Aloha! Obviously, a beach day at Ho’okipa Beach on the Hawaiian island of Maui is always worth it. This beach is one of the island’s surfing hotspots par excellence. But you could also just keep driving down the road called the Hana Highway – one of the most spectacular connections in the entire Pacific region. From Kahului, the largest city on the island, it runs along the north coast for 103 kilometers to the small village of Hana. Over 54 bridges and almost 600 curves, the “Road to Hana” winds its way up to 422 meters above the surf. However, the route no longer passes as an insider tip: About 1,000 cars pass the highway every day. If you want to avoid being stuck in a traffic jam of rental cars, do not make the trip on weekends and, even on week days, head out before sunrise.
Also by the ocean, but only just above sea level, runs the Atlantic Road in central Norway, considered the most beautiful road in Europe. The so-called Atlanterhavsveien is an eight kilometer long section of Norwegian County Road 64. The road can be seen not only in the James Bond movie “No Time to Die”, but also in numerous commercials – often for cars, motorcycles, or motor homes. This is no coincidence: The Atlanterhavsveien connects several small islands in wide curves and leads over eight bridges. For the most part, it runs directly across the sea. When the weather is bad, caution is called for: In stormy seas, waves can break right onto the asphalt.
Overseas Highway: The “Highway That Goes to Sea” is also an escape route from hurricanes
A similar road highlight can also be enjoyed in other climatic regions, namely on Florida’s Overseas Highway. This southernmost section of US Highway 1 covers 203 kilometers and ends as the “Highway That Goes to Sea ” after extensive island hopping in the laid-back city of Key West with its “Southernmost Point of the Continental USA”. The highway is considered to be excellently built, mainly for one serious reason: In the event of a hurricane, it is practically the only escape route to mainland Florida.
Almost entirely without access to water, on the other hand, is the drive on the Algerian National Road N1, the northern section of the Algiers-Lagos highway across the African Sahara. The northern end is on the Mediterranean Sea (Algeria), the southern end on the Gulf of Guinea (Nigeria). People who set out on the 4,500 kilometer route from the north will pass the bizarre rocky landscapes of the Hoggar Mountains just before the halfway point. Archaeological sites, rock paintings, and engravings indicate that the area was already populated around 6,000 BC.
The Kolyma Tract: Bones in the road’s foundations
The Kolyma Tract highway runs through the far east of Russia and connects the Lena River near Yakutsk with the port city of Magadan on the Sea of Okhotsk over a distance of 2,000 kilometers. It is the most remote of all Russian highways – and looks back on a dark history: The route was built largely by prisoners of the Soviet forced labor system Gulag. It is nicknamed the “Road of Bones” because most of the prisoners who died during construction found their final resting place in the foundations of the road.
Two routes popular with adventurers are located in Central Asia: One is the Karakoram Highway, which is about 1,300 kilometers long. It connects China (Kashgar) and Pakistan (almost to the capital Islamabad). Passing seven- and eight-thousand meter peaks and through kilometer-deep gorges, the route traverses a particularly magnificent part of the Himalayas. Because of its course over the 4,693 meter Khunjerab Pass, it is considered the highest paved highway in the world. In second place, over the 4,655 meter high Ak-Baital pass, is the Pamir Highway. Although in poor condition due to erosion, landslides, and earthquakes, the continuously paved route connects Dushanbe in Tajikistan with Osh in Kyrgyzstan. If you like it particularly extraordinary, you should turn right at Chorugh when approaching from the west, and take the less mountainous southern variant. It follows the Afghanistan border for about 300 kilometers.
The Yungas Road in Bolivia also has a less than peaceful history. Built in the 1930s during the Chaco War, the connection between La Paz and Caranavi in the Bolivian highlands was long considered the most dangerous road in the world. It received the nickname “Camino de la Muerte” (Death Road) not because of warlike conflicts, however, but because of numerous fatal traffic accidents. According to the BBC, between 200 and 300 people died annually on the 80 kilometer stretch of road for many decades. A new road opened in 2007. Since then, there has been practically no motor traffic on the old Yungas Road.
Eyre Highway: 146.6 kilometers straight through Australia
A road not to be missed in the list of the most extraordinary and spectacular roads worldwide is, of course, the Panamericana: The longest road in the world leads through 19 countries, six time zones, four climate zones, and two continents. Yet there is no such thing as “the” Panamericana, strictly speaking. The name rather stands for a 48,000 kilometer network of highways that connects Alaska with Tierra del Fuego. Officially, however, the Panamericana is the stretch from the US-Mexico border to the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires. Fearless people who have driven the route describe it as a single, boundless adventure, the description of which fills many books.
One section of the Eyre Highway in Australia, on the other hand, needs only few words: At 146.6 kilometers, or 90 miles, the highway includes the longest stretch of road in Australia without a curve. Legend has it that this dead straight section once inspired Australian rock band AC/DC to write the song “Highway to Hell”. For the guys from AC/DC, hell seems to be a rather monotonous place.