Lonely Planet Writer

Happy Birthday Route 66 - 10 alternative road trips you could try this summer in celebration

This year the most famous road trip in the world, Route 66, celebrates its 90th anniversary. Sprawling across the USA, it truly is a life-changing experience for anyone who’s made the journey. But at 2,451 miles, most people don’t have the time to drive from Chicago to Los Angeles. We asked expert Conor Meany from Holiday Autos for his recommendations for alternative road trips. They’re just as spectacular in their own way, and won’t take forever to complete.

1. London to Edinburgh

Drive from the English capital to the Scottish, in an epic road trip that’s right on your doorstep. Watch London fade from view as you head north up the west side of England, to historic Oxford, the cute and quaint Cotswolds and cultural Stratford-upon-Avon. Then brace yourself for stunning views as you make your way through the Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District. Having travelled over 400 miles and almost the length of the country, finish your journey by exploring the vaults, the wynds, and everything else in Edinburgh, one of Europe’s most underrated cities.

2. Route 61 (Minnesota to Louisiana)

The less famous cousin of Route 66 is still an all-American road trip, with a large scoop of culture on the side. With music around every corner, Route 61 is a journey through the history of blues and jazz. From the birthplaces of celebrated artists and vinyl record shops to recording venues and civil rights landmarks, every stop has a story to tell. It stretches all the way from Minnesota to Louisiana, but you can enjoy all the best bits by starting slightly further down the road. The section between St Louis and New Orleans is the most fun and the most interesting, and you’ll cut out more than 683 miles of driving.

3. Hana Highway (Hawaii)

Head to paradise island state Hawaii for a wonderful – and wonderfully short – road trip. It only takes a day, as you drive along the northern coast of the island, from Paia to Hana. It’s a windy, mostly single-lane road, and you cross over an unbelievable 59 bridges. Also once you get to Hana, you can enjoy the delights of Heleakala National Park.

4. Causeway Coastal Route (Northern Ireland)

Stacked with great views and unforgettable scenery, this Northern Irish trip should only take you a maximum of nine days, but you can do it in four and still see all the best bits. Check the impressive rock formations of Giant’s Causeway, a result of volcanic activity. Drive through the remarkable Dark Hedges, a series of intertwined beech trees, and cross the famous Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. If all that isn’t enough, get yourself to Westeros and visit some of the Game Of Thrones filming locations.

5. Route 1 (Iceland)

Literally a ring road around the entire country, Route 1 offers drivers the opportunity to explore every inch of Iceland. With endless superb glaciers, outstanding mountains and wild coasts, Route 1 almost seems like it was designed for road trips. Have a look at Skogafoss waterfall, or Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon if you don’t believe it. The drive normally takes people between ten days and two weeks. If you can’t spare that much time or effort, pick up a car in Hofn, and circumnavigate the island until you get to Akureyri. That’ll shorten the journey, and as a bonus, you’ll get to pass through Reykjavik on your way.

6. Wild Atlantic Way (Republic of Ireland)

A little-known fact is that the Wild Atlantic Way is actually the longest coastal route in the world as it spans the entire length of Ireland. That’s a very daunting 1553 miles and would probably take you somewhere between two and four weeks. Why not pick up a car in Shannon, and travel the south west coast, ending in Cork instead? At a very manageable 311 miles, you save time, but also get to see some the magical sights as well. Full of enormous sea cliffs, incredible beaches, and even seals on occasion, this trip is definitely worth a go.

7. Grossglockner High Alpine Road (Austria)

Drive one of the world’s most famous alpine roads as it takes you into the Hohe Tauern National Park, and to the Austria’s highest mountain, the Grossglockner and its glacier, the Pasterze.

A driving and nature experience to remember, as you navigate 30 miles of high alpine road with 36 bends, all the while ascending to 2,504 metres. Maybe one to avoid if you’re scared of heights.

8. Romantic Road (Germany)

Ever wanted to be in a fairy tale? The Romantische Strasse AKA the Romantic Road might be for you. The 217-mile route takes in some of the prettiest towns and castles Germany has to offer. It was first created after the Second World War to encourage tourism back to Bavaria and some attractions can seem somewhat tacky, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that you’re basically driving through a Disney movie.

9. Cabot Trail (Canada)

Some people think Cape Breton is the most impressive part of Nova Scotia. Take a trip through the island to find out for yourself. The Cabot trail is a 186-mile drive, taking you to the brilliant Cape Breton Highlands National Park, where you’ll see bald eagles, moose and black bears. You only need about three days to get the best out of the trip so take your time and explore some of the adorable small villages where French and Scottish influence is still evident.

10. Pacific Coast Highway (Seattle to San Diego)

The “other” Great American Road Trip. Hardcore road-trippers can take it from Seattle in the north, all the way down to San Diego in the south. But because that would take an age, and because it’s so beautiful you might never come back, try this shorter one on for size. Go from quirky San Francisco to sunny surf in San Diego. You still get to hit the big cities, see the sights, and you still get to drive with the splendid Pacific Ocean as your backdrop. At just over 621 miles this is still quite a big one, but with Big Sur, San Jose, Ventura, Malibu and Los Angeles all on the way it’s worth sticking it out. Plus, if you’re feeling adventurous you can always leave the coastal highway and see the breath-taking Yosemite National Park.

(Press Association)

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