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

The highly transmissible ommicron Covid-19 variant is making some travelers rethink air travel.

While travel bookings skyrocket this year, some people are clinging to one of the biggest trends emerging from the pandemic: the road trip.

“Driving allows you to significantly reduce the risk of exposure when interacting with large groups…making it a safer option,” said Anja Benson, public relations and marketing manager at vacation rental website Holidu.

Road trips also give travelers a chance to “clear their heads — something many will enjoy doing after being cooped up indoors for nearly two years,” she added.

Holidu is behind a new list to inspire travelers to pin and hit the road. The “Cross-Country Road Trip Index” 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 in the world ranking, as determined by the website BestCities.org.

These factors, plus others, were weighted equally in the rankings. When countries were tied, the country with the best road infrastructure got an edge because “having decent roads to drive on is something every road tripper will care about,” Benson said.

Here are the top five countries on that list, along with famous routes in each destination.

1. United States

Home to 29 of the top 100 cities in the world, the United States offers road warriors a range 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 California’s Santa Monica Pier
  • Distance: about 2,450 miles

Old U.S. Route 66 spanned three time zones and eight states: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

Also known as the country’s “Mother Road,” Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985, when U.S. transportation officials disapproved of the road and voted to remove the highway signs. Drivers can still follow much of the old route, although the highways now have new names.

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

Josh Brasted | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

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

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

Pacific Coast Highway

  • Popular Route: San Diego, California to Washington Olympic National Park
  • Distance: about 1250 miles

Pacific Coast Highway — dubbed “the 101,” “Highway 1,” or “PCH,” depending on location — stretches much of the length of the U.S. West Coast, offering breathtaking views of the Pacific coastlines .

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

Travelers can soak up the sun at famous beaches such as Long Beach and Huntington Beach, or enjoy the giant trees in Redwood National Park.

Bixby Bridge on the Pacific Coast Highway, near Big Sur, California.

MichaelSimply | iStock | Getty Images

For a shorter trip, drivers can start in Southern California’s San Juan Capistrano and finish in Leggett, north of San Francisco. It’s about half the distance, but motorists still drive along most of the California coastline.

2. Mexico

Known for its beach resorts and colorful culture, Mexico is also home to 35 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, making it number 7 in the world in terms of number of heritage sites.

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

Baja California Peninsula

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

Many travel guides recommend driving through 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, although snorkelers can also see Mexico’s diverse marine life.

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

Loop Yucatan Peninsula

  • Popular route: Cancun, back to Cancun
  • Distance: about 1460 miles

Travelers circling the Yucatan Peninsula can take in the region’s history, culture, and famous beach resorts.

Drivers can choose their own path, but common itineraries 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 of Uxmal and the Spanish colonial port city of Campeche.

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

wanderlust | E+ | Getty Images

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

3. Canada

Holidu’s study ranks Canada as the sixth-largest country in the world for its “natural assets,” including its national parks.

The country also ranked highly for its road infrastructure, with popular cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal among the 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 runs through all 10 provinces of Canada. It can take a month or more to fully absorb the scenic views along the route.

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

Education Images | Universal Images Group | Getty Images

Hiking in Glacier National Park is a highlight for many road trippers. The park is open year round and the campgrounds open in late June and the ski season runs 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 packed with natural, cultural and outdoor sports attractions.

Although the distance is short, road trippers routinely stretch the drive 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.

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

4. Malaysia

With affordable accommodations, food and fuel prices, the money goes a long way in Malaysia, the only country in Asia to make the top five.

“One thing Asia offers to road trippers across western countries is value for money,” says Holidu’s Benson. Malaysia is the “seventh cheapest country in the world for gas at just $1.87 a gallon.”

Kuala Lumpur to Cameron Highlands

  • Distance: about 125 miles

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

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

MOHD RASFAN | AFP | Getty Images

The strawberry-picking season usually lasts from May to August, but travelers visiting at other times can explore the municipality’s bee and butterfly farms.

Cameron Highlands is also known for its tea plantations. Rolling green hills and English-style cottages surround the area for visitors who want to enjoy a relaxing afternoon tea 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 can be reached by ferry.

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

Alfred Cheng / EyeEm | EyeEm | Getty Images

To take a break from the blistering heat, travelers can take a dip at the seven-story Taman Eko Rimba Kanching Waterfalls. From there, it’s just half an hour to Selangor Fruit Valley, a 646-acre tropical fruit farm with a petting zoo and tram ride.

5. Argentina

Road trippers passing through the Argentine capital of Bueno Aires — ranked number 63 on the list of the 100 best cities — can explore “its townhouse-lined cobblestone streets, bustling boulevards and nightlife that goes on until dawn,” Benson said.

Those looking for a quieter trip can visit the Yacutinga Rainforest, the Andes Mountains or the Patagonian Desert.

Route 40

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

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

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

Evan Lang | moment | Getty Images

One of the biggest highlights along the route is the Route of the Seven Lakes. Visitors can spend an entire day exploring the mountainous backdrops, small villages, and aquarium blue waterfalls of the Lake District.

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

Buenos Aires to Salta

  • Distance: about 925 miles

Travelers embarking 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 wine grape – Malbec. Horseback riding is a popular way to enjoy the breathtaking scenery.

Vineyards in the Mendoza wine region in Argentina.

Edsel Querini | E+ | Getty Images

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

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