If you’re feeling a touch of wanderlust, these three road trips — which include amazing international options — could be just what you need.
Road trips are often enticing. The freedom that comes with hopping in the car and driving off into the sunset (or sunrise, depending on which direction you’re headed) can be unparalleled.
To get the most out of your road trip experience, you first need to figure out what kind of travel you’re in the mood for — easy, adventurous, short, long — and then, of course, pick the right destination. We can help with that. The following three road-trip itineraries, on three continents, guarantee truly extraordinary scenery and experiences. But remember that the charm of this kind of travel is that it’s endlessly customizable, so use the ideas below as a starting point for designing your own road-trip experience of a lifetime
United States: Tour Utah’s National Parks
The desert of southern Utah still feels a bit like the Wild West. Canyons, cliffs, red rock, and towering columns make for nonstop photo ops.
Our Utah National Parks trip starts in Moab, a charming town that’s an easy drive from both the sandstone landscapes of Arches National Park and the mesas, canyons, and spires that make up the 527 square miles of Canyonlands National Park. When you’re done exploring these locations, strike out on UT-24W and cruise 150 miles past towering red cliffs to Capitol Reef National Park. This is one of the less touristy of Utah’s parks and offers some serious hiking though slot canyons. From here, take a leisurely 2.5-hour drive on Utah Scenic Byway 12 (allowing extra time for frequent stops — this route is regularly ranked as one of the most scenic drives in the United States) to Bryce Canyon. Here, you can spend a few days hiking and biking through the largest concentration of “hoodoos” (irregular rock columns) found anywhere on Earth. From Bryce, continue another 85 miles to finish at Zion National Park, where deep canyons are home to a wide variety of plants and wildlife.
- Who it’s for: Domestic travelers, photographers, and people who love hiking.
- When to go: Any season except winter, when temperatures drop below freezing and snow may close roads.
- Essential stops: The 2,000-plus natural stone arches of Arches National Park, the 8-mile Fairyland Loop Trail (serious hikers only) in Bryce Canyon, and the almost unbelievably tranquil Kolob Canyons at Zion.
- DIY: Try the Roadtrippers app. Simply enter start and end points, and it’ll find fascinating, beautiful, and quirky sights in between, as well as hotels, restaurants, and gas stations.
- Let someone else plan it: Abercrombie & Kent offers ready-made luxury road trips through Utah (complete with car and driver), or they’ll help you design a custom trip.
Europe/North Atlantic: Explore Iceland’s Ring Road
This 820-mile road feels like it was built with road trippers in mind. Route 1 encircles the island, and it seems every mile includes a “stop the car” moment. Enormous waterfalls, craggy mountains, steamy geothermal springs, and vivid rainbows lurk around nearly every corner, while excellent hotels and restaurants abound.
Start your trip in Reykjavik and head counterclockwise on the Ring Road; a trip can take anywhere from a few days, if you rush, to two weeks if you really want to savor the scenery.
It’s hard to narrow down the list of highlights, but a steam bath is an essential Iceland experience. The Myvatn Nature Baths in the north are less crowded than the more famous Blue Lagoon, but both offer steamy glacial waters backed by wide skies and rolling hills. Also, be sure to allow time for a cliff walk on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, where lava fields, black sand beaches, and a volcano crowned with a glacier are all packed into a space 55 miles long and 16 miles wide.
- Who it’s for: Those who don’t mind 24-hour sunlight in summer and 20-hour darkness in winter, steam bath lovers, and those who prefer not to rough it.
- When to go: The Ring Road is stunning year-round, but drivers inexperienced with snow or ice should stick to the warmer months.
- Essential stops: Kayaking on a glacial lagoon, where you can paddle around icebergs and see Europe’s largest glacier from the water. Or try Museum of Prophecies in the village of Skagaströnd, a quirky museum that’s all about fortune telling.
- DIY: Iceland’s tourism website has info on routes, snow driving, car rentals, and other essentials.
- Let someone else plan it: Black Tomato arranges bespoke Iceland trips, with or without driver, in a glacier-ready Jeep.
South America: Adventure along Argentina’s Route 40
At a whopping 3,227 miles, Ruta 40 is one of the longest roads in the world. Stretching from Cabo Virgenes at the very southernmost tip of the continent to La Quiaca on the Bolivian border, this highway tracing the western border of Argentina offers a road trip for the ages. To drive the whole thing takes weeks — and could take months — but every day brings views of mountains, glaciers, lakes, or wildlife, plus fabulous meals of steak and wine whenever you stop in a town of any size.
Highlights on Route 40 include Mendoza, where you can easily spend a week visiting dozens of vineyards and figuring out your favorite year for Malbec. There’s also Los Glaciares National Park, home to the truly jaw-dropping Perito Moreno glacier: 97 square miles of cool blue ice. Wildlife to look out for en route includes guanacos (a llama-like animal), condors, and hairy armadillos. You’ll also take in petrified forests, volcanic craters, vertigo-inducing cliffs, and huge stretches of empty highway perfect for car karaoke.
- Who it’s for: Adventurers, experienced hikers, and oenophiles/wine connoisseurs.
- When to go: The southern hemisphere springtime, when flowers are in bloom but tourist season hasn’t revved up yet. November and early December are ideal.
- Essential stops: For rock climbers, Piedra Parada is a world-class destination packed with caves, fossils, and more than 300 climbing routes. Or visit Trevelin, a tiny town settled by Welsh families in 1885 that still retains their old country customs.
- DIY: The Wanderlog app can help you plot international trips, adding in must-see sights and optimizing your trip to match the time you have available.
- Let someone else plan it: Scott Dunn creates tailor-made Argentina road trips that take care of every detail, including luxury accommodations.