Naturally, everyone has their own idea of what the Perfect Trip™ will entail. If it’s a special occasion, say a milestone birthday, a honeymoon or the like, you’ll probably want to think through every little thing. Before you get into where you’re going and what you’re going to do when you get there, how about the equally-important conundrum of how you’re going to get there?
Sometimes, interestingly, you can combine all of these factors into one. Winnebago fans (yes, you are still out there, and I salute you) don’t need to work through all of these factors individually. How are you going to get there? Well, you’re going to get there in a vehicle that is there, essentially. It’s a darn house on wheels, after all. What could possibly go wrong?
The romance of the open road is a concept that has enticed many a traveller. For some, the trip to a vacation destination is just a means to an end, and for others, that road trip is the vacation itself. Remember those carefree days, when life was like that Harry Potter moment where Harry and Ron fly the magical Ford Anglia to Hogwarts (before fatigue sets in and the car can’t handle it anymore)?
Music blaring, a car full of buddies and snacks, a beautiful stretch of road ahead of you… this is what it was all about. Just watch out for some of these bizarre roads. From India’s peculiar Magnetic Hill to England’s intimidating Magic Roundabout and Norway’s Troll’s Road, these are some of the strangest, most unnerving stretches you’ll ever drive.
25 Transfăgărășan, Romania: Just Popping Over To Dracula’s, Mom, I’ll Be Home Soon
Let’s kick this party off the right way, with a foreboding and super curvy road through one of the most notorious places on the planet.
Transfăgărășan, as you’ve probably guessed, is a route through Transylvania, Romania. Mental Floss reports that it’s a 55-mile stretch of intimidating hairpin bends and other twisty sections, which is… well, it’s not one for that Winnebago I mentioned earlier. In a suitable vehicle, though, this is a high-octane, thrilling stretch.
If you needed more thrills, how about the fact that it passes through Poenari Fortress, said to be one of the possible buildings that inspired Dracula’s castle?
24 Yakutsk Road, Russia: Off-Roading On The… Road?
That’s right, friends. Some of the supposedly-pathed roads we use every day are awful (some I use on a daily basis have potholes so deep there are darn bats living in them), and those are main routes in a major city. What’s the situation like out in the sticks?
Well, very bad with several extra boatloads of very bad piled on top (and a couple of sides of very bad), that’s what.
The Yakutsk road is a remote highway in Siberia, Russia, a region where “temperatures get so low you can’t wear glasses—the metal will freeze to your face” (Mental Floss).
In these sorts of conditions, it’s no surprise that Yakutsk becomes a muddy quagmire in the summer and a treacherous icy nightmare in the winter.
23 James W. Dalton Highway, United States: Highway To… Well, Ice
Up in the Northern reaches of the United States, things can get pretty darn cold. Alaska is not a place known for its bountiful sunbathing opportunities and tropical climate, let’s put it that way.
Natural beauty and a whole heckola of a lot of snow and ice is the way here, and that certainly extends to the road network. The notorious James W. Dalton Highway (which was featured on the BBC’s World’s Most Dangerous Roads) covers over 400 miles, and stops for supplies and medical aid are very, very few and very, very far between.
Did I mention the possibility of polar bears, too?
22 The Magic Roundabout, England: It’s Certainly Magic
That’s right, friends. The Magic Roundabout isn’t just an old children’s TV show with a theme tune that burrows into your mind and never, ever leaves. It’s also a real roundabout, named after said show.
There are a few so-called magic roundabouts in Britain, but the best-known is probably the one in Swindon.
It consists of five mini-roundabouts, encircling a sixth, bigger one. Just to keep everybody on their toes (including the emergency services, I assume), the mini roundabouts all run clockwise, while the central one runs counter-clockwise.
A baffling one indeed, and not a place you want to pass through on your driving test.
21 Storseisundet Bridge, Norway: When Rollercoasters And Roads Collide
The thing about roads (and specifically river crossings) is, it’s not just cars, motorcycles, trucks and such that you’ve got to cater to. Where there’s water, there’s often ships, and where there are bridges, there are… well, ships that would probably rather not bash into said bridge.
Fortunately, the designers of the Storseisundet Bridge in Norway had an elegant solution to this. The bridge arcs in a beautiful twist over the water, so as to enable boats to pass beneath safely. For drivers, this results in a fascinating optical illusion, as Mother Nature Network reports:
“Drivers cannot see the abnormal curve when on the road. In fact, they cannot see the road on the other side of the curve at all. The bridge appears to disappear, and it looks like any car that attempts to cross it will simply fall into the water.”
20 Le Gois, France: The Disappearing Road
As we’ve snarkily seen, Alaska does not tend to be a place for sun-seekers and beach sunbathing fans. Many of those sorts of people are drawn to our next stop, however: Noirmoutier Island.
This small French island is a haven for that, a “seaside paradise for nature lovers” according to Vendée Tourism. "It boasts blue salt-water wetlands which stretch over a third of the island,” they go on, “warm windswept sand dunes, and delicate scents from the holly oaks, strawberry trees and marine pines...”
It all sounds serene and delightful, but let’s not forget the key feature of the island: Le Gois, a 4km road that links the island to Beauvoir Sur Mer to Noirmoutier. It disappears at high tide (A bridge was built in the early seventies as alternative access; don’t worry).
19 Sani Pass, South Africa: The Captain Has Illuminated The Seatbelt Sign
Now, I’m fully prepared to admit that I’m not the greatest flyer. While I’ve gotten much more comfortable with that in recent years, conquering my fears pretty darn well, I’m never going to be a fan of it.
Here’s something else I wouldn’t be a fan of: approaching 10,000 darn feet high in a 4X4. As reported by Title Max,
South Africa’s Sani Pass reaches heights of 9,436 feet, just shy of cruising altitude.
Throw in the fact that “this mostly one-lane, muddy road also is notorious for bad weather and relentless snow,” and you’ve got a road that I can’t even begin to comprehend. What’s even happening here? Why is this a thing?
18 Stelvio Pass, Italy: Almost Im-Pass-able
Nope, I’m not going to apologize for that one either. Just roll with the punches and stick with me on this.
For our next stop, we’re heading back to Europe, and Italy’s famous/infamous (depending on who you ask) Stelvio Pass. This deeply troublesome track snakes through the Eastern Alps, and according to Mental Floss, it boasts 75 hairpin turns. Yep, that’s 75.
As such, this stretch is much beloved by racers and thrillseekers, while those who prefer to arrive at their destination with all four limbs still attached might want to give it a miss.
17 Cairo-Cape Town Road, Africa: Potholes And Sandstorms And Borders, Oh My!
Some roads are a little hazardous for specific reasons. As I say, I’m no stranger to speed racers, potholes and the like. Living in a big city as I do, the biggest danger I face on the roads is probably the tedium of a traffic jam.
As we’ve seen, though, some roads lie off the beaten track and are just a little more treacherous than that.
The notorious Cairo-Cape Town Road is a huge stretch that runs along East Africa, and it’s just baffling to think about what drivers face on this impossible thoroughfare.
According to Mental Floss, “Hazards include unfriendly borders, potholes the size of VWs, sandstorms, carjackers, herds of wandering camels (not to mention your more run-of-the-mill livestock), nearly impassable gravel pits, and armed bandits in Kenya.”
16 Hana Highway, Hawaii: Only One Way To Go
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting Hawaii, you’ll know what a beautiful region of the world it is. The Hana Highway and Pilani Highways run close to some of the region’s top sights, such as the Seven Sacred Pools. However, as Mashable reports,
“the dirt road past Route 31 is sometimes closed to traffic due to landslides and most major rental car contracts forbid driving this section.”
These are also long and twisted routes, and the fact that so many of these passes are one-lane wide makes for a ride unlike any other, and not always in a positive sense.
15 Lombard Street, United States: As Scenic As It Is Strange
Elsewhere in the United States, a very different and completely iconic stretch of road awaits. Lombard Street is found in San Francisco and will be immediately recognisable to anyone remotely familiar with it. You just can’t mistake that unique design.
The legendary landscaping gives it an intriguing, natural quality, but at the same time, it just looks far too ‘model’ to be real. More like something that somebody with too much time on their hands would design in The Sims, not a real neighbourhood. Nevertheless, there it is.
14 Nordschleife, Germany: Part Racetrack, Part Toll Road
If you’re a fan of the Fast and Furious movies or Grand Theft Auto video games, you’ll have noticed something: any road is a racetrack if you want it to be (and have your affairs in order). In the fictional world, that’s totally fine, but people tend to frown on that sort of thing in real life. Especially the police.
Germany’s Nordschleife (North Loop) is a bit of an exception, though. It’s part of the Nürburgring, a famous sports complex and racetrack, and public access is allowed on certain days. Drivers are liable just as they’d be on a public road, as Mother Nature Network reports, but they also get a driving experience like few others.
13 Valley Of Fire Road, United States: Burning Rubber
No, I make no apologies for that burning rubber/fire pun. You really should have seen that one coming, and mentally prepared yourself for it. I don’t see how I can be in the wrong here.
Moving swiftly along, Nevada’s Valley of Fire Road isn’t as dangerous as it may sound. Despite the foreboding name, there aren’t any actual flames to be seen. It’s a surreal sight all the same, though.
What’s special about the road? The red sandstone that lines the area. On Nevada State Route 169, Title Max reports,
“in the reflection of the powerful desert sun, the state park really looks like you’re driving through fire.”
12 Lake Ritsa, Caucasus Mountains: A Little Too Much Fresh Mountain Air
As somebody who’s spent a fair amount of time traveling in Europe, I can tell you that there are enough truly stunning countryside, lakes, mountains and other natural wonders on the continent to last a lifetime. You could fill several of them and barely see a small proportion of the natural beauty on offer.
Lake Ritsa, in the Caucasus Mountains, is one example you may not be that familiar with. It’s found in the north-west of Georgia, and characterised by the surrounding mountains and the crispness of the air.
The road that passes to Lake Ritsa from Sochi, meanwhile, is characterised by being completely intimidating and narrow. How anybody dares to cross it, I can’t imagine.
11 Tuktoyaktuk Winter Road, Canada: When You Take ‘Cold’ To A Whole New Level
As we’ve already seen, the cold can be one of the greatest dangers on our roads. Cold means snow and ice, much of the time, and… well, so many of us have seen what happens when you introduce either of those to our roads. It’s super, super dangerous.
What happens, then, when the road actually is ice? Tuktoyaktuk is an Inuvialuit settlement in the Arctic Ocean. It was connected to the rest of Canada by a road that partly consisted of frozen sections of the Arctic Ocean and the Mackenzie River delta. As reported by CBC News, the Winter Road was permanently closed in April 2017, and the new all-season highway that replaced it opened that November.
10 Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, United States: Are You Sure This Is Safe?
For our next stop, we’re crossing the border back to the United States, where a stretch of water that is very much not frozen awaits.
As Title Max states, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in Virginia is an arresting sight.
It's a 23-mile drive across some frighteningly narrow bridges with only a whole darn lot of water either side for company. Oh, and tunnels. Some of those too.
Networks such as these are vital in the area, as the Hampton Roads region has a water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink vibe going on. It’s just… look at it.
9 Trollstigen, Norway: Beware Of The Trolls
For our next stop, we’re crossing back over to Norway. In the west of the country lies Trollstigen, or Troll’s Path, which is one of the strangest roads we’ve encountered so far.
As frequent users of the internet, we’re all familiar with the dangers trolls can cause, but the Troll’s Path is a different matter entirely. This road is also defined by its curiously bending and twisting path and steep incline, which attracts brave drivers as much as it frightens away timid ones.
It’s a bit of a tourist attraction in its own right, and curiously, there’s a snarky sign to warn drivers to beware of the trolls. It’s all very intriguing.
8 Overseas Highway, United States: Uh Oh, I Don’t Like The Sound Of That
Speaking as one of those timid drivers, I can always appreciate when a dangerous-sounding road makes its intentions clear right from the start. Take the Overseas Highway, for instance. With a name like that, it’s a track I’m immediately glad I don’t cross on my daily commute.
The Overseas Highway is situated in Florida, running through the Florida Keys. According to Title Max, drivers can “enjoy 6.79 miles of nothing but sea on either side of [them] as [they] drive out over a system of 42 bridges to the islands in the Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.”
7 Hanshin Expressway, Japan: A Highway Straight Through The Building? Sure, Why Not?
You’ve got to hand it to Japan. They’re always at the forefront of technological innovation. Not to mention just plain outside-the-box thinking in general. Some would scoff at the idea of a highway thundering straight through a bustling office building, but the Japanese have made it happen.
The Gate Tower Building in Osaka has a very special feature: three floors of the 16 storey complex are occupied by the Hanshin Expressway, which passes through. It isn’t a literal part of the building, and doesn’t touch the sides, which means nobody is actually disturbed by the whole thing. Very impressive stuff.
6 Nanpu Bridge Interchange, Shanghai: A Dizzying Kaleidoscope Of Traffic
Now, I can appreciate the serenity of a beautiful, natural environment. I totally can. At the same time, I also love the sight of a sprawling city lit up at night. Those millions of twinkling lights may be horrifying from a resource consumption standpoint, but they sure do look pretty.
For me, Shanghai’s Nanpu Bridge Interchange is the pinnacle of that whole concept. Napu Bridge was designed to connect the older and newer parts of the city, as Mother Nature Network reports, but the interchange itself is the headline here: “[it’s] part "spaghetti junction," part dizzying roller coaster. It spirals between the bridge and the ground, requiring vehicles to make two orbits before even reaching the exits for city streets and highways.”