The most thrilling roads in the world—which ones offer scenic views and which ones to avoid.
Roads and highways are essential for getting from point A to point B. Sometimes getting to your destination may create a hair-raising experience simply by traversing the road itself. In some places, hairpin turns on narrow stretches of pavement are the only way to reach your destination. Preparing for the journey, it’s important to know if you can navigate sharp bends or steep inclines or if there are alternative ways to get to where you’re headed. But occasionally, there are times where you may choose the road less traveled for the long and windy scenic way offering another perspective and usually incredible views.
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Snaking up this narrow road in a car can be nerve-wracking, but if you want more of a challenge and a terrifying experience, consider being a passenger in a tour bus. You’ll wonder how the bus driver manages to calmly maneuver hairpin turns on this predominantly one-lane pavement route. Reaching the top with heights of 2,890 feet will feel like a grand achievement–with spectacular views of Kotor as a prize.
INSIDER TIPDon’t look at a photo of this road before you hop aboard a bus. And, if you’re a passenger and have any fear of heights, don’t look out the window until you reach the top.
Zig-zagging through the Ortler Alps in northern Italy near the Switzerland border, Stelvio Pass is considered the Alps’ second-highest paved mountain route. Called Passo dello Stelvio in Italian, the highest point of the journey is a whopping 6,140 feet. In 2009, this route gained world recognition when a British television car program, Top Gear, nominated it as one of the greatest roads to drive, putting this windy pass on many serious drivers’ bucket lists.
INSIDER TIPVisit during the weekdays when it’s less crowded and between June to October when the road is (typically) open. Always check weather conditions as this route closes when the snow arrives.
Col de Turini
With plenty of hairpin turns, this section of road was made famous after being used for part of the Monte Carlo Rally. Based on the French side of the Alps, known as Alpes-Maritimes, this long, narrow, and twisty route is common in challenging bike races. In fact, parts of this road were featured in the Tour de France in three different years: 1948, 1950, and 1975.
Known as the national road 7C, as well as Transfagarasan road, this route crosses through a mountain range called the Fagaras mountains and a section of the Transylvanian Alps, giving the road part of its name. Driving to the top, you´ll reach 7,000 feet, but be prepared for this 56-mile journey that takes plenty of time to drive since the speed limit maximum is 25 mph. But, with all the twists and turns, you won’t want to go much faster.
INSIDER TIPIf you want to enjoy this long twisty road, plan to visit mid-June to September to ensure the road is open and most of the snow has melted.
Sixteen miles long and reaching 6,916 feet, Gotthard Pass is in southern Switzerland in the Lepontine Alps and has been an important trade route since the 13th century. Connecting Central Europe and Italy, this route is believed to get its name from a hospice built by dukes of Bavaria at the peak, who wanted to honor a bishop from the 11th-century, known as St. Godehard, or Gotthard.
INSIDER TIPPack a picnic lunch and enjoy glorious vistas of the valley when you reach the summit. Make sure to have plenty of layers because, even in summer, it can get quite chilly due to the elevation.
Tizi n' Test Pass
Based in the Atlas Mountains, this winding and narrow road reaches 6,867 feet at the highest peak. And if you’re curious to know when you’ve reached the summit, make sure to be on the lookout for a plaque detailing when the road was built (the answer: between 1926-1932). Curvy with plenty of hairpin turns, the road can induce nausea but the views of the desert mountains are beautiful and stunning, especially on a sunny day.
INSIDER TIPThis road is best driven during the day when there is plenty of light to see the road and all its twists and turns and spectacular views.
Curvas de Huanchaca
Slithering up or down this windy road that appears etched into the wall of the Andes mountain range in the Urubamba Valley makes it seem impossible that anyone can survive unscathed on this gravel and sand road. Stretching six miles long and reaching a height of 9,514 feet, this route has a very steep incline and requires lots of skill and nerves of steel, especially since there aren’t any rail guards.
Serra do Rio do Rastro Road
Translated to English as “Mountain Range of the River of the Track,” this road also goes by the name of SC-390. This drive is full of twists and turns that traverse the Lauro Müller mountain range in Southern Brazil. Although the road is narrow, plenty of big trucks use this route, so be prepared to drive slower than the recommended speed limit. The upside? You’ll be able to take plenty of photos from the window.
INSIDER TIPDrive this pass on a clear day, if possible, to take in all the greenery and incredible views, including the Atlantic ocean in the distance.
This curvy road has exactly 48 sharp bends because it is based on the ancient Japanese alphabet of 48 syllables. The name of the road is derived from Iroha—the first three syllables–and Zaka, meaning slope. Each syllable is represented in each curve of the road. If you’re going down, you’ll take one road and if you’re ascending, you’ll take another, which is a good way to reduce collisions.
INSIDER TIPPlan your journey during the weekdays to avoid lots of traffic.
Big Gate Road
This 6.2-mile road is also known as Tongtian Avenue or Avenue Toward Heaven, with the highest point above sea level being at 4,265 feet, which explains where it got its nickname. Constructing this road was an arduous and lengthy process that took eight years. This route is also important as it leads to a natural cave in the Tianmen Mountain known as Gateway to Heaven, but be prepared for an abundance of hairpin turns–you’ll find 99 of them!