A truly great drive can take you as far away from your commute and as close to freedom as you can get. But finding a road that makes you feel a live isn’t easy. “So many roads are claimed to be good because there’s a bunch of turns, but that doesn’t make a good road,” says Dave Mucci, adventurer and owner of Moto-Mucci custom motorcycle shop. For something truly special, look for a combination of varying elevation, length, smooth surfaces, minimal traffic, no intersections, and a complexity of turns to get the full experience. Here are the 11 best roads out there to rev your engines up and roll your windows down.
Mulholland Drive is 21 miles of Golden State scenery running straight through the Santa Monica Mountains. It's a split road from the Mulholland Highway, which was originally built to serve as a route for Los Angeles residents to drive from the city to the beach. Now it's one of the most revered American driving roads of all time. The Snake, a two-mile stretch ending in Edwards Corner (arguably the most crashed corner in the state), draws in everyone from celebrities in six-figure cars to motorcyclists because of its tight turns and little room for error.
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Stelvio Pass, Italy
Stelvio Pass sits at an elevation of 9,045 feet in the eastern Ortler Alps bordering Italy and Switzerland — the second highest paved mountain pass in the Alps. The road was built in the early 1800s to connect the Austrian provinces to the rest of Austria. Back then, there was no one looking to speed along the 75 hairpin turns that challenge motorists today. The pass is only open from June to September, and even then accessing the highest stretch of the road can be difficult, but that means that there is hardly any traffic.
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Tianmen Mountain Road, China
The Tianmen Mountain Road knows how to pack a punch. At just under 6.2 miles in length, the route boasts a total of 99 turns and 3,937 feet in elevation gain. The road, which is also called "Heaven-Linking Avenue," leads to the summit of Tianmen Mountain and to Tianmen Cave.
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Susten Pass, Switzerland
Susten Pass has been described as a mountain road that allows you to look at the Swiss Alps without making you feel like you will fall off of them while driving. Comparable to its neighboring roads, Grimsel Pass and Furka Pass, this road is wider and doesn't have much traffic since it is deep in rural Alps country. This allows you to take in the mountain and glacier scenery. The road is marked with fast downhill portions that lead through valleys and banked turns and steep uphills that will have you shifting gears constantly.
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Karakoram Highway, China and Pakistan
The Karakoram Highway is the highest paved international road on the planet, and is referred to by some drivers as the "Eighth Wonder of the World." Located at 15,397 feet in the Khunjerab Pass, it connects China and Pakistan by way of the Karakoram mountain range. The drive is marked by views of mountains, glaciers, and lakes, but it might be tricky to do the entire route. The Gilgit–Baltistan Administration of Pakistan and the Xinjiang Administration of China signed an agreement to issue border passes only to permanent residents to travel through Khunjerab Pass.
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Great Dolomites Road, Italy
The Great Dolomites Road runs 86 miles from Bolzano to Cortina d'Ampezzo and weaves through three different mountain passes in the Dolomites: Falzarego, Pordoi, and Karerpass. The road is well preserved, paved, and reaches a maximum gradient of 12 percent. By connecting the entire mountain range, the scenery, such as the Rosengarten and Lake Karersee, is unbeatable — and it's open year-round for you to explore.
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A93 Highway, United Kingdom
Located in the Cairngorms National Park, A93 is one of the less-busy scenic routes that runs through the Scottish Highlands, from Aberdeen to Perth. It is the highest road in the United Kingdom, with hills and curves that make for a roller-coaster-like drive through Scotland's glens and mountains.
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The Atlantic Ocean Road, Norway
Dubbed Norway's "Construction of the Century," the Atlantic Ocean Road is a section of Country Road 64 between the towns of Kristiansund and Molde. It's short compared to other scenic driving roads, at a mere 5.2 miles, but those miles make for an unforgettable experience of island-hopping in your car. Causeways, viaducts, and eight banked bridges mark the route, which seems to float above water.
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Route 40, Argentina
National Route 40 is the longest road in Argentina, and the third longest in the world, falling short only to U.S. Route 66 and Australia's Stuart Highway. The route is over 3,100 miles long, sees 20 national parks, 27 Andean mountain passes, and 18 rivers. Because of its length and the remote territory, much of the road can be driven without worry of other vehicles.
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Great Ocean Road, Australia
The Great Ocean Road can be described as Australia's Pacific Coast Highway. Originally built by the military in between 1919 and 1932, the road serves as a World War I memorial and links the cities of Torquay and Warrnambool. The 151 miles of paved road run alongside the southeastern coast of the country, allowing you to pass incredible landmarks, such as the Twelve Apostles limestone stacks, and get a view of the Bass Strait, all while getting your fill of ocean and mountain scenery.
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Transfagarasan, locally known as DN7C, is an elevated mountain road originally built as a strategic military route, sitting around 6,700 feet in the Southern Carpathian Mountains. Running 60 miles, it traverses through the regions of Transylvania, Wallachia, and Sibiu with many winding stretches, long S-curves, technical hairpins, and steep descents. It's easy to see why former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson dubbed Transfagarasan "the best road in the world."