Get your kicks on Route 66 -- and 499 other great highways

Special to the Los Angeles Times

Rev up the engine and hit the road with “Drives of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Most Spectacular Trips,” a new coffee-table book from National Geographic ($40, hardcover) that explores highways and byways around the globe. 

Some of the trips are long-distance odysseys on the far side of the planet, such as the Silk Road across the vastness of central Asia. Many are easy drives for Californians, such as the Gold Rush trail along the rolling foothills of the Sierra Nevada, and California Highway 1 along the rugged coastline of the Big Sur region.  

Of course, the nation’s Mother Road, Route 66, makes the cut as it rambles across the country from Chicago to Santa Monica.  And other scenic U.S. roads are profiled, including Colorado’s San Juan Skyway, which makes a 10,000-foot climb over towering mountain passes as it goes on a loop of more than 200 miles; and the Battle Road in Massachusetts, site of skirmishes during the Revolutionary War.

There’s plenty of international flavor too. Armchair travelers—or folks looking for adventure—can take a drive through the rain forests of Costa Rica, the tulip fields of the Netherlands, the jungles of Jamaica or the rugged back country of Australia.


“Put your foot to the pedal and head on out,” said Keith Bellows, National Geographic Traveler editor.  A road trip “can uncork our imaginations and rekindle the wanderlust and curiosity that makes true travel—as opposed to vacationing—so intoxicating.“  

The book is patterned after the Traveler magazine’s “Drives of a Lifetime” series. A selection of additional road trips can be found on the magazine’s website.