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The most dramatic roads in the world

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From snow-clad mountain passes and precipitous paths with death-defying switchbacks, to rugged desert routes and sweeping coastal highways, there are some stunning roads around the world. Here, we’ve selected the most dramatic, where natural landscapes and man-made ingenuity collide.




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This beauty of a road is one of Europe’s most majestic mountain routes. The Transfagarasan begins in Cartisoara and ends in Curtea de Arges across Romania’s beautiful Fagaras Mountains, also known as the Transylvanian Alps. It was built for military purposes in the 1970s to connect the provinces of Transylvania and Wallachia. Its 6,699 feet (2,041m) at its highest point and has a seemingly endless series of bends, tunnels, and viaducts to keep drivers alert.




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Maui’s lush landscape is mesmerizing but so too is this winding road that snakes along the northeast coastline of the island. It takes drivers past rainforest, over little bridges, alongside trickling waterfalls and around numerous hairpin bends. The dramatic coastal road, which is 52 miles long and goes between Pa’ia and Hana, has become a Hawaii must-do.




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Cyclists, motorbikers and motorists alike laud this infamous mountain pass in the Italian alps near the Swiss border as one of the ultimate roads. At just over 9,000 feet (2,743m), Stelvio Pass is the second highest mountain pass in the Alps. But it’s the 48 hairpin turns that make it the most amazing. The original road dates back to the 1820s. It’s open between May and November.




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Another road on most die-hard adventurers’ bucket lists, this is one of the highest paved roads in the world. It also strikes a route through some of its most extreme landscapes. The impressive feat of engineering was started in 1959 and completed in 1979. It runs for around 800 miles from Abbottabad in Pakistan to Kashgar in Xinjiang in West China. The stretch from Gilgit to the Hunza Valley is the most dramatic. If you plan to cross the border at Khunjerab Pass, go between May and December.




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Test your mettle on the fearsome-sounding Trollstigen, a mountain road that winds between the villages of Valldal in Indre Sunnmøre and Åndalsnes in Romsdalen and past awe-inspiring scenery. It opened in 1939 as an important transport passage and has become one of Norway’s most popular sights. With 11 sharp bends (each named after one of the construction workers) and a steep incline, the incredible road was even hand hewn into the mountain in some parts. It’s closed in winter however.




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This sinuous road in the Dadès Valley in the Ouarzazate province snakes down into a gorge, past staggering mountain scenery and ancient kasbahs. You’ll pass through some of the High Atlas Mountains’ most dramatic scenery on this extreme section of the R704 road, which was built down into the red-hued canyon of the Dadès River. It makes for a hair-raising but thrilling drive.




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Arguably Australia’s most famous drive, the Great Ocean Road in Victoria is everything its name promises: soaring ocean vistas, sheer cliffs, and near-deserted surf beaches. The 151-mile-long road goes from Torquay in the east to Allansford and it was constructed along the storm-ravaged coast in the 1920s by Australian servicemen who returned from the First World War and is officially the world’s largest war memorial. Its most famous feature is the Twelve Apostles, a striking rock formation.




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Views of snow-capped mountains reflected in glimmering glacial waters are on offer as you follow along the edge of Lake Wakatipu in New Zealand’s South Island. The curvaceous road hugs the unusual shaped lake, which looks like a lightning bolt and is incredibly deep, from Queenstown to Glenorchy at the northern end. There are numerous lookout points along the way.




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Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article




Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article




Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article


Driving through towering corridors of snow that reach heights of up to 65 feet (20m) is one of the many staggering sights along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. The road traverses the Northern Japan Alps and it’s best visited between April to mid-June to experience the high snow walls, which are on the stretch between Bijodaira to Murodo. Murodo is the highest point along the road at 8,038 feet (2,449m) above sea level. The road is closed from December until April.




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It’s not very long but this extraordinarily curvy road in the Veneto region of northern Italy lures vintage car lovers around the globe to drive along it. The road, which was built by war prisoners and locals under Austrian command in 1918 between the towns of Trichiana and Tovena, is carved into the rocks. San Boldo Pass is so narrow that only one car can pass along it at a time so there are several sets of traffic lights along the way.




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Stretching from Belfast to Derry/Londonderry, the 120-mile Causeway Coastal Route is one of the world’s most wonderful coastal drives. Hugging County Antrim’s wild and beautiful coast, the road passes some of northern Ireland’s most incredible sights such as the Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede-Rope Bridge and Dunluce Castle.




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Stretching proudly across the River Tarn in southern France, the Millau Suspension Bridge is an incredible structure. Follow the A75 autoroute to cross what is the world’s tallest bridge and marvel at its engineering as well as the soaring views of the river and Massif Central mountains. In some parts, it’s taller than the Eiffel Tower. The bridge, which opened in 2004, isn’t accessible for pedestrians.




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Snaking up and around Abu Dhabi’s highest mountain, Jebel Hafeet, this seven-mile road has become a destination in its own right. As the road winds up the craggy limestone peaks, there are a couple of look out points but push on to the summit for the best views across the desert and the city of Al Ain below.




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You’ll pass mountains, salt flats, pampas and vineyards on Argentina’s epic Route 40, which stretches 3,107 miles from La Quiaca in the country’s northernmost province to Cabo Virgenes in the far south. In the Salta region, the highway crosses through the amazing rock formations of the Quebrada de las Flechas Canyon in the Calchaqui Valley.




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Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article


The Lake District has plenty of jaw-droppingly gorgeous and hair-raising roads, but Hardknott Pass is one of the most dramatic in Britain. To take on the high-rise mountain pass, start at Little Langdale and proceed along the twisting Wrynose Pass which leads on to the even steeper, narrower Hardknott Pass and its seemingly endless hairpin bends. Stop along the way to see the remains of a 2nd century Roman Fort, which are just off the remote track.




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Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article




Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article


As its name suggests, this is a seriously challenging road. Leading up to Ben Lomond National Park, an alpine plateau in northern Tasmania near Launceston, the steep and winding unsealed road features a series of mind-boggling switchbacks. It has become an attraction in its own right, especially for cyclists in training.




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You’ll get dizzy just looking at the Three Level Zigzag road, allegedly the most zig-zagging road in the world. Set in India’s Sikkim state within the lower Himalayan mountains, the curvy road has a staggering amount of hairpin turns and sheer drops along the way too. It goes from the village of Dzuluk and climbs up the mountain to Thambi View Point, reaching an altitude of 11,200 feet (3,413m).




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Stretching from Sydney down to Nowra on the south coast, this coastal scenic drive is one of Australia’s most stunning road trips. The photogenic Sea Cliff Bridge, which is shaped like a snake and rears out across the Pacific ocean, and the Kiama Blowhole are just a couple of the awe-inspiring sights along the way.




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Cut out from the limestone cliff face between 1861 and 1898 as a means of transport for the local forestry industry, vertiginous Combe Laval (or D76) in southeast France’s Vercors Massif is now a popular attraction for adventurous cyclists. Overhanging the Cholet valley, the incredibly narrow road passes through several tunnels blasted into the rock face and offers those who dare to tackle it dramatic views of the mountains and wooded valley.




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Step away from the beach and take to the road to explore Mallorca’s wild and beautiful scenery. One of the most incredible roads wends its way up the Serra de Tramuntana mountains and down to Sa Calobra, a little village by the coast. There are plenty of dramatic twists, turns and a fair few knee-wobbling sheer drops, but it’ll be worth it for the epic views of the craggy peaks and startling blue waters below. It’s one of Mallorca’s most fabled ascents for keen cyclists.




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Follow Austria’s most mesmerizing mountain pass to wind through the heart of High Tauern, the country’s largest national park, and up its highest peak, the pyramid-shaped Grossglockner. The road has 26 sharp turns and sensational views all along the way. Thankfully, there are plenty of lookout points so designated drivers can also enjoy the incredible scenery: all alpine meadows, mountain forests, jagged cliffs and glaciers as far as the eyes can see.




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The Khardung La or the Khardung Pass was built in 1976 on the Ladakh Range to the north of Leh in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. With a height of 17,582 feet (5,358m), travelers plying this lofty road that traverses past some startling Himalayan scenery can suffer from altitude sickness. With sheer drops, numerous hairpin turns and extreme weather to contend with too, this is a road to approach with caution. It’s closed from October to May due to dangerous weather conditions.




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This spectacularly steep and winding road can be found in the Tianmen Mountain National Park in China’s Hunan Province. It curls up the mountain for seven miles with 99 nerve-wracking bends and precipitous drops. The road ends at a natural gap near the mountain’s peak. Although, you’ll need to walk 999 steps after you’ve parked to reach the sacred crevice, which is known as Heaven’s Door.




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One of the world’s ultimate roads for four-wheel-drive enthusiasts, the Sani Pass delivers a hair-raising journey across the summit of the high Drakensberg in South Africa. First constructed as a mule track, the gravel road is now the only link between KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho and a spectacular mountain pass to tackle. Expect lots of zig-zagging, sheer cliff drops, steep inclines and staggering views of the striking escarpment.




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Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article




Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article




Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article


An old hand-carved mining route, Skippers Canyon Road offers those behind the wheel stunning scenery and scary driving. The 14.2 mile gravel road near Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island was built in 1888 to give mining companies access to the upper Shotover River, which the road overhangs in places. It’s narrow, bendy and peppered with sheer drops. Unsurprisingly, rental cars are not usually insured to take on this daredevil drive, so go with a pro.




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Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article




Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article


Don’t look down is the mantra to repeat as you navigate some of the most hair-raising sections of the Sichuan-Tibet Highway, which wriggles 1,367 miles from Chengdu to Lhasa. This precarious path is one of the world’s highest roads but also one of the most incredible. It passes through snow-capped peaks, vast forested valleys, rushing rivers, glacial lakes and ancient monasteries. Expect plenty of sharp turns, sheer drops and adverse weather conditions if you drive in winter.




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You need to be serious about skiing to take on the winding mountain road that takes you up to Portillo, a ski resort high in the Chilean Andes. Tackling the road’s series of seemingly endless switchbacks is the only way up into the steep mountain. As well as motion sickness, heavy traffic (it’s also the main highway from Santiago to Mendoza in Argentina) and bad weather can also add to the road’s challenges.




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Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article


44/44 SLIDES

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