Bucket List Roads Around the World
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22 Bucket List Roads to Drive Around the World

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Bucket List Roads Around the World
Bruno Rosa/istockphoto

Driven to Distraction

What makes a road one you add to your bucket list? Well, hairpin turns for one, and lots of them. The same goes for switchbacks and steep grades. There are plenty of examples of those on this list, but we also searched for routes that offer something nothing else in the world does. Dramatic scenery was a factor, and, of course, roads that challenge even the brawniest of four-wheel drives. Finally, any path that makes you feel just a bit closer to your own mortality ... yeah, that was a consideration in this list, too. Read on for roads that might give you heart palpitations, the itch to hit the accelerator, or both.

Highway 12, Southern Utah
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Highway 12

Southern Utah
Take this scenic-byway route to truly experience the remoteness of the American Southwest. Travelers likely won't mind its occasional steep grades and sharp curves, as they allow for slowing down and truly drinking in the surrounding landscape of red rock buttes, towering mesas, and other otherworldly desert rock formations. You can drive all of its nearly 123 miles in about three hours, but allow for stops along the way — Highway 12 passes by a number of state and national parks, national monuments, scenic overlooks, and more than a few desert towns that can help de-parch a thirsty traveler.

Atlantic Ocean Road, Norway
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Atlantic Ocean Road

Norway
At just over 5.2 miles, this portion of the nation's County Road 64 includes eight bridges that connect landforms in a Norwegian Sea archipelago. Drive it in good weather, and you'll be rewarded with some of the best scenery in the world. Drive it in inclement weather, however, and you might be driving in winds exceeding 30 mph, over ocean-soaked asphalt as a sea storm rages around your car.

Pacific Coast Highway, California
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Pacific Coast Highway

California
Sure, this might seem a bit cliché, but this 123-mile route, also known as California State Route 1, offers incredible vistas of soaring cliffs and crashing waves, as well as plenty of smaller, sunny beach towns to stop at along the way. Plan a leg-stretching stop at Nepenthe, a Big Sur cliffside-perched restaurant with jaw-dropping views. And if you're pinching pennies, check out The Best of California For Budget Vacations.

Stelvio Pass, Northern Italy
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Stelvio Pass

Northern Italy
An aerial view of this road, which hugs the Switzerland border, will tell you how it made the list. It includes 48 hairpin turns through the Eastern Alps, offering breathtaking views — if you can take your eyes off of the road long enough to take them in. The British car show "Top Gear" called it the "greatest driving road in Europe," and many TripAdvisor reviewers attest that it should be on any driving enthusiast's bucket list.

Chapman's Peak, South Africa
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Chapman's Peak

South Africa
Considered one of the world's most scenic drives, this 5.5-mile route — which locals refer to as "Chappies" — is a toll road with 114 curves that wind around the peak of the same name, offering panoramic views of the coast between Noordhoek and Hout Bay, South Africa. While it's occasionally closed due to weather (heavy rain, high winds) and for maintenance, it has a dedicated website you can check to see if it's open.

Going-to-the-Sun Road, Montana
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Going-to-the-Sun Road

Montana
Reserve some time in June or July for this one, which is best traveled during the summertime. At 50 miles long, Going-to-the-Sun is part of Glacier National Park, and it takes at least two hours to traverse. Along the way, in addition to fantastic scenery of waterfalls, wildflowers, and wildlife, you'll pass Avalanche Creek, go through the iconic West Tunnel, and wind through The Loop switchback. (Fair-weather motorists will also want to check out these 23 Scenic Roads You Can Drive Only in the Summer.)

Romantic Road, Japan
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Romantic Road

Japan
This drive is around 220 miles and can be covered in a few hours, but plan on two to five days to traverse it, as there's so much to see along the way in terms of Japanese culture, landscape, and history. Travelers will drive through many countryside towns, pass three national parks, and experience ruins, hot springs, castles, volcanoes, waterfalls, shrines, and much more.

Seven-Mile Bridge, Florida Keys
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Seven-Mile Bridge

Florida Keys
This route, which connects Little Duck Key to Knight's Key, offers 360-degree views of the green- and blue-hued waters of the Florida Straits. Along the way, drivers might spot pelicans and blue herons perched along the bridge's edge, as well as views of the less modern structure that adventurous travelers used until 1982, when the current bridge was constructed. If you really want to traverse both, bring a bike — the former bridge is closed to cars but can be walked or cycled. At the end of your journey, you can grab a bite to eat and a cocktail at Knight's Key's festive Sunset Grille & Raw Bar.

Los Caracoles Pass, Chile
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Los Caracoles Pass

Chile
Hairpin turns and high elevations are a thing in the driving enthusiast community, and this road is no exception. Considered one of the most dangerous roads in the world to drive, a drone's-eye view of it is enough to give just about anyone heart palpitations. However, semi-trucks and tourist buses travel it daily, so all that's really required to safely traverse it is a surplus of patience and, considering it's covered in snow most of the year, some winter-driving skills. Have all that, plus a dose of bravery, and you'll take in incredible views of Aconcagua, South America's tallest peak.

Million Dollar Highway between Ouray and Silverton, Colorado
TripAdvisor

The Million Dollar Highway

Colorado
This road connects Ouray to Silverton — which each offer their own mountain-town charm — with a route that winds through the San Juan Mountains to its highest point: Red Mountain Pass's 11,000 feet in elevation. Gorgeous in summer or winter, the latter offers a bit more treachery in terms of snow, ice, and potential avalanche road blockage. It only takes about 45 minutes to drive the whole thing, but travelers who want a longer journey can continue into the town of Durango, and will find plenty to do along the way, including exploring ghost towns, soaking in the hot springs of the former Trimble Spa (now Durango Hot Springs Resort), and hiking into the 1.8 million-acre San Juan National Forest.

Black Spur, Healesville to Melbourne, Australia
Bob Beale

Black Spur

Healesville, Melbourne, Australia
For around 17 miles and 30 minutes, this route offers amazing views of massive mountain ash trees, sweeping valleys, and acres of lush green ferns in the Yarra Ranges region of the Great Dividing Range. Drivers start in Healesville and head toward Narbethong, and there are at least a couple of opportunities to pull over for a picnic or a hike along the way.

Ffordd Pen Llech, Harlech
Bex Walton

Ffordd Pen Llech

Wales
Drive on this short stretch of road and you'll be traveling on a Guinness Book of World Records-awarded route. With a grade of 37.5%, Ffordd Pen Llech grabbed the World's Steepest Street title (away from New Zealand's Baldwin Street) in 2019. Located in a historic coastal town, it's an awfully long way to go to basically traverse a neighborhood street for a few minutes. So, after driving the world's steepest street, you can head over to the 13th-century Harlech Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hana Highway, Hawaii
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Hana Highway

Hawaii
Located along the eastern coast of Maui, this 52-mile long route offers 600 curves and 59 bridges (many of which are single lane). It clings to Maui's cliffsides, passing Pua'a Ka'a State Wayside Park and its waterfalls and swimming holes, and the 26-acre Garden of Eden Arboretum, which also features waterfalls as well as trails and picnic spots. (If a trip to America's 50th state is on your agenda, remember these 20 Tips for Visiting Hawaii on a Budget.)

Transfagarasan Highway, Romania
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Transfagarasan Highway

Romania
You usually drive this road for the views — not for the actual driving, as it's become so popular with tourists that traffic often slows to a crawl. Like other roads on this list, this one makes the cut for its fair share of twisting and turning and spectacular views — this time of the Carpathian mountain range. Closed most of the year due to weather, Top Gear recommends rising early to drive it with fewer crowds (stray dogs notwithstanding), and not stopping at the obvious vista pinnacle. Continue through to Vidraru Dam for "a much smoother flowing, more enriching hour of driving."

North Coast 500, Scotland
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North Coast 500

Scotland
At 500 miles, the NC500 is one of the longer motorways on this list, but driving the entirety of this looped route will afford the traveler countless unbelievable views of Scotland's beautiful white-sand beach coastline and emerald interior. Stop along the way to experience castles, historic ruins, smugglers' caves, vibrant lakes, and more than a few pubs and distilleries in northern Scottish towns along the route.

Col du Chaussy, France
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Col du Chaussy

France
Dangerous Roads calls this route "an improbable road clinging to the edge of the cliff." You know what that means — hairpins! This one starts with 17 of them, each one stacked on top of the previous, after which it mellows out a bit and drivers can appreciate its designation as one of the most scenic drives in the world. Those who dare to traverse it are rewarded with incredible views but, as DR says, "check the brake fluid level and condition of your pads" before leaving.

Sani Pass, South Africa
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Sani Pass

South Africa
Bring your 4x4 (or book a tour) and an excess of courage for this drive, a winding dirt road that twists its way up and over the Southern Drakensberg Mountains into the tiny, South Africa-encircled kingdom of Lesotho. The road hugs the precipitous curves, there are no guardrails, and some points along the route are only wide enough for one car. Once at the end of the road, tour a tiny Lesotho village of cow-dung huts with thatched-grass roofs, and grab lunch and a beer at the Sani Mountain Lodge, the highest pub in Africa.

Guoliang Tunnel Road, China
Guoliang Tunnel Road, China by FANG Chen (CC BY)

Guoliang Tunnel

China
How did a road that's less than a mile long make this list? Because, as the Dangerous Roads website attests, its mountain-hugging route "requires monk-like focus to drive." The short journey involves meandering through hand-carved tunnels along the Taihang Mountains of the eastern-central Chinese province of Henan. Just how remote is it? Before its five-year construction between 1972-1977, the only access to the small village of Guoliang was via a steep, slick, narrow stairway — also carved into the mountainside. Not courageous enough for this one? You can vicariously experience it via YouTube.

The BAM Road, Siberia
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The BAM Road

Siberia
For bragging rights to end all bragging rights, test your physical and mental fortitude on this 2,700-mile former railway service track in Russia that combines long stretches of gravel, broken wood bridges, unyielding potholes, waist-high water crossings, and extreme remoteness. Parts of the BAM can be impassable during certain weather conditions, so anyone planning to traverse this "road" should plan carefully, know exactly what they're getting into, and, it goes without saying, bring your most rugged 4x4.

Sossusvlei to Swakopmund, Namibia
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Sossusvlei to Swakopmund

Namibia
This route will take you from the towering, red-sand dunes of Sossusvlei's Namib-Naukluft National Park — a landscape that travel writer Becca Blond said was "one of the most isolated, at times terrifying, and altogether magnificent places I've ever driven through" — to the seaside town of Swakopmund. Known as Namibia's adventure capital, this former German colonial town offers plenty of civilization after the vast loneliness of the Namibian desert.

Eshima Ohashi Bridge, Japan
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Eshima Ohashi Bridge

Japan
Who needs a theme park when you have this bridge connecting the Japanese cities of Matsue to Sakaiminato? Though it's less than a mile long, the aptly nicknamed "Rollercoaster Bridge" is a short drive that is said to induce nausea, vertigo, and, of course, terror. That steep slope was intentional, of course, as it was designed for ships to be able to pass beneath it.

Tian Men Shan Big Gate Road, China
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Tian Men Shan Big Gate Road

China
This nearly 7-mile, snake-like road will have those who are afraid of heights singing "nope, nope, nope!" The more adventurous (and, perhaps, holy) will relish the opportunity to wind along its 99 turns (symbolic of Heaven's nine palaces) over a 3,600-foot elevation climb. Located in the Hunan province's Tianmen Mountain National Park, reaching the top isn't even the last of the challenges. At road's end, there's a 999-stair climb to reach the peak, where a natural stone arch forms Heaven's Gate, believed to be a portal between the gods and mortals.