The world’s greatest road trips

General Carrera Lake, Chile © Alamy
General Carrera Lake is the second-largest in South America and is shared between Chile and Argentina

Sarah Moore gets the motor running and heads out on the highway.

The Carretera Austral (“the Southern Way”), Chile’s version of Route 66, is some 1,270km long, stretching from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins, taking in rural Patagonia in southern Chile. It makes for “the world’s greatest road trip, through spectacular scenery, stringing together remote settlements that had almost no connection until [the road’s] arrival,” says Stanley Stewart in Condé Nast Traveller.

Masochistic cyclists from all around the globe “long to tackle” the Carretera, and no wonder – the scenery is “staggering”, says Stewart. Along its entire length, the Carretera is shadowed by the snow-capped heights of the Andes, “colossal, ravishing, unfathomable”. Stewart headed south from Balmaceda and the same afternoon reached General Carrera Lake.The next day, Stewart swapped his car for a small boat, and set sail for Laguna San Rafael and the San Rafael glacier. “Beyond and above was the Northern Ice Field, stretching as far as the eye could see.”

At the very end of the Carretera sits Parque Patagonia, and the ten-mile Avilés Loop hiking trail. Midway round, Stewart stopped for a picnic lunch. “Stretching out on cushions of heather… I dozed. When I woke again… I wondered for a moment where I was. And then I remembered… I was at the end of the world.”

A forgotten corner of Scotland

A new 300-or-so-mile driving route, the South West Coastal 300 (SWC300), loops through Dumfries and Galloway and parts of Ayrshire. One of the highlights of the route is Wigtown, says Peter Ross in the Guardian. It is Scotland’s national book town, celebrated for its annual book festival. It is home to The Bookshop, Scotland’s largest second-hand outlet, with, it claims, more than a mile of shelving supporting 100,000 books. To fund his book habit, regular customer Sandy McKnight carves and sells walking sticks there from the “nine sacred woods of the druids”.

Galloway, the area that includes Wigtown in the country’s far south-west, is often described as a “forgotten corner”. The SWC300 provides a reason to visit it. Ross travelled the route starting in Alloway, where poet Robert Burns was born in 1759. From there it’s a run down the coast, passing ruined Dunure Castle, (pictured), Donald Trump’s Turnberry golf resort and the island of Ailsa Craig.

En route to his final stop, Burns’s mausoleum in Dumfries, Ross stops at Whithorn, “the cradle of Scottish Christianity”. It was here, in St Ninian’s Cave, that Ninian established the first church in Scotland, an occasion celebrated every year. After a “very British” mass, a lone piper plays Bonnie Galloway – “an appropriate tune for this most beautiful stretch of coast”.

An unexpected journey

On the first day of a road trip through New Zealand, Sally Warren and her family tried to beat jet lag by watching the Test Match in Christchurch. “We had flown halfway around the world to watch cricket in what looked like an English pastoral paradise,” she writes in the Daily Telegraph. But once they’d escaped into the wilderness, all similarities ended. The road trip consisted of a mostly coastal route anticlockwise along the top of the South Island, then down the west coast to Queenstown. The first stop, a three-hour drive down the east coast, was Kaikoura (pictured), famed for whale-watching trips. 

Next stop was Kaiteriteri, a tiny resort that is the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park, the smallest of New Zealand’s 13 protected parks. “Its long stretches of empty, glittering beaches skirt a wilderness reserve wild with the sound of birdsong.” For the next six days, they travelled along the west coast, stopping at remote places such as Punakaiki and Milford Sound, the only fjord in New Zealand accessible by road, described by Rudyard Kipling as the eighth wonder of the world.

Leaving Kipling behind for Tolkien, the family headed for Auckland, and “Hobbiton”, the location of the film set for both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. To her astonishment, Warren found herself “welling up with emotion” as she walked past the intricately detailed Hobbit homes. “It had been an unexpected journey – just like Bilbo Baggins’.”