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Top 10 Scenic Routes in the World


A guest post by Giles Kirkland

1. United States: The Great Smoky Mountains

 

Close to home, walk in the steps of Bill Bryson and his Appalachian trail book “A walk in the woods”. The Great Smoky Mountain scenic route starts in Gatlinburg, TN (about 40 miles south of Knoxville, TN) and follows the 441 across the Appalachian to Cherokee, and finishes in Asheville, NC. This narrow road is suitable for drivers and hikers, with plenty of places to stop and explore by foot.

The Nantahala National Forest gives you an idea what the landscape of the US looked like three hundred years ago.

2. Mexico: Tepozteco National Park

photo: Chrisopher William Adach

 

Just 60 miles south of Mexico City, reach Cuernavaca. Your hike will start at Tepoztlan and Tepozteco National Park, home to several volcanoes and pre-Columbian ruins. The Aztec ruins were built in honor of Tepoztēcatl, the Aztec god of pulque. This 7 mile hike is a steep climb from 5500 ft to 8200 ft.

When you “find” the ruins on top of the mountain, just keep calm. You are not the first.

 

3. India: Hemkund and Valley of Flowers, Garhwal

photo: Alosh Bennett

About 300 miles north of New Delhi, the Valley of Flowers trek is week long hike at 12,000 ft. In spring and autumn, the valley is covered with blooming flowers. This is one of the jewels of nature in India, and this trek is moderately difficult.

The landscape will surprise you with waterfalls, snow-clad peaks and lakes. In July, August and early September the valley is at its best as the monsoon has just finished.

 

4. Australia: Great Ocean Walk

The Great Ocean Road allows you to explore the coast west of Melbourne and take hikes on the Great Ocean Walk – a 60 mile, 8 day walk through the Great Otway National Park. The shore’s coastal cliffs are breathtaking, and so is the variety of animal and plant life.

If you choose to hike rather than drive, many local companies assist tourists with shuttles and accommodation, as well as guided and self-guided visits.

5. Ireland: The Connemara

The Emerald Island’s landscape on the West coast is a fantastic harmony of green, white and blue.

Drive on the small roads of the Connemara from Clifden to Dog’s Bay for example (R341) in County Galway for the most authentic Irish road tripping experience. The Connemara National Park itself is in Letterfrack and will accommodate more conventional visitors. Remember to take a raincoat… just in case.

6. France – Camargue National Park

 

photo: Cedric Sagne

 

Forget the bling of the French Riviera or Paris. Discover the wild landscapes of the French Camargue.

Start from Arles, where Vincent Van Gogh stayed, or from Saint Gilles and reach the coast at Saintes Maries, a small town below sea level. Following D570, you will see how horses, bulls, and birds share this swampy delta. Pink flamingos and storks stop here as they migrate from Africa to Northern Europe.

Remember to start before the Sun comes up to see the sunrise, and avoid the heat if you decided to walk.

7. Britain: Peak District National Park

Just 30 minutes from Manchester by car, visit the low green hills that could have inspired the Shire in Tolkien’s work. From the well preserved countryside buildings with slate roofs to the neat stone walls, the Peak District will charm you with the nostalgia of pastoral England.

From Chapel-en-le-Frith, follow the A6187 “Arthur’s Way” through Castleton and Hathersage. If you hiked, you can shuttle back by train to Manchester from busy Sheffield. You can travel light as food and drinks are readily available.

 

8. Spain – Picos de Europa

Spain is not just about beaches and heat. The north of Spain is cooler, rainier, and as green as Ireland. Enter the Peaks of Europe National Park from Cangas de Onis (famous for its Roman bridge) or from Covadonga.

The traditional Asturian architecture features a rather unique granary raised on pillars, and the Peaks of Europe reach 8800 ft at the Torre de Cerredo. The Peaks of Europe offer a choice of driving and hiking routes. Keep in mind that some places may only be accessible by foot.

9. Italy: Tuscany and the Chianti trails

Trace the steps of Leonardo Da Vinci from vineyards to medieval villages. This region of Italy is extremely popular and there are many good reasons. The landscape invites you to consider how man and nature can produce beauty.

In this idyllic setting, enjoy a civilized journey where each meal could be the best of your life, day after day, and where beauty is all around. The roads are narrow and windy, but any amount of motion sickness is well worth the experience.

 

10. Canada: West Coast Trail

After driving through miles and miles of Canadian wilderness you may want to get out of the car to stretch your legs and take a mere 5-7 day trail which will take you through the amazing forests of British Columbia, as well as its beaches. If you’re lucky enough you may spot a plethora of wild animals, both on land and in the ocean, such as moose and whales.

The trail is quite difficult but this exclusive 50 mile trek is nonetheless a hiker’s dream come true.

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