What are the best countries for auto travel? See the top 5 in the world.
A highly contagious version of the Omicron Covid-19 is making some travelers think twice about air travel again.
Even though reservations have skyrocketed this year, some people are sticking with one of the biggest trends to emerge from the pandemic: car travel.
“Driving a car can greatly reduce the risk of infection when interacting with large groups … making it a safer option,” said Anya Benson, public relations and marketing manager at vacation rental website Holidu.
Road trips also give travelers a chance to “clear their minds — something many will seek to do after nearly two years of being cooped up inside,” she added.
Holidu is compiling a new list to inspire travelers to buckle down and hit the road. His “Cross-Country Travel Index,” published in December. analyzed factors such as road quality, gas prices and landscape diversity 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 world’s top 100, according to BestCities.org.
These factors, as well as others, were weighted equally in the rankings. When countries were tied, the country with the better road infrastructure got the edge, because “having decent roads for traffic is something that every ‘traveler’ would find important,” Benson said.
Here are the top five countries on the list, along with well-known routes in each direction.
1. United States of America.
Home to 29 of the world’s top 100 cities, the United States offers travelers a wide range of landscapes, from mountains and deserts to glaciers and forests.
The country also ranks eighth in the world for road quality.
U.S. Route 66
- Popular route: Chicago, Illinois, to the Santa Monica Pier in California.
- Distance: about 2,450 miles.
Old American Route 66 stretches through three time zones and eight states – Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
Route 66, known as the nation’s “Mother Road,” was decommissioned in 1985 when U.S. transportation officials stripped it of its certification and voted to remove the road signs. Drivers can still trace most of the old route, though the highways now have new names.
Roy’s Motel and Cafe on historic Route 66 in Amboy, Calif.
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Those who make it can see the St. Louis Gateway Arch; half-buried cars at the Cadillac Ranch outside Amarillo, Texas; and Route 66 relics on walking tours in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Along the way there are small towns with old-fashioned eateries and vintage barbershops with remnants of the 20th-century Americana that made the route famous.
- Popular route: from San Diego, California, to Olympic National Park in Washington.
- Distance: About 1,250 miles
The Pacific Coast Highway, called “101,” “Highway 1,” or “PCH,” depending on the location, spans much of the U.S. West Coast with spectacular views of the Pacific Coast.
The route passes through national parks, beaches and scenic coastal towns, as well as cities such as Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Francisco and Oregon’s Portland.
Travelers can sunbathe at famous beaches like Long Beach and Huntington Beach, or admire the giant trees in Redwood National Park.
Bixby Bridge on the Pacific Coast Highway, near Big Sur, Calif.
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For a shorter trip, drivers can start in San Juan Capistrano in Southern California and end in Leggett, just north of San Francisco. That’s about half the distance, but drivers still drive along most of the California coast.
Mexico, known for its beach resorts and vibrant culture, is also home to 35 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, making it No. 7 in the world for the number of heritage sites.
Like its neighbor to the north, Mexico has deserts and mountain ranges. It also has jungles, which give it an edge when it comes to the number of animals present in the country, another factor in the ranking of road trips.
Lower California Peninsula.
- Popular route: from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.
- Distance: about 1,625 miles.
Many travel guides recommend a trip to Baja California, a state in Mexico south of the U.S. state of California.
Travelers can stop to explore Cabo Pulmo, one of the most famous diving spots on the peninsula. Most of the diving is for experienced divers, although snorkeling enthusiasts can also see Mexico’s diverse marine life.
A visit to Cabo Pulmo between January and March is ideal for whale watching, when humpback and gray whales can be seen in the local lagoons.
Yucatan Peninsula Loop
- Popular route: Cancun, back to Cancun
- Distance: about 1,460 miles
Travelers on the Yucatan Peninsula can explore the region’s history, culture and famous beach towns.
Drivers can choose their own route, but common itineraries include a stop to see Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, listed as one of the “7 New Wonders of the World” in 2017, and other UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Mayan monuments in Ushmal. and the Spanish colonial port city of Campeche.
A tourist stands next to the seaweed-stained pink lakes of Los Colorados in Yucatán, 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 scenic spot is the collection of pink lakes in Las Coloradas, although visitors are no longer allowed to swim in the water.
A study by Holydu ranks Canada sixth in the world for the number of “natural treasures,” including national parks.
The country also received high marks for its road infrastructure, with popular cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal topping the list of top cities.
- Popular route: Victoria, British Columbia, 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 10 Canadian provinces. It can take a month or more to fully enjoy the scenic views along the route.
Autumn colors along the TransCanada Highway near Golden in British Columbia, Canada.
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Hiking in Glacier National Park is a highlight for many travelers. The park is open year-round, campgrounds open in late June, and the ski season runs from November through April.
Sea to Sky.
- Popular route: Horseshoe Bay to Whistler, both in British Columbia.
- Distance: about 75 miles.
Traveling along the Sea to Sky Highway – Official Highway 99 – is filled with natural, cultural and sporting attractions.
Although the distance is short, travelers usually stretch the trip over several days. This gives travelers time to stop at places like the Sea to Sky gondola in Squamish, which takes visitors 885 meters (2,900 feet) above sea level for panoramic views of the coastal mountains.
During the winter months, the gondola caters to crowds of families who come to ski, hike and snowboard.
With affordable housing, food and fuel prices, money goes a long way in Malaysia, the only country in Asia to rank in the top five.
“One thing Asia offers car travelers compared to Western countries is value for money,” said Benson of Holidu. Malaysia is “the seventh cheapest country in the world at only $1.87 a gallon.”
Kuala Lumpur to Cameron Highlands
- Distance: about 125 miles.
The drive from the bustling capital city of Kuala Lumpur to the Cameron Highlands takes half a day.
Dotted with tea plantations and hiking trails, Cameron Highlands is lush and cooler than other parts of Malaysia.
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Strawberry picking season usually runs from May through August, but travelers who visit at other times can visit the city’s bee and butterfly farms.
Cameron Highlands is also known for its tea plantations. Green hills and English-style cottages surround the area for visitors looking to enjoy a relaxing afternoon tea.
Petaling Jaya – Langkawi
- Distance: About 300 miles
This journey covers most of the west coast of Malaysia, from Petaling Jaya, a town on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, to the Langkawi Islands, which can be reached by ferry.
The Langkawi Sky Bridge is a popular curved suspension bridge among tourists.
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For a break from the sweltering heat, travelers can stop by the seven-tiered Taman Eko Rimba Kanching waterfall for a swim. From there, it’s only a half-hour to Selangor Fruit Valley, a 646-hectare tropical fruit farm with a contact zoo and a streetcar ride.
5. Argentina .
Travelers passing through Bueno Aires, Argentina’s capital city, ranked 63rd on the list of top 100 cities, can “explore its cobblestone streets with mansions, bustling boulevards and nightlife that lasts until dawn,” Benson said.
Those looking for a quieter trip can visit the Yakuting Rainforest, the Andes Mountain Range or the Patagonian Desert.
- Popular route: Cabo Virgenes, Patagonia, La Chiaca, Jujuy Province.
- Distance: about 3,230 miles.
Argentina’s Route 40 is considered one of the most exciting road trips in the world.
The Ruta de los Ciete Lagos, also known as the Route of the Seven Lakes, in Argentina.
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One of the highlights of the route is the Route of the Seven Lakes. Visitors can spend a full day exploring the mountain scenery, small villages and blue waterfalls around the lake.
There are also UNESCO World Heritage sites along the way, including Los Glaciares National Park – the country’s largest national park – and Cueva de las Manos, or “Cave of Hands,” with cave paintings of human hands made between 9,500 and 13,000 years ago. , according to UNESCO.
Buenos Aires – Salta.
- Distance: About 925 miles
Travelers taking this route usually spend a weekend in Mendoza, arguably Argentina’s most famous wine region. Many of the vineyards here produce the country’s signature wine, Malbec. Horseback riding is a popular way to enjoy the breathtaking scenery.
Vineyards in Argentina’s Mendoza wine region.
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The region also attracts visitors looking for an adrenaline rush, with opportunities for paragliding and rafting on the Mendoza River.