Take the open road, some glorious scenery, and the right to camp wherever you like – hey presto, you’ve got a recipe for radical freedom. Now just add one or more of these fabulous routes for a classic campervan experience.
Route 1, Iceland
The 1339km of Route 1, which was only completed in 1974, allows drivers to make a complete circuit of this most dramatic of volcanic islands. The drive from Kevlavik airport to the capital, Reykjavik, is an eye-popping introduction – a landscape of jagged black lava fields. Highlights include Jökulsárlón, a pristine glacial lake on the south coast filled with huge icebergs.
Great Ocean Road, Australia
It’s famous for a reason, you know. This 273km beauty tracing the coastline of southwest Victoria is lined with iconic landmarks, from the world-famous limestone pinnacles of the Twelve Apostles to Great Otway National Park, home to koalas and other wacky Antipodean wildlife.
Isle of Mull and Isle of Coll, Scotland
Britain has severe restrictions on wild camping, so you need to head well off the beaten track to enjoy a taste of freedom - try the Isle of Mull and the Isle of Coll in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides. With 480km of coastline and mountains approaching 1000m, Mull is the largest and most developed, while tiny Coll measures just 21km from top to toe and 5km across.
Cape Town to Cairo, Africa
We admit it: this is epic. You’ll need at least three months and a vehicle with serious credentials to cope with this trip, the overland route from South Africa to Egypt. But if you have the time, the energy and a four-wheel drive that can survive rutted roads and sand dunes, the rewards are endless and include a drive-by of Victoria Falls and Mount Kilimanjaro.
Rocky Mountains, Canada
Canada’s 230km Icefields Parkway is one of the world’s definitive drives, traversing Banff and Jasper National Parks. It’s a geological wonderland where you can chill in geothermal hot springs or set foot on craggy glaciers. Keep your eyes peeled to spot elks grazing by the roadside or even catch a glimpse of a brown bear.
‘Top to toe’, New Zealand
New Zealand might just be the perfect place to take to the road. Pick up a van in Auckland, head east to the Bay of Plenty, and cut through the North Island’s volcanic heartland towards stunning Tongariro National Park. Cross to the South Island and follow the spectacular West Coast down past Franz Josef Glacier to the splendour of Milford Sound before a grandstand finish in Queenstown.
Mannheim to Prague, Germany/Czech Republic
Cultural heritage is the name of the game on this 1000km route that runs through Germany’s picturesque south over the Czech border to Prague. Along the way you can visit over 70 romantic castles and fairytale palaces rich in baroque and rococo architecture, as well as medieval towns such as Bamberg and Kronach.
Rent an adapted 4WD in Windhoek and make for Etosha National Park, part of the Kalahari Basin and prime big game country. Wherever you go, the roads are mostly loose gravel or dusty farm tracks, but it won’t detract from the magic of a country many rate as the most beautiful on earth.
San Francisco to Los Angeles, USA
The 1055km of California’s Highway 1 boasts everything from whales in the Pacific to mice at Disneyland. But it’s not just about jaw-dropping scenery, or Mickey and his pals, or even the iconic cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles. It’s about enacting a dream of unfettered, Kerouac-inspired freedom.
The Garden Route, South Africa
Connecting Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, this famous trip has the Outeniqua Mountains on one side and the India Ocean on the other. Slurp your way through acres of prime vineyards, trek stunning trails, watch whales at Hermanus, and take time out on the fine beach at Plettenburg Bay.
Looking for a different route? Check out Lonely Planet's Great Journeys.