Have the drive of your life with one of these awe-inspiring trips
Italy: Milan to Rome
Combine historical cities with the wild countryside on this dreamy Italian escape from fashionable Milan in the north, down the Gulf of La Spezia, to the capital, Rome. After leaving Milan, you’ll head south towards the coast, exploring the port city of La Spezia. Here, you can learn more about the area’s maritime history.
Within two hours, you’ll reach the iconic towns of Pisa and Florence, where you can treat yourself to antipasti, Bistecca alla Fiorentina steak and local wine. The three-hour journey south towards Rome takes in the green Tuscan hills, medieval towns like San Gimignano, and the world-famous vineyards of Montepulciano.
Top tip: Compact cars are a great choice for Italy, as they’re ideal for navigating the narrow roads and fast-moving traffic. Keep your eyes peeled for restricted traffic zones in towns and cities – typically in “centro storico” areas – to avoid being charged a hefty fine.
Flights from the UK to Milan Malpensa airport start from £22.99, and flights from Rome to the UK start from £26.99 (both one-way). Go to Easyjet.com to book. Car hire costs from £30.93 per day, plus £78.97 one-way fee on pick-up (Rentalcars.com).
Portugal: Porto to Faro
Driving along the 550 miles of Portugal’s Atlantic coast is a great way to take in the best of the country over two weeks. Discover the city of Porto and its narrow, cobbled streets, explore the amiable town of Sagres on the western tip of the Algarve, and don’t miss the vibrant capital, Lisbon. For those itching to try something new, there are plenty of surf schools along the route – such as at Peniche, Ericeira and Cascais – that are suitable for beginners
Top tip: When driving through Portugal, there’s a real mix of toll roads. Almost all of them accept credit cards, but only a few accept cash.
Flights from London Stansted to Porto, and from Faro to London Stansted, cost from £19.99 each way. Go to Ryanair.com to book. Car hire costs from £23.75 per day, plus £45.71 one-way fee on pick-up (Rentalcars.com).
USA: San Francisco to Los Angeles
America’s Pacific Coast Highway stretches 450 miles between the Golden Gate Bridge and the City of Angels. With jaw-dropping coastal views, seaside towns and beautiful greenery, this is possibly the world’s most popular road trip. When driving south from San Francisco, it’s worth stopping at downtown San Jose with its galleries and museums, and visiting the towns of Santa Cruz, Monterey, Ventura and Malibu.
A drive across Bixby Bridge (as seen on Big Little Lies) on the way to Big Sur will give you incredible views over the coastline before you hit the lights of LA. Highlights include the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Santa Monica Pier and Universal Studios.
Top tip: Road trips are common in the US, so one-way fees – a charge to cover the cost of taking a car back to its original location – often don’t apply. Driving rules vary by state, so check the regulations for California before you set off.
Virgin Atlantic flies twice daily from London Heathrow to San Francisco and Los Angeles, with return fares costing from £313 per person. Visit Virginatlantic.com or call 0344 8747 747 to book. Car hire costs from £29.33 per day (Rentalcars.com).
South Africa: Port Elizabeth to Cape Town
Better known as the Garden Route, this road trip connects Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape Province – known for its beaches and friendly locals – to Cape Town, with its wonderful setting below Table Mountain. After just two hours on the road, you could be zip-wiring or kayaking in Tsitsikamma National Park, or bungee jumping 216 metres from Bloukrans Bridge.
There are also plenty of chances for close encounters with elephants, cheetahs and meerkats at Oudtshoorn. If you’re passing through Hermanus between August and November, you might even spot breaching whales without leaving the car.
Top tip: If you plan to incorporate Kruger or other national parks into your journey, hiring an SUV might work best.
British Airways flies from London Heathrow to Port Elizabeth via Johannesburg, with a return from Cape Town from £903. To book, visit Ba.com or call 0844 493 0763. Car hire costs from £18.77 per day, plus £69.51 one-way fee on pick-up (Rentalcars.com).
Words: Jo Chapman
All prices correct at time of going to print, but are subject to change