must Try: Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse, Austria
The High Alpine Road was built in 1935, and if you are on this road – you will get to know about its rather arduous history at the Building of the Road exhibition next to Fuscher Lake. The road is some 30 miles long and lets you view some 37 mountains along the way. It’s a tolled road that starts at Bruck in the Salzburg Valley. From here on, you get to drive through stunning vistas but some hair-raising bends and the journey finally ends at Carinthia. It’s passable only from May to November, after which winters tend to make it absolutely dangerous.
Sources: Panoramatours.com, Pinterest.com, VisitNorway.com