Feb 6, 2012 12:06:00 PM
Get out on the highway
From a trans-African odyssey to the glamour of Amalfi by way of the wild western fringe of New Zealand’s South Island, these magnificent routes will leave you yearning to hit the highway.
Cape Town, South Africa, to Cairo, Egypt
Allow at least 10 weeks for this African epic. Starting in cosmopolitan Cape Town, the journey heads through 11 countries and includes some stunning road stops. As if Victoria Falls, Mt Kilimanjaro and the Nubian Desert with the world’s biggest sand dunes weren’t enough, this mammoth stretch is also home to every species of African wildlife. Road conditions are dire, and an independent overland road trip bursts off the ‘difficult’ radar.
Oasis Overland runs 16 week all-inclusive tours, which cost around £2500 all up.
Coastal highlands, Scotland
Single-track roads hem Scotland’s astonishingly beautiful west coast. From the long sea lochs and glacier-gouged valleys in the south, through the central coastal plain shouldered by mountains, to the serried edges of the wild north, traversing the Scottish coast is a bonny journey. Castles are part of the scenery, and plenty of pretty villages make perfect pit stops. This is whisky country, too – making a most rewarding swill at the end of a day’s driving.
Use the interactive map at the National Trust of Scotland website to find places of interest at which to stop.
Amsterdam to Istanbul
As the crow flies it’s around 2200km, but ‘as the car drives’ the kilometres are innumerable. It depends how many of the counties on either side of the route you visit. You’ll almost certainly pass through Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. That’s a lot of different road rules, road conditions and ‘I Spy’ games.
When you finally arrive at İstanbul reward yourself with a stay at the Arena Hotel, in the historic port area of Sultanahmet; the building is a 19th-century Ottoman classic.
Delhi to Agra, India
If you’re willing to tackle India’s manic roads, this is the trip for you. (You could also hire a driver, sit back and enjoy the ride.) The trip leaves from the capital, a confusing tangle of 12.8 million people and the gateway to the rest of the country. Head southeast for 240km and you’ll be rewarded by reaching Agra – synonymous with the stunning Taj Mahal.
If you want company, check www.delhitoagra.com, which offers tours and tips for planning your sojourn to India’s Golden Triangle.
East Coast Australia
Lined with stunning beaches and dotted with superb national parks, this classic route covers three diverse states. Victoria features the cosmopolitan city of Melbourne, as well the farming areas and out-of-the-way wilderness of the state’s southeast. Stunning Sydney oozes capital consumerism before giving way to the hippy havens further north. And Las Vegas comes Down Under once you hit Queensland – although its real beauty lies with its tropical coast. Excellent roads make the miles easy companions.
By the roadside you will occasionally notice bizarre sculptures affectionately known as Big Things; no trip along the East Coast is complete without at least stopping at the Big Banana in Coff s Harbour.
South Island’s West Coast, New Zealand
From the artful environs of Nelson, head down to New Zealand’s most southern tip. Along the way you’ll pass the memorable town of Westport, from where you can accesses the fabulous caverns of Oparara Basin. Other local highlights include the dulcet attractions of Milford and Doubtful Sounds. Milford Sound is a calm, 22km-long fjord dominated by sheer, weather-scuffed peaks; it attracts over 14,000 visitors annually. By contrast, Doubtful Sound sees less traffic but is home to an equally magnifi cent wilderness area featuring rugged peaks, dense forest and thundering post-rain waterfalls.
Ditch the car for an overnight cruise at Doubtful Sound; departure is from Manapouri and costs around NZ$450 for a double cabin.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
Stretching 50km east from Sorrento to Salerno, the Amalfi Coast (Costiera Amalfi tana) has stunning views that demand your attention – making it diffi cult to keep your eyes on the road. The narrow ribbon of asphalt winds along cliff s that drop to crystal-clear blue waters, and passes the beautiful towns of Positano and Amalfi. To drive the coast can be a nail-biting exercise, as bus drivers nonchalantly edge their way around hairpin bends. In summer it becomes a 50km-long traffic jam – allowing plenty of time to take in those views.
Visit in summer (June to August) to experience festivals at villages along the coast; see what’s happening when, and where, at www.amalficoastweb.com.
Cape Town to Hermanus, South Africa
This southern coastal strip hugs charming seaside villages and envelops some inimitable South African natural wonders. Once you’ve taken in colourful Cape Town – skirted by vineyards and beaches – head east along False Bay. The 122km stretch to Hermanus is within day-tripping distance, but worthy of a slow drive. A number of nature reserves include wetland areas (hippo territory), as well as sweeping beaches. Once in Hermanus, you can stop watching the road and start watching the whales that can be seen mucking around off shore between June and November.
When you get to Hermanus, visit the fishermen’s market, every Sunday (starts 8.30am). Source accommodation and events in Hermanus at www.hermanus.co.za.
This article was updated in Feburary 2012.