Photo: Denali Highway road without cars.

Alaska's Denali Highway runs along 135 miles of largely uninhabited land.

Photograph by Richard Hamilton Smith, Corbis

From the October 2010 issue of National Geographic Traveler and the National Geographic book Drives of a Lifetime

With everything from the adrenaline rush of a Formula One track to the gritty charms of a remote Alaskan highway, here’s our choice of roads that are pure fun to drive.

  1. Highway 89, Arizona/Utah/Idaho/Wyoming/Montana

    This geological field trip traverses the Sonoran Desert to the Rocky Mountains, passing a volcanic plateau with lava flows and the Great Salt Lake. Take a detour if you want to see the red rocks of Sedona. Open roads rarely come finer. Planning: Visit the 1,250-mile route’s national parks, including Yellowstone. www.untraveledroad.com

  2. Denali Highway, Alaska

    This largely gravel road offers bracing views of untamed wilderness with few signs of human occupation. The 135-mile road, completed in 1957 to give access to Denali National Park, became largely redundant in 1971 when a newer road, the George Parks Highway, opened. Planning: The highway leads from Paxson Junction to Cantwell Junction, and is closed in winter. www.bellsalaska.com

  3. Ruta 40, Argentina

    Ruta 40 stretches along the length of Argentina from Cabo Virgenes in the south to La Quiaca in the north, extending more than 3,045 miles. It runs parallel to the Andes, crossing 236 bridges and countless rivers, lakes, national parks, and mountain passes. From sea level, it ascends to 16,404 feet in the north around Salta—for many, the journey’s most dramatic leg. Planning: Ruta 40 is largely paved but the southern part crosses mostly barren terrain. www.turismo.gov.ar

  4. Nürburgring, Germany

    Designed to flaunt Germany’s automotive prowess, the original mountain ring track emerged between 1925 and 1927 for Germany’s Grand Prix. A new track was completed in 1984, but the original 12.9-mile Nordschliefe (“northern loop”) regularly opens to the public as a toll road. It’s probably the world’s most challenging purpose-built racetrack, featuring many blind bends. Planning: Check opening times. There’s no speed limit, but German driving laws apply; unlicensed racing is banned. www.nuerburgring.de

  5. Davos to Stelvio via Bormio, Switzerland/Italy

    Etched precariously through the peaks of the eastern Alps, this dizzying zigzag road built in the early 19th century is a hard-core workout for the very best of drivers and automobiles. The 60 hairpin turns transport you 9,042 feet up the mountains in 90 miles. The heady views are mostly yours alone. Planning: The road often closes in winter. Midway along, Bormio offers year-round skiing. www.davos.ch

  1. E6, Norway

    Starting in southern Norway and driving as far north as you can is one way of testing both car and driver’s endurance. This 1,295-mile route starts from the capital, Oslo, and leads into the Arctic Circle, ending up at the bleak headland of Nordkapp at Norway’s—and Europe’s—top. Scenic highlights include fjords, forests, fishing villages, glaciers, mountains, and tundra, as well as the northern lights. Expect little traffic, but watch out for the occasional reindeer. Planning: Allow 36 hours for the drive. In summer expect continual daylight. www.visitnorway.com

  2. Col de Turini, Alpes-Maritimes, France

    With as many hairpin bends as a tightly coiled spring and the skimpiest of barriers, this vertiginous mountain pass (top elevation: 5,200 feet) looks designed for a James Bond movie car chase. It’s a high point of the Monte Carlo rally, held every January, when spectators throw snow on the normally ice-clad track, making the 14.5-mile drive that much more challenging. Planning: Focus on the road and try not to look down. www.frenchriviera-tourism.com

  3. A18 Snaefell Mountain Road, Isle of Man

    The Isle of Man has been a leading motorsport destination since 1904, when racing was legalized on public roads. This 15-mile route between Douglas and Ramsey is the motorcycle-racing circuit used for the Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy) and the Manx Grand Prix. The road skirts the peak of Snaefell, the tallest mountain on the island at 2,035 feet. A key attraction for many: The Isle of Man is one of the few British territories with no national speed limit. Planning: The TT runs from late May to mid-June; the Manx Grand Prix starts in late August. Both last 14 days. www.gov.im

  4. B4560, Wales

    Frequently used for test-drives and crossing some of Britain’s loveliest open countryside, this narrow, winding road packs in panoramic views over Brecon Beacons National Park and the Black Mountains—with plenty of challenging mountain corners and dreamy villages. Best rest stop: Llangorse Lake in Brecon Beacons for bird-watching. Planning: The 17-mile B4560 runs north from Beaufort to Talgarth via Llangynidr, Bwlch, and Llangorse, but the prettiest part is between Llangynidr and Bwlch. Ice and snow sometimes close the road. www.breconbeacons.org

  5. Atlas Mountains, Morocco

    From Marrakech, take the N9 southeast toward Ouarzazate across the majestic Atlas Mountains. The road’s twists and turns provide a test of skill and nerves for drivers, while the ascent into the mountains treats passengers to wide-screen pleasures. Planning: Snow may close the road in winter. The 117-mile drive takes about four hours. www.visitmorocco.com

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