Although there’s nothing I love more than jetting off to some foreign and remote destination, once there I equally love to hop in a car and start exploring. Maybe it’s the American in me, but there really is nothing better than exploring a new place with the unbridled freedom that only a car can provide. Remote spots, quirky sites and who knows what else are all available to us on a great driving adventure. We can stop when and where we want with nothing limiting us except our own free time. The road trip is an amazing way to explore the world, but not all drives are made the same. So today I thought I’d look back and share some countries where I don’t just enjoy being behind the wheel, I prefer it.
The rolling green landscapes of Ireland are best enjoyed by car, at least in my opinion. There’s no better way to get out there and immerse yourself in the culture and natural escapes than by hitting the open road. In recent years, Ireland has made it easier for tourists to enjoy these vehicular wanderings by establishing several routes, including Ireland’s Ancient East and the now-famous Wild Atlantic Way. Stretching for more than 1,500 miles along nearly the entire coast of Ireland, the Wild Atlantic Way is the longest coastal driving route in the world and certainly one of the most interesting. I first experienced part of this massive driving route a few years ago as I explored the idyllic Dingle Peninsula in the southwestern part of the country. Grassy green cliffs that fall into the crashing sea, sprawling farmlands and some of the nicest people I’ve ever met were all highlights of my short time on the Wild Atlantic Way. More recently, I drove the northwest portion of the Way, from Sligo to Letterkenny. What I love most about the Wild Atlantic Way is that you really can’t do it all on one trip, unless you have a few months to spare. That means repeat trips to undertake different portions, finding new wonders each and every time.
Although getting around Germany by train is easy and convenient, in recent years I’ve driven more often and have much preferred the experience. Trains are great and I still use them to get around Europe, but it’s nice not having to conform to train schedules and to be able to veer off and discover small villages and hamlets. I have spent a lot of time exploring Germany, but one of my favorite drives was the German Fairy Tale Route. The route is a 370-mile route that starts in Hanau and ends in Bremen, featuring the cities, natural landscapes and landmarks that both celebrate the Brothers Grimm as well as inspired them. The German countryside doesn’t often get the attention it deserves, just one of many travel revelations I had during my week road tripping along the route. From small towns and villages to beautiful forests and mountains, discovering the more natural side of Germany was an unexpected pleasure. Add to that postcard-perfect villages, grand castles and some of the best food in the country and you have a road trip that’s fun and meaningful.
Roughly the same size as the US, Australia offers many great driving opportunities and given its size, car really is the best way to get around. I’ve driven extensively on my visits to the Land Down Under, but my favorite drive was also my first as I explored the Northern Territory. The Red Centre is what we all conceive the Australian Outback to look like. Huge stretches of nothingness seem to go on forever, interrupted only by the odd rock or clump of trees. This is also where Uluru, known still by some as Ayer’s Rock, is located, making it also one of the most visited regions of the country. Sure, you can just fly to Uluru, but it’s a lot more fun to spend a few days exploring the Red Centre by car and really experiencing the country the way it was meant to be seen, on the road. It’s a lonely drive though, and safety is always a concern because if you get stuck out there, no one is going to come by anytime soon to help out. But the rewards are well worth the risk, whether it’s the quirky city of Alice Springs, the natural wonder of Kings Canyon or the major site in the Territory, Uluru itself. This was one of my first great, adventurous drives and I will always have a soft spot for it in my heart.
I’ve never seen such a well-oiled tourism machine as I have in Iceland. Everything is organized to within an inch of its life and if you want a trip that is easy and well planned, Iceland is for you. You don’t have to take part in those organized activities though, you can be like me and rent a car to explore Iceland on your own. Iceland is one of the most popular tourist spots in the world, and with good reason. The level of natural grandeur in this small country seems otherworldly, which is probably why so many movies and TV shows use it as a filming location. Luckily, these incredible landscapes are easy for anyone to visit by driving along Iceland’s Route 1 otherwise known as the Ring Road. This national road circles the island connecting most of the key sights around the country in one easy to navigate drive. I’ve only done portions of the driving route, but from my own experience it really is an amazing place to drive around, car being the best way to see the highlights of this beautiful country.
Naturally, I can’t ignore my own country when talking about great road trips. We invented the modern notion of the road trip and, I believe, have perfected it over the years. There are hundreds, probably thousands, of different trip options but one I want to highlight is a route so famous it’s known around the world and it’s a drive I will soon be tackling – Route 66. Steinbeck once called it The Mother Road and from the Dust Bowl to the American Renaissance in the 1950s, this road has held a special place not only in the hearts of Americans, but of people around the world. It hearkens back to an era when anything seemed possible, when taking to the open road was an adventure and the fun truly was in the getting there. While Route 66 technically doesn’t exist anymore, it’s still possible of course to drive huge parts of it as you meander from Chicago to the pier in Santa Monica, California. Along the way are quirky roadside attractions, strange motels and national wonders that rank amongst the best in the world. Yes, I want to see and experience all of those things but I also want to reconnect with my own country, one I love dearly and of which I am fiercely proud. Just as people did in the 1950s and 60s, I want to experience a great American road trip and to discover aspects to the American experience that I don’t even know exist.