Big cities are great for sightseeing. Fast, reliable and efficient public transport systems are also much appreciated by travellers. However, some of the world’s most incredible sights and sceneries aren’t anywhere near a bus station. In times like these, the best way to get out and experience the world's beauty is by driving there yourself.
That’s right, we’re talking about road trips! All you need is a car, a friend (or two) to trade turns behind the wheel, and the whole world is your oyster.
1. U.S. Route 66 — Chicago to California
Ever since Pixar’s ‘Cars’ brought greater recognition to Route 66 outside of the states, we’ve always known that that’s one highway we want to ride all night long.
It is the OG highway that takes you across the states, and even if it’s been somewhat abandoned in favour of the interstate highway, much of the features along Route 66 have since been turned into museums and attractions. Think drive-in movie theatres, cone-shaped motels and even dinosaur sculptures.
We highly recommend stopping by Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch—a whimsical-looking wonderland made up of trees that are actually multi-coloured glass bottles hung on metal pipes—and the Soulsby Service Station—a restored gas station that’s also on the National Register of Historic Places. You also can’t miss out on getting a frozen malt shake from Ted Drewes Frozen Custard while driving through Missouri.
There are also wild-west sceneries, petrified forests, mountains, caverns and even Arizona’s famous Painted Desert. The stunning blend of natural landscapes and windswept towns along Route 66 really gives you that American small-town vibe we know and love from movies.
The best time to drive Route 66 is between early May and late September when the weather is fairest. While this coincides with the American summer break, you’ll find that most of the attractions along Route 66 are open for business precisely because of this.
How long do I need?: 2 weeks to 4 weeks (3,940 km) — The road takes you through 8 states (Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California), spend as long or as little time as you’d like in each of these places as you’d like. The world is your oyster.
2. Japanese Alps — Kyoto to Tokyo
Japan might be known for its immensely convenient and fast interstate bullet train—the Shinkansen—but exploring the country by car just hits different. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the regular tourists, the country’s best-kept secrets are just waiting for you to pull up along the road.
The road takes you from Kyoto to Kanazawa, then across the Japanese Alps (where you’ll find no shortage of onsen-spa towns with breathtaking views), through Matsumoto (home of the Samurai city) before heading to Karuizawa and then to Tokyo. That’s much more interesting than hopping on a train and reaching Tokyo in just a little over two hours.
On route from Kyoto to Kanazawa is Shirakawa-go, an agricultural area that’s recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site for its ancient gassho-zakuri farmhouses (triangle thatched roof houses that are centuries old). Matsumoto is also where you’ll find the famous jet-black Matsumoto Castle—built in the late 16th century and one of the oldest surviving castles in all of Japan.
The best time to take this route is during early May when the weather is still comfortable but you don’t have to deal with snow, or in October when the air is starting to feel a little chilly and the foliage has started turning red.
How long do I need?: 2 weeks (740km) or longer, if you’d like to spend more time exploring each of the locations.
3. Atlantic Road — Kårvåg to Vevang (Norway)
Not all road trips need to last weeks, or days even. The Atlantic Road in Norway is just a little over 8km long and can be easily completed in a day (with time to spare for a picnic!)
It’s no secret that Norway has some drop-dead gorgeous views and every single bit of the Atlantic Road lives up to Norway’s hype, especially as it takes you right out to the edge of the ocean. In fact, the Atlantic Road has earned itself the moniker of the World’s Most Beautiful Car Journey.
Starting in Kårvåg and ending in Vevang, it covers the west coast of Norway. Expect to be blown away by the sights of snow-capped mountains in the distance, and the never-ending view of the Atlantic Ocean stretching into the horizon. The road itself is also an experience—it almost feels like a roller coaster with its undulating bridges.
There are plenty of rest areas and lookout points along this drive. One of them is Myrbærholm Bridge, where you’ll find many an angler trying their hand at reeling in a fresh catch for dinner. Askevågen is another rest stop if you’d like to just sit and overlook the Atlantic Ocean without worrying about waves splashing on you, thanks to its giant windows.
If you’re a thrill seeker, the best time to visit is between September and October when the waves crash onto the bridges. Otherwise, the waters are beautifully still during the summer months.
How long do I need?: Less than a day (8km)
4. Great Ocean Road — Melbourne to Melbourne (Australia)
Another one of the world’s most famous drives is none other than the Great Ocean Road—a drive that spans the Southwestern coast of Australia before doubling back to Melbourne.
The road officially starts from the beach town of Torquay, just a little outside of Melbourne. From there, it follows the coastline all the way to where the 12 Apostles stand. Even though there were never 12 limestone stacks, to begin with, and only 7 of the original 9 are still standing. Still, the sea stacks remain a popular sightseeing destination, and you’ll often find campervans and photographers along the stretch, just waiting to witness the golden hours on the formation.
You could either head back immediately or stay a night at one of the many backpacker inns at Apollo Bay. After all those beach views, the drive back to Melbourne offers something different. By going further inland and through Cape Otway, the road goes through the thick, dense forests of Otway National Park. It’s a whole other mood in there, and trust us when we say you’ll most likely miss it once you’re back in the bustling city.
It’s best to visit in late summer, between March and April, when the weather’s just right.
How long do I need?: 1 to 3 days (550km), if you’d like to break the trip up into different sections.
5. Romantic Road — Frankfurt to Munich (Germany)
Among the things Germany is known for, road trips aren’t actually one of them. Yet, the Romantic Road is one drive you definitely want to go on if it’s the last thing you do.
Think of castles straight out of fairytales, quaint little cottages from your favourite bedtime stories and medieval villages - and you’ve got the Romantic Road.
The trip starts proper from Wurzburg, just an hour from Frankfurt, and from there, it’s pretty much straight southbound the entire way. By going North to South instead of the other way, you save the best attraction of Romantic Road for the last—the Neuschwanstein Castle. Yes! This is none other than the castle that inspired Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle and thus the iconic Disney theme park look.
Other attractions include the city of Augsburg (and Fuggerei, the village within it), Germany’s oldest city that’s filled with gorgeous Rococo and Renaissance architecture, as well as Rothenburg o.d. Tauber, home to a number of museums.
The months between June and September are definitely the best time to visit Germany, thanks to the weather, but if you’re looking to avoid this peak travel period, late spring and early autumn are great too.
How long do I need?: 4 days to 1 week (354km), some cities are really worth spending more time in, if you can afford the time.
6. Golden Circle — Iceland
There are two main choices when it comes to road trips in Iceland—either the Golden Circle or Ring Road. The former stretches 300km in length and can be completed in a day, while the latter is 1332km and requires at least seven days to really take it all in.
For a supposedly “short” road trip, the Golden Circle is jam packed with natural wonders. There’s the Gullfoss Waterfall, the Kerid Crater Lake, the Kerlingarfjoll mountains, the Haukadalur geysers and even the Silfra Fissure within the Thingvellir National Park. The one and only Silfra Fissure—a literal fissure in the ground from where the Earth’s tectonic plates diverge that you can go scuba diving in.
There are also plenty of adorable Icelandic horses on farms throughout the trip. It’s perfectly cool to pull up and pat these fuzzy guys.
There’s no bad season to visit the Golden Circle since the seasons don’t affect the attractions all that much. As long as your schedule permits, the Golden Circle awaits. Or if you’ve really got plenty of time to spare, Ring Road includes whale watching, a hike along the glaciers, waterfall visits and more on top of everything that’s covered in the Golden Circle drive.
How long do I need?: 1 to 3 days (300km)
7. Canadian Rockies — Calgary to Calgary
We can’t have a list of road trips without including Canada, the home to some of the most beautiful drives in the world. The Canadian Rockies, in particular, would be best enjoyed with a campervan or motorhome, just so you can really maximise the time spent in the great outdoors.
The trip starts and ends in Calgary, which means you get to drive through the Icefields Parkway (yes the Icefields Parkway from Instagram) in both directions! You’ll also get to fit in a cable car ride up Whistlers Mountain.
There’s too much to see along the Canadian Rockies to list, but we’ll attempt to name them anyway. There’s the Banff National Park, Moraine Lake, Jasper, Canmore… And more. Breathtaking hikes are aplenty, and plenty of small towns with delicious hot-piping local food to gorge on in between.
The chances of bear encounters are low, but never zero. Even then, that’s an experience we’ll never get here in Singapore, so that’s one for the books too.
The best time to go on this drive is between June and August when the nights are warm and the campsites are actually open.
How long do I need?: 14 days (1900 – 2600km)
Considering how the PIE expressway is the longest stretch of uninterrupted road in Singapore, a proper road trip overseas will definitely change you. And if you don’t have a driving license, there’s still the option to explore on two wheels instead!
For more updates on Changi Airport, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Telegram and YouTube. You can also sign up for a Changi Account and have the latest news and articles delivered right into your inbox.