May 14, 2010 / 7:04 AM / in 8 years

Travel Picks: Pedal to the metal - top driving routes

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Life’s a journey, and for those of travelers who prefer to make this trip in a car, website Askmen.com has come up with a list of the world’s top 10 international driving routes outside the United States.

<p>The Millau Viaduct, designed by the English architect Lord Norman Foster, crosses the valley of the river Tarn in Millau, December 9, 2004. REUTERS/Jean-Philippe Arles</p>

“Being behind the wheel is at once relaxing and invigorating. Factor in lenient or non-existent speed limits plus great geography, and it enriches the soul,” the website (www.askmen.com) said.

This list is not endorsed by Reuters.

1. Baja California Sur, Mexico

This route is not for the casual driver. In fact, if you have reservations about taking on a narrow, two-lane highway full of hazards, unpack your bags. On the other hand, if you have a sense of adventure and are well prepared, give it a try. The best road in Baja California Sur, Mexico, is Highway 1, which isn’t saying much: This isn’t a route you drive to avoid crater-sized potholes (impossible) or to get to Cabo San Lucas in a hurry. Nighttime travel is not advised by some, while others suggest you keep it under 50 mph. Either way, if you are a skilled driver with a reasonably sturdy vehicle, try this route. You’ll be rewarded with great weather and great sights.

2. Northern Tunisia

Northern Tunisia has some entertaining mountain roads worth a drive. This is no area for a fragile exotic car due to the likely encounter with bipolar road quality, sometimes with little warning. The P5 and P17 are generally good bets, though they’re always subject to change. And even if you’re driving a smooth stretch, local traffic sometimes moves with all the urgency of an arthritic tortoise. The payoff is a remarkable drive with unique scenery. Part of that is due to the frequency of Roman village ruins scattered throughout the region.

3. Western Cape, South Africa

In case you think the only driving done is in a Land Rover on safari, think again. Rural back roads notwithstanding, the country’s main highways are maintained quite well. The N1, N2 and N7 in Western Cape are great drives, with 75-mph speed limits. A word of caution: Keep an eye out for animals that are inclined to wander onto the roads. Driving along the South Atlantic and Cape of Good Hope is reminiscent of the Mediterranean, with a similar climate to boot.

4. M8, Scotland

The United Kingdom has tons of tempting roads for the driving enthusiast and an often-overlooked point is Scotland. The country’s diverse geography is classified between the Highlands, Central Lowlands and Southern Uplands, often marked by abrupt transitions. One mountain pass, known as Rest and Be Thankful, was once notorious for causing vehicles to overheat at least once during their ascent. The M8 is the main motorway, though you’ll likely want to explore some of the great secondary roads, whether to check out a castle or just run through some twisties.

5. Kumamoto, Japan

As densely populated as Japan is, there’s another side to it. In the mountainous countryside, one’s pulse drops back into the safe zone as life moves in comparatively slow motion. This is also where you’ll find some scenic, well-maintained and lightly traveled roads. For example, driving the Kyushu Highway in the Kumamoto Prefecture on the island of Kyushu is almost like time travel. In this area, considered to be where Japanese civilization originated, you will have the opportunity to witness gorgeous views as well as traditional architecture.

6. Coastal roads, Portugal or Spain

When a European auto manufacturer holds a press launch and turns its cars loose on journalists, it’s often in beautifully rugged Portugal or Spain. To some, this may be puzzling. Spain is known for rigorous enforcement of rather extensive traffic laws. As for Portugal, such enforcement could do some good, as the country is infamous for poor roads and even poorer driving habits. Actually, Spain’s buzz-kill cops help foster a low-stress drive, letting you take in the rugged scenery. What’s more, Portugal has made strides in highway and driver improvement.

7. Great Ocean Road, Australia

Southwest Victoria plays host to this great run, with sights along the way ranging from resort towns and lighthouses to the Otways rain forest. You’ll wind along the Southern Ocean beachfront between Lorne and Apollo Bay, and the huge waves around Bells Beach are a surfer’s dream. And then there are the Twelve Apostles, which are awesome limestone rock stacks jutting up from the water in Port Campbell National Park between Princetown and Peterborough. Completed in 1932, the Great Ocean Road is a source of pride for Australians and an entertaining drive for travelers from all over the world.

8. Millau Viaduct, France

The area around the southern French town of Millau is a joy to drive. Roads in the Massif Central Mountains offer all the requisite grades and curves drivers crave, but what really makes this route a standout is the steel. Effectively competing with the impressive landscape is the Millau Viaduct. Granted, most auto enthusiasts don’t usually get this excited about bridges, but this is no ordinary bridge. For about $5, you can drive across this four-lane, sky-high highway that stands 1,118 feet at its tallest point above the Tarn River.

9. Bologna, Italy

It has been suggested that a car performs best on its home turf and that its personality is a reflection of the people who built it. That’s definitely the case in Italy’s Bologna province -- the region where Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati create their magic. Winding your way through narrow village streets, foothills and mountains gives the sense of competing in the famous Mille Miglia road race -- the modern version of the race cuts through the area. Just keep in mind that the A13 and other autostrade have speed limits of 81 mph for cars with at least 1.1-liter engines. The police are known to be lenient, but not all-forgiving. To get the best driving experience in Bologna, or anywhere, for that matter, hit the strade bianchi, or country roads.

10. Autobahn, Germany

Would automakers like Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche turn out anything impressive if they didn’t have the Autobahn in their backyard? Since the first stretch from Bonn to Cologne was finished in 1932, the German Autobahn system has become legendary for thrills without limits - sort of. It’s often misunderstood, but only about half the system is without speed restrictions. The Austrian and Swiss Autobahns also cap your rate of travel, so don’t even try to play the uninformed tourist role with the authorities. Instead, head for southern Germany, where you’ll find most of the stretches without speed limits.

Editing by Miral Fahmy

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