Top 10 Skyscraping Drives

Nothing tests a car and its driver to the limit like taking a twisting, turning road past sheer drops. Here are ten of the world's best mountain roads.
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Taking the high road in Colorado
Taking the high road in Colorado  (Eyewire)

10. Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway, Colorado
Piercing three national forests, the byway rarely dips below 9,000 feet (2,743 m) as you drive through old gold-rush towns such as Leadville, the highest incorporated community in the U.S.A., with a quaint Victorian-era filmset appeal.
PLANNING: The drive starts at the junction of I-70 and Colo. 91 and runs south along Colo. 90 to Leadville, on U.S. 25 and Colo. 82 to Twin Lakes, and then back north to Minturn on U.S. 24.
www.topoftherockiesbyway.org

9. Trans-Andean Highway, Chile/Argentina
This dizzying 220-mile (350 km) drive from Santiago to Mendoza steeply snakes up through Chile to the 2-mile (3 km) long Cristo Redentor tunnel. On a clear day, look out for 22,841-foot (6,962 m) Cerro Aconcagua, the southern hemisphere's highest peak. In contrast, the Argentine side is a gentle descent past an alpine lake and through cactus fields.
PLANNING: Check weather forecasts; fog and clouds can impede mountain views. The road sometimes closes in winter.
www.visit-chile.org, www.turismo.gov.ar

8. Osado Skyline Drive, Sado Island, Japan
Sado Island's finest views are from the Osado Skyline Drive, slicing through mountains from Chigusa to the Sado goldmine. The panoramas of the island's verdant mountains are spectacular.
PLANNING: Car ferries to Ryotsu on Sado go from Niigata and Naoetsu on the mainland. The road closes in winter (November through April).
www.jnto.go.jp

7. Te Anau-Milford Sound, Fiordland, South Island, New Zealand
The hub of Fiordland National Park is the town of Te Anau, on the shores of the eponymous lake. From here the 73-mile (117 km) drive to the beautiful fjord at Milford Sound is alpine driving nirvana.
PLANNING: In winter, avalanches often close the road; snowchains are compulsory. The road has no gas stations.
www.fiordland.org.nz

6. Thunderbolt's Way, Great Dividing Range, Australia
Named for Frederick Ward, alias Captain Thunderbolt, a 19th-century bushranger who roamed these parts, this 180-mile (290 km) paved road runs between Gloucester and Inverell. Completed in 1961, it slices through national parks and some of Australia's steepest, craggiest, and highest mountains, including the country's loftiest peak, Mount Kosciuszko, 7,310 feet (2,228 m) above sea level.
PLANNING: Allow time to stop at Carson's Lookout between Gloucester and Nowendoc, for delirious valley views, and the picnic area near the Barrington river bridge.
www.thunderboltsway.com.au

Reproduced with permission from Drives of a Lifetime: 500 of the World's Most Spectacular Trips, 2010, National Geographic. All rights reserved.

Published: 16 Sep 2010 | Last Updated: 1 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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