The year 1903 marked the first successful road trip across America, when Horatio Nelson Jackson and his friend, Sewall Crocker, slid behind the wheel of a Winton touring car in San Francisco and set out for New York. No one had ever made the coast-to-coast journey in an automobile before; roads at that time were treacherous and road signs nonexistent. But despite a series of misadventures (including a detour in Idaho that resulted in a third passenger, a be-goggled bulldog called Bud), the group reached the East Coast in an unprecedented 63 days, 12 hours and 30 minutes.
The trio’s adventurous spirit set the tone for generations of explorers to come, and despite ever-climbing gas prices and supersonic jets, travelers all over the world continue to drive. There is something terribly romantic about a wide-open road, free from the throb and pulse of overcrowded daily life. And every country has its own story to tell.
In the U.S., the red rocks and sandstone buttes of the Southwest captured the popular imagination in John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939), the first of many westerns set in Monument Valley, on the Arizona-Utah border. In France, the green hills and lavender fields of Provence were catapulted to best-seller stardom after The Sunday Times serialized Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence (1989). It went on to become one of the most successful travel books of all time. And with a bit of Hollywood alchemy, New Zealand’s natural wonders became Middle-Earth, the fantasy landscape in director Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
There is no better way to absorb the natural wonder of theses lands than by driving them. From Nova Scotia’s greenery to dicey cliffsides in China to mountains teeming with wildlife in Peru, this list offers a selection of the world’s most unforgettable road trips, sure to awaken wanderlust.