Over the past several years I’ve come to love road trips and have mentioned many times that they are potentially my favorite “style” of travel. It’s tough to beat the freedom of having a private mode of transport and doing everything at your own pace. It’s often a pricier way to travel, especially when you return rental cars in different locations and cross national borders, but it’s unquestionably among the most efficient ways to see a place. I always look for excuses to enter and explore new countries by land versus air.
I’ve been fortunate to take many road trips in all corners of the world and am excited to rank my 10 favorites. I hope the information in this countdown is useful and inspires you to do the same!
The below entries are a purely personal opinion based on my experience. I did not receive financial compensation for any of the choices. As with virtually every one of my posts, I took all of the displayed photos (with an iPhone). Let’s get to it!
10.) Banff National Park, Canada | June 2006
Banff is the world’s third oldest national park and a destination whose natural beauty attracts visitors from around the globe. As a teenager, traveling for hockey frequently took my brothers and me to Canada, and Banff quickly became one our favorite places. In between games, we often road tripped deep into the park to explore the Canadian Rockies and the hundreds of ice glaciers. National Geographic ranks the route from Banff to Jasper as one of the “fifty drives of a lifetime.”
- Image 1– The town of Banff
- Image 2– The Athabasca Ice Glacier
9.) Chiang Mai to Pai, Thailand | October 2016
Although slightly less visited than Bangkok and Phuket, the mountains and lush countryside of northern Thailand see millions of tourists every year. In October 2016, my friend Rob and I rented motorbikes in Chiang Mai. We rode through the windy mountain roads to Pai and stopped at an elephant sanctuary on our way back. I would recommend this trip as a great Southeast Asia long weekend option.
- Image 1 – En route to Pai
- Image 2 – Bathing an elephant at the Panda Tour Elephant Camp
8.) Oahu Island, Hawaii, USA | January 2015
My Oahu road trip took place on the heels of celebrating New Year’s Eve twice in the same year. Oahu is small enough that virtually the entire island can be explored in one day, but large enough that there is plenty to experience. Driving here is a perfect “freedom at its finest” and “go with the flow” adventure.
- Image 1 – View of Diamond Head Volcano from the Outrigger Resort in Waikiki
- Image 2 – Waimea Bay Beach
7.) Zagreb, Croatia to Prague, Czech Republic | July 2015
Eastern Europe is a traveler’s paradise and one of my favorite regions in the world to visit. It blends the history and beauty of Western Europe with its own touch of unrefined, medieval spirit. Highlights from this road trip included swimming in Lake Bled, bathing in the Széchenyi Thermal Baths, visiting the site of Saint John Paul II’s baptism in Wadowice, bicycling through Kraków, experiencing Auschwitz and exploring Prague on foot.
- Image 1 – Swimming in Lake Bled
- Image 2 – View of Prague
6.) Barcelona, Spain to Milan, Italy | December 2017
Barcelona, Nice, Monaco, Pisa, Florence, Venice – this road trip included some of Europe’s most iconic destinations. Of course, Spain, France and Italy are visitor-friendly countries and their countless attractions are ideal for spontaneous wandering. Ringing in 2018 to the sound of a dozen cruise ship horns in the Monaco harbor remains one of my most memorable travel experiences.
- Image 1 – Monaco’s Christmas market
- Image 2 – The Florence Cathedral (Duomo)
5.) Great Ocean Road, Australia | December 2014
The southern coast of Australia is home to a spectacular coastline. Ocean currents build up steam all the way from Antarctica and smash into the limestone rock creating some of the most dramatic landscape in the world. The 12 Apostles are the Great Ocean Road’s most notable site and one of the Australia’s most-visited destinations. I almost crashed into a kangaroo while driving between The 12 Apostles and Port Campbell – thankfully, we dodged each other at the last second.
- Image 1 – The Great Ocean Road Entrance
- Image 2 – The 12 Apostles
4.) Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina to Bucharest, Romania | July 2017
The Balkan Peninsula lies in southeastern Europe and is one of the most underrated destinations in the world to explore. Geographically part of Europe but not officially the EU (with the exception of Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania), the region offers all the comforts of traveling Western Europe but with an inspiring grit due to its Greek, Turkish and post-Soviet neighbors. Hiking to the Kotor Fortress and driving up the P1 Motorway to Lovćen Mausoleum were highlights.
- Image 1 – A view of Kotor, Montenegro from the Kotor Fortress
- Image 2 – Bubanj Memorial in Niš, Serbia
3.) Iceland | August 2016
Iceland’s natural beauty impacts visitors as meaningfully as anywhere I’ve experienced. A stunning, underpopulated island whose northern coastline neighbors the Arctic Circle, Iceland rightfully tops the bucket list of travelers around the globe. When mapping out your Icelandic adventure, I suggest making time to spend at least one night in this Airbnb, known as a “Piece of Heaven.”
- Image 1 – Walking at the base of Skógafoss Waterfall
- Image 2 – Sitting on a dock in Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon
2.) Morocco | January 2017
Although geographically in Africa, Morocco is more like Aladdin than Lion King. It is home to a cultural blend of Berber, Arab and Eastern European influences and routinely takes the crown as Africa’s most visited nation. When in Merzouga, I recommend spending two days there instead of the usual one as this will provide more time for desert activities such as riding ATV’s, stargazing and experiencing Berber hospitality.
- Image 1 – Driving four-wheelers in the Sahara Desert outside of Merzouga
- Image 2 – The Jemaa-el-Fnaa square in the central Marrakesh
1.) New Zealand | December 2014
In New Zealand, around each bend is another postcard. It is the most naturally-beautiful place in the world and unquestionably worth every second of traveling required to get to its corner of the earth. I get the ‘what’s the best trip you’ve ever taken’ question a lot and, although I tend to avoid labeling one as the best, New Zealand is always on the tip of my tongue. There are countless ways to experience New Zealand by road, and it’s seemingly hard to go wrong. My advice is to just start driving!
- Image 1 – Hiking on the Hooker Valley track at the base of Mount Cook
- Image 2 – View of Lake Wakatipu from the Queenstown chairlift
What do you think about my choices? Have you taken any of these trips?