Our Favorite International Road Trips

Some travel spots beg to be driven, with great road networks, minimal traffic, scenic landscapes and reasonable driving times between sights. For the independent traveler having your own wheels just adds to that feeling of freedom; not having to plan your travel around public transportation schedules, being able to stop when you spot an interesting café or ruin along the route or break for lunch when you’re hungry. It’s no wonder we love road trips. In this summer of Covid-19 I’ve reflected on our years of travel and selected some of our favorite itineraries. I hope 2021 will bring you health and perhaps a road trip adventure.

For more information on a region and links to all related posts click on the link to that region’s destination page.


Morocco is the most adventurous destination on this list. Generally we choose countries that are easy and hassle free for road trips since having a car can add an extra layer of anxiety. At first glance Morocco didn’t seem to fit our criteria but it turned out to be an exotic destination with just enough adventure to keep it interesting. Roads were in decent shape, distances between destinations were manageable and we had no real difficulties.

Having a car in Morocco was somewhat unsettling at first. We worried about negotiating crowded urban centers and deciding where it would be safe to leave the car, but once we figured out that parking was generally safe provided you tipped the locals to look after the car everything went smoothly.


Starting in Marrakesh and looping through the country clockwise to Casa Blanca, our 18 day itinerary blended crowded souks with tranquil landscapes.

Marakesh (3 nights) – Plunge into Moroccan culture in the sights and souks of this bustling city.

Skoura (1 night) – Day one on the road crosses the high Atlas Mountains ending at the delightful Les Jardins de Skoura guesthouse. The following morning take a spin through the Dadès Gorge of vivid cliffs anchored by lush green pastures along the river before continuing on to the Todra Gorge.

Todra Gorge (3 nights) – 2 days of hiking in this empty landscape of rocky river valleys.

Merzouga (3 nights) – 2 days to explore the colorful sand dunes including an overnight trip to a desert camp by camel.

Meknes (2 nights) – This small city with a quieter souk than Fes (see below) is a great base to explore the Volubilis Roman ruins best known for their collection of well-preserved mosaics.

Fes (2 nights) – Just an hour drive from Meknes, Fes’s enchanting souk of sights and smells is waiting to be explored.

Chefchaoen (3 nights) – 2 days to explore the blue painted souk and green hills of Morocco’s north coast.

Casablanca (1 night) – Dinner at Rick’s Café before heading home the next morning.


When you think of traveling in Greece most people imagine sailing between islands, but the Peloponnese, mainland Greece, offers opportunities for excursions through lesser traveled regions filled with history, great food and beautiful coastlines. Traveling in early May we encountered good roads, short distances between destinations, minimal crowds and good weather.

The other benefit to exploring the Peloponnese by car is you avoid the worries of potential ferry strikes ruining your trip. We had planned an overnight trip to Hydra before the road trip that had to be canceled because of such a strike.


The 11 day itinerary, starting and ending in Athens, is based on Rick Steves’s itinerary. I highly recommend his itineraries for first time visits to Europe. You can easily add an island or two before or after your trip.

Athens (3 nights) – 2 days to explore the ruins, museums and other sights of the capital city.

Delphi (1 night) – Delphi’s iconic temple of Athena and the Sanctuary of Apollo can easily be explored in a half day before heading to the next destination.

For those with more time, consider adding Metoera where monasteries perch on rock pillars.

Olympia (1 night) – Home of the Ancient Olympics includes the Sanctuary of Olympia, archeological museum and the Olympic Games Museum, all easily visited in a half day excursion.

Kardamyli (2 nights) – The idyllic seaside town on the rugged Mani peninsula offers a great base for exploring the off-the-beaten-path peninsula.

Monemvasia (2 nights) – Perched on an island plateau this too cute for words village has a much more touristic and polished vibe than the Mani peninsula. Still, with no power lines to mar those quaint village shots it’s a tranquil spot to hang out for a night or two.

Nafplio (2 nights) – A weekend getaway for Athenians, a visit to Nafplio is a soft landing back into bustling city life. With a fortress towering over the town and two ruins – the Mycenae Archaeological Site and the Epidavros Archaeological Site – to explore outside of town, it’s worth a stop before heading back to Athens.

 New Zealand

Driving doesn’t get much easier than New Zealand. Well, there is that driving on the wrong side of the road thing. Otherwise road conditions are excellent, distances between destinations short and the scenery beautiful – white sand beaches; rolling hills of vineyards or grazing sheep; blue, blue water; wide open stormy skies and snowy peaks. 

Although we stayed mostly in B&Bs, a popular and more economical option is to rent a campervan and stay in Holiday Parks with their clean and well equipped showers and communal kitchens. This is also a great way to meet other travelers including New Zealanders.

This month long itinerary with 10 days on the North Island and 3 weeks on the South, includes two world class multi-day treks – the 2-night Tongariro Circuit on the North Island and the 3-night Milford Track on the South Island.

North Island

Auckland (1 night) – Arrived early morning for a quick visit to New Zealand’s largest city.

Tairua on the Coromandel Peninsula (2 nights) – The peninsula is home to giant kauri groves, a hot water beach and the iconic Cathedral Cove.

Waitomo (1 night) – The Black Abyss Tour offers the opportunity to abseil down to the bottom of the cave, zipline in total darkness, float along the dark waters of the cave lit by glow worms and a climb through a rocky tunnel back to the surface.

Rotorua (1 night) – A geothermic region of bubbling mud, geysers and pools of other worldly colors.

Tongariro Circuit (4 nights – 2 nights on the trail plus a night before and after the hike at Chateau Tongariro Hotel) – The world class trek boasts volcanic cones and emerald green and vivid blue pools against a stark volcanic landscape. The most spectacular section can be done as a day hike.

Wellington (1 night) – This charming city on the North Island’s southern coast is worth a quick spin before taking the ferry to the South Island.

South Island

Abel Tasman National Park (1 night) – A scenic coastal park of white sand beaches and blue, blue waters can be explored on foot or by kayak. For those with more time, one of the country’s best multi-day great walks is along this superb coastline.

Marlborough Wine Country (2 nights) – The home of world class sauvignon blanc, I fell in love with the floral citrus aroma of this varietal. 

Christchurch (2 nights) – Rebuilt after the devastating 2011 earthquake, the South Island’s largest city offers urban delights as well a wonderfully mature botanical garden. On the drive over take the time to explore the island’s rocking east coast.

West Coast (2 nights, 1 night each in Hokitika and Haast) – The road from Christchurch starts with a drive through a river valley before climbing to Arthur’s Pass. Once on the west coast sights include the pancake rock formations and blowholes of Punakaiki to the north and Franz Josef and Fox glaciers and Lake Matheson to the south.

Mt Cook (2 nights) – The four hour return Hooker Trail offers breathtaking views of New Zealand’s highest snowy peak. The drive over from Haast passes through incredible wind swept landscapes.

Dunedin (2 nights) – Heading back to the east coast make a short stop to see the crazy perfectly round boulders at Moeraki Beach before hitting the capital of the Otago region. The urban center is a great base for exploring the Otago peninsula and stocking up on supplies for more remote regions further south.

Curio Bay on the Catlins Coast (1 night) – The route through this less visited region of southern coast passes through rolling green hills and wide open beaches. At Curio Bay visit the petrified forest and the local penguins.

Fiordland National Park (6 nights – 3 in Te Anau and 3 on the Milford Track) – This is New Zealand’s most dramatic landscape. The brooding fiordlands of cliffs and sea offer a stunning backdrop in all but the worst weather. Our time there included a day trip to Doubtful Sound with Real Journeys and the 4 day/3 night Milford Track trek.

Queenstown (2 night) – A quick stop before the long flight home. If you have more time, stay longer and check out the extreme sports offered here.


Just 4 hours from the Roman ruins of Jerash in the north and Aqaba, the Red Sea port in the south, the small country of Jordan is a great road trip destination. A mix of historical and scenic sights including iconic Petra awaits you. 

Although driving in Amman, the capital, can be a headache, the rest of the country has reasonable roads and safe places to park. Our only difficulty was the lack of Google mapping around the Dana Biosphere Reserve. Thankfully helpful locals solved our navigation difficulties.

Of course the middle-east draws safety concerns. On our first and only trip to the region in 2016 we discovered a country with relatively few tourists and many friendly locals eager to encourage more tourism.  You do, however, want to check current political conditions and State Department recommendations when planning your trip.

This 13 day itinerary starts and ends at Queen Alia International Airport. If you want to avoid the hassle of Amman on arrival, departure or both, consider staying in Madaba instead, just a 30 minute drive to the airport.

Amman (2 nights) – The bustling capital originally founded as Philadelphia by the Greeks has a mix of ancient sites, modern commerce and traditional markets.

Jerash (1 night) – If you like Roman ruins Jerash is a gem – a well-preserved ancient Roman city with few other tourists around. On your way out of town be sure to check out Aijoun Castle, a charming Islamic fortress.

Madaba (1 night) – Known for its ancient mosaics and churches. It is also a great small city for experiencing the intermix of Christian and Muslim faiths.

Dead Sea (1 night) – The  experience of weightlessness floating on viscous water combined with the 2-hour wet hike up the Siq Trail in the Mujib Biosphere Reserve made this my favorite stop in Jordan, after Petra of course.

Dana Biosphere Reserve (2 nights) – Besides a tour of the quaint village of Dana our visit included an overnight hike through the desert landscape to Feynan Ecolodge. On the drive to Dana it’s worth a stop at the rambling crusader vintage ruin of Karak Castle.

Petra (2 nights) – Leave yourself plenty of time to explore this world class ruin. It’s so much more than the iconic façade of the Treasury.

Aqaba (2 nights) – Get out of the heat with a day of diving in the Red Sea.

Wadi Rum (1 night) – The prettiest desert landscape in Jordan, this region deserves an overnight with the opportunity for a camel excursion.

Airport Hotel (1 night) – We needed one late night at the airport before an early flight home.


The Baltic countries – Estonia, Lativia and Lithuania – may offer the easiest road trip destination on this list. Unlike New Zealand, they at least drive on the right side of the road. The agreement between countries makes renting a car in one country and dropping it off in another hassle free with no restrictions crossing from one country into another. Roads are generally in good condition, time between destinations short and traffic outside major cities relatively light.

The region has few if any “A” sights or must-sees and the scenery is low on the drama scale. However, the low far north light and constantly changing turbulent skies make photography a delight.

The other big plus for us, besides the ease of travel, was the restaurants. Regional chefs work hard to create inventive and tasty dishes using local ingredients. Dining rooms are general small and friendly with an ambience that makes dining a true pleasure.


Our 17 day itinerary combined the quaint capital cities with national parks for a pleasant mix of urban and country. We began our trip in Vilnius, Lithuania and dropped the car in Tallin, Estonia. You could easily do the trip in the reverse order. Note that we did not keep the car in either city. Instead we picked up the car at the end of our stay in Vilnius and dropped it first thing upon arrival in Tallin.

To shorten the itinerary consider reducing your stay in the capital cities from 3 nights each to 2.

Vilnius, Lithuania (3 nights) – The small walkable city of Vilnius has one of the largest medieval old towns in Europe, making it a delightful destination to meander through for the day.

Curonian Spit National Park, Lithuania (2 nights in Klaipeda) – The narrow strip of land a short ferry ride off the coast of Lithuania with Curonian Lagoon on one side and the Baltic Sea on the other is a lovely getaway. If you like fish be sure to try the local smoked variety.

Hill of Crosses – The small hill, barely a hill, covered in more crosses of various types and sizes than you can imagine is an easy stop between Klaipeda and Riga, Latvia.

Rundale Palace – Latvia’s answer to Versailles, with both furnished interiors and well-tended gardens, is an enjoyable stop an hour and half outside of Riga

Riga, Latvia (3 nights) – This charming Baltic capital may be short on actual sights but is long on ambience with a quaint old town and beautiful city park.

Guaja National Park, Latvia (1 night) – This national park, really a wooded region, boasts 3 castles of various repair and interest. On a pretty day it’s a fabulous destination. More remarkable is the town of Cesis, boasting a picturesque castle, beautiful city park and quaint streets.

Tartu, Estonia (2 nights) – Estonia’s second largest city is best known for its college town vibe and museums. Otepaa, a 45 minute drive from Tartu, offers a selection of outdoor activities including hiking, biking and skiing.

Parnu, Estonia (1 night) – The seaside resort town, famous for its beach and spa hotels, is one of Estonia’s top summer vacation spots.

Lahemaa National Park, Estonia (1 night at Sagadi Manor) – Located on the north coast of Estonia east of Tallinn, the park has a combination of historic sites and natural beauty as rolling hills and forest meet the sea.

Tallin, Estonia (3 nights) – Of the Baltic capitals Tallinn has the most intact medieval city wall, a historic old town and an almost Disneyland vibe, making it a fun place to explore yet more removed from everyday Estonian life.