Which countries are best for road trips? See the top 5 in the world

The highly portable omicron Covid-19 variant makes some travelers think twice about air travel again.

While travel bookings are rising this year, some people are sticking to one of the biggest trends that has emerged from the pandemic: roadtrip.

“With driving, you can significantly lower your risk of exposure when interacting with large groups … making it a safer option,” said Anja Benson, public relations and marketing manager at the Holidu vacation rental website.

Roadtrips also give travelers the chance to “clear their minds – something that many will be eager to do after nearly two years of being locked inside,” she added.

Holidu is behind a new list that should inspire travelers to get together and get going. Its “Cross-Country Road Trip Index” was published in December analyzed factors such as road quality, gas prices and landscape variation in 118 countries.

It also took into account the number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in a given country and the number of cities in the top 100 world rankings, as determined by the website BestCities.org.

These factors plus others were weighted equally in the rankings. When the countries were drawn, the country with the best road infrastructure got the benefit because “having decent roads to drive on is something that any ‘road tripper’ will find important,” Benson said.

Here are the top five countries on the list along with famous routes at each destination.

1. USA

Home to 29 of the top 100 cities in the world, the United States offers road warriors a variety of landscapes, from mountains and deserts to glaciers and forests.

The country is also ranked eighth in the world for road quality.

US Route 66

  • Popular route: Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica Pier, California
  • Distance: about 2,450 miles

The old US Route 66 spanned three time zones and eight states – Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

Route 66, known as the country’s “Mother Road,” was shut down in 1985 when U.S. transportation authorities decertified it and voted to remove its highway signs. Drivers can still trace much of the old route, even though the highways have new names now.

Roy’s Motel & Cafe along historic Route 66 in Amboy, California.

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Those who do can see St. Louis’ Gateway Arch; half-buried cars on Cadillac Ranch outside Amarillo, Texas; and Route 66 relics along hiking trails in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Along the way, there are small towns with old-school diners and vintage barbershops with remnants of 20th-century Americana that made the route famous.

Pacific Coast Highway

  • Popular route: San Diego, California to Olympic National Park in Washington
  • Distance: about 1,250 miles

The Pacific Coast Highway – called “the 101”, “Highway 1” or “PCH”, depending on the location – extends much of the length of the US West Coast and offers breathtaking views of the Pacific coasts.

The route passes national parks, beaches and picturesque coastal towns as well as cities such as Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Francisco and Oregon’s Portland.

Travelers can enjoy the sun on famous beaches such as Long Beach and Huntington Beach, or enjoy the giant trees of Redwood National Park.

Pacific Coast Highway’s Bixby Bridge, near Big Sur, California.

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For a shorter ride, drivers can start at San Juan Capistrano in Southern California and end at Leggett, north of San Francisco. It’s about half the distance, but still carries drivers along most of the California coastline.

2. Mexico

Known for its seaside resorts and colorful culture, Mexico is also home to 35 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, making it No. 7 in the world by the number of heritage sites.

Like its neighbor to the north, Mexico has deserts and mountain ranges. It also has jungles, which gives it an advantage when it comes to the number of animals present in the country – another factor in the road trip ranking.

Baja California Peninsula

  • Popular route: Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas
  • Distance: about 1,625 miles

Many travel guides recommend a drive down Baja California, a state in Mexico south of the US state of California.

Road trippers can stop to explore Cabo Pulmo, one of the most famous dive sites along the peninsula. Much of the diving is aimed at experienced divers, though snorkelers can also see Mexico’s diverse marine life.

Visiting Cabo Pulmo between January and March is ideal for whale watching, when humpback whales and gray whales can be seen in the area’s lagoons.

Yucatan Peninsula Loop

  • Popular route: Cancun, back to Cancun
  • Distance: about 1,460 miles

Travelers circling the Yucatan Peninsula can enjoy the region’s history, culture and famous beach towns.

Drivers can choose their own route, but regular routes include a stop to see the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza – designated one of the “new 7 wonders of the world” in 2017 – and other UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Mayan monuments at Uxmal and the Spanish colonial port city of Campeche .

A tourist is standing next to the algae-colored pink lakes of Los Colorados in the Yucatan, Mexico.

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On the way back to Cancun, travelers can stop in the beach towns of Tulum and Playa Del Carmen. Another picturesque place is the collection of pink lakes in Las Coloradas, although visitors are no longer allowed to swim in the water.

3. Canada

Holidus’ study ranks Canada as the sixth country in the world for its “natural assets”, which include its national parks.

The country also scored high for its road infrastructure, with popular cities such as Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal gaining places on the list of best cities.

Trans-Canada Highway

  • Popular route: Victoria, British Columbia, to St. John’s, Labrador
  • Distance: about 4,860 miles

Known as the second longest national highway in the world, the Trans-Canada Highway passes through all of Canada’s 10 provinces. It can take a month or more to fully enjoy the picturesque views along the route.

Autumn colors along the Trans-Canada Highway near Golden in British Columbia, Canada.

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Hiking in Glacier National Park is a highlight for many road trippers. The park is open year-round with campsites opening at the end of June and the ski season running from November to April.

Sea to Sky Highway

  • Popular route: Horseshoe Bay to Whistler, both in British Columbia
  • Distance: about 75 miles

A road trip along the Sea to Sky Highway – officially Highway 99 – is filled with natural, cultural and outdoor sports attractions.

Although the distance is short, roadtripers routinely extend the ride over several days. This gives travelers time to stop at places like the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish, which brings visitors 885 meters (2,900 feet) above sea level for panoramic views of the coastal mountains.

During the winter months, the gondola serves crowds of families who come to ski, hike and snowboard.

Malaysia

With affordable accommodation, food and fuel prices, money goes a long way in Malaysia, the only country in Asia that comes in the top five.

“One thing that Asia offers roadtripers across western countries is value for money,” Holidus Benson said. Malaysia is the “seventh cheapest country in the world for gas at just $ 1.87 per gallon.”

Kuala Lumpur to Cameron Highlands

  • Distance: about 125 miles

The drive from the bustling capital of Kuala Lumpur to the high altitudes of the Cameron Highlands can be done in half a day.

With tea plantations and hiking trails, Cameron Highlands is lush and cooler than other parts of Malaysia.

MOHD RASFAN | AFP | Getty Images

The strawberry season usually lasts from May to August, but travelers who visit other times can explore the municipality’s bee and butterfly farm.

Cameron Highlands is also known for its tea plantations. Wavy green hills and huts in English style surround the area for visitors who want to enjoy a relaxing afternoon break.

Petaling Jaya to Langkawi

  • Distance: about 300 miles

This road trip covers most of Malaysia’s west coast, from Petaling Jaya – a town on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur – to the islands of Langkawi, which are accessible by ferry.

Langkawi Sky Bridge is a curved suspension bridge popular with tourists.

Alfred Cheng / EyeEm | EyeEm | Getty Images

To take a break from the stifling heat, travelers can stop at the seven-story Taman Eko Rimba Kanching waterfall to swim. From there, it is only half an hour to Selangor Fruit Valley, a 646-acre tropical fruit farm with a children’s zoo and tram ride.

5. Argentina

Road trippers passing the Argentine capital Bueno Aires – ranked No. 63 on the list of 100 best cities – can “explore its palace-clad cobbled streets, bustling boulevards and its nightlife that continues until dawn,” Benson said.

Those looking for a quieter journey can visit the Yacutinga rainforest, the Andes mountain range or the Patagonian desert.

Route 40

  • Popular route: Cabo Virgenes, Patagonia to La Quiaca, Jujuy Province
  • Distance: about 3,230 miles

Argentina’s Route 40 is said to be one of the most captivating road trips in the world.

Ruta de los Siete Lagos, also known as the Route of the Seven Lakes, in Argentina.

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One of the biggest highlights along the route is the route for the seven lakes. Visitors can spend an entire day exploring the mountainous scenery, small villages and aquarium blue waterfalls in the lake region.

There are also UNESCO World Heritage Sites along the way, including Los Glaciares National Park – the country’s largest national park – and the Cueva de las Manos, or “Cave of Hands”, with cave drawings by human hands made between 9,500 and 13,000 years ago according to UNESCO.

Buenos Aires to Salta

  • Distance: about 925 miles

Travelers heading out on this route usually spend the weekend in Mendoza, arguably Argentina’s most acclaimed wine region. Many of the vineyards here produce the country’s signature grape – Malbec. Horseback riding is a popular way to enjoy the breathtaking scenery.

Vineyards in the Mendoza wine region of Argentina.

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The region also attracts visitors looking for an adrenaline rush, with opportunities for paragliding and rafting on the Mendoza River.

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