Everyone talks about the best road trips by car, but what if you crave just a little bit more adventure in your life. There are plenty of alternative ways to see the world on wheels, and here are a few of my top suggestions.
Dune buggies aren’t too far removed from cars, but their main attraction is that you can take them onto some pretty spectacular terrain. Two of the most amazing places to give this sport a go are Dubai in the UAE, and Huacachina in Peru.
At both of these destinations, the dunes are incredibly large and steep, providing the perfect natural environment to get your adrenaline pumping. Why not combine your tour with some sand boarding for an extra thrill?
In Dubai, you can also round off your day with a sunset camel ride, a belly dancing lesson and some hookah in the desert!
While these tend to be guided tours, if you’d like the chance to drive one yourself, a great alternative location is Mijas in the south of Spain. It’s not as extreme, but you can still pick up some speed on the winding mountain tracks, leaving a trail of dust in your wake.
Being on wheels is always going to be more extreme when a motor’s involved, right? Hmmmm. Tell that to anyone who’s ever cycled Death Road in Bolivia.
Known as one of the most dangerous roads anywhere on the planet, this incredible route starts among icy high-altitude plains and drops a whopping 3,600 m in just 64 km, finishing in humid Amazon rainforest. For the majority of the ride, you’re navigating a width of roughly 3 m, with a 400 m vertical drop to your left. Trust me, this is as badass as it gets.
South America in general is a fantastic region for cycling. If you’d like to get some practice in before you take on the big daddy of all rides, the Chico Circuit in Bariloche, Argentina, is simply stunning. The route from Baños to Puyo in Ecuador, and the Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu, are other great options, especially as they’re both downhill too.
QUAD BIKING/ATV RIDES
Quad bikes, otherwise known as all-terrain vehicles, or ATVs, are built for exactly that purpose. Their main advantage is that you can take them through virtually any environment and they won’t let you down. Sand, mud and fairly deep water are no match for the powerful engine, sturdy frame and deep-treaded tyres. They’re also super easy to learn to operate, you don’t need a driving license to drive one off-road, and they’re really not that expensive. You could buy your own for a couple of grand and pick up cheap ATV tyres and other parts online.
ATV tours are popular around the world. I’ve used them to explore places as far flung as the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica, the WWII base ‘Corregidor Island’ in the Philippines, an adventure park in New Zealand, the pagoda-strewn villages and rice paddies of Siem Reap, and my own cousin’s back yard.
Other great locations to give it a go include the geysers of Iceland, the rice terraces of Bali, and the hills of Cappadocia in Turkey.
The word ‘motorbike’ is synonymous with Southeast Asia. In fact, it’s virtually impossible to travel in the region and not find yourself on one at some point. Even if you refuse to drive one yourself, sometimes a lift on the back of a local’s bike is the only way to get to your destination. At the last count, Ho Chi Minh City was said to have more than 7.5 million motorbikes, and the road junctions are a sight to behold.
Get out into the rural areas, though, and you’ll understand what the attraction is. The 500 km Thakhek Loop in Laos is one of the most talked about adventure rides in the world, taking in the spectacular Konglor Cave, among limestone cliffs, farmlands and small villages.
Motorbike travel is also a cheap and easy way to get from one end of Vietnam to the other, including an incredibly scenic stretch of road made famous by Top Gear – the Hai Van Pass.
If you do decide to travel by bike overseas, make sure you have an international driver’s permit, pick up some good-quality gloves and a helmet from a motorcycle parts store and, if you’re taking the bike on a substantial trip, make sure you test drive it for at least 20 minutes to make sure everything works.
Tuk tuks might not strike you as the ideal form of transport, but with the achievement of great challenges comes great satisfaction and reward. What’s more, you can enhance that warm and fuzzy feeling by doing it all for charity. There are various rickshaw runs and challenges across India and Sri Lanka, usually lasting from 7 to 14 days. Race other teams from A to B via no set route and immerse yourself in local cultural experiences as you go.
Although not an official route by any means, the incredibly bumpy potholed roads circumnavigating Lago Atitlan in Guatemala also make perfect playing grounds for a tuk tuk adventure. Set beside a backdrop of towering volcanos, and connecting villages steeped in both Mayan culture and hippie influence, this is a day trip to remember.