sights uncovered
Travel with Tessa

Top 10
Most Spectacular Drives

  1. Argentina: From Mendoza to the Chilean border.
    On a glorious October morning, we set out from Mendoza driving along route 16 past bodegas (wineries), towards the Andes Mountains. The storms of the prior two days had left the Andes blanketed from top to bottom in blinding white snow. Upwards we climbed – around hairpin bends, past lakes and the odd village to Upsalata. From there on the bends are truly like hairpins and the scenery is breathtaking. We stopped at Puente del Inca (Inca Bridge) created by a natural phenomena: a combination of hot pools with an average temperature of 93 – 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and a high salt and carbon dioxide content. Finally, to the Chilean border where one has a view of Aconcagua, the highest peak in South America.

    Mendoza Route
    Mendoza- Route 16
    Puente del Inca
    Puente del Inca
  2. Big Sur – California: From Carmel to Santa Monica.
    We love this drive, especially in the spring if the rains have blessed the area during the winter months, but it’s gorgeous no matter when. We drive from Carmel and take our time. We stop to hike and spend the night in Ragged Point, Cambria or Morro Bay. Sometimes we treat ourselves to a night at all three. Hearst Castle sits just outside Cambria in San Simeon; elephant seals at the Piedras Blancas rookery just 5 miles North of Hearst Castle are worth stopping to see; and the winelands in Paso Robles are just twenty-eight miles inland from Morro Bay. Every mile of this drive all the way to Santa Monica, is captivating.

    Between Carmel and Ragged Point
    Between Carmel and Ragged Point.
    Morro Bay at Sunset
    Morro Bay at Sunset.
  3. Lao: From Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng.
    The drive from Luang Prabang to Viang Vieng is a Laotian gem. No wonder it is considered to be one of the most beautiful drives in all of South East Asia. When we began our ascent toward the limestone peaks, they were shrouded in fog. We passed villages built on the very edge of bends in the roads; others clinging to the hillsides among tropical foliage; and several built on either side of old bridges spanning narrow turquoise rivers. When the fog evaporated, we found ourselves surrounded by the jagged peaks of the limestone karsts. At the highest point we stopped at a simple little restaurant with a royal view. As the afternoon sun turned soft and gentle, it cast a golden glow over the landscape. The drive to Vang Vieng took seven and a half hours and we never took our eyes off the scenery.

    Hillside Village on the River
    Hillside Village on the River
    Vang Vieng
    Vang Vieng
  4. South Africa – Cape Town: From Seapoint to Cape Point
    The road hugs the coastline the entire route. This drive can be a day trip there and back or it can take several days. Spending a night en route affords one the time to make stops at the pristine beaches along the way and to browse the utterly charming historic little towns which have been artfully renovated. South Africans have perfected the art of retaining old world charm with 2017 appeal. Not to be missed is the Boulders Penguin Colony between Simon’s Town and Cape Point and the Ostrich farm at Cape Point.

    Clifton Beach
    Clifton Beach.
    Boulders penguin Colony
    Boulders penguin Colony.
  5. Sicily – Italy: Roundtrip from Palermo(Traveling Clockwise).
    From Palermo to Cefalù – A little town which retains much of its medieval charms. Its beaches are covered in fine powdered sand and lined with charming old fishermen’s houses. From Cefalù inland towards Enna. We spent the night at a small hotel housed in a beautiful old converted monastery, which lies nestled amongst vineyards and fields of cactus. A visit to Villa del Casale in Piazza Armerina is an archaeological site not to be missed. From Enna to Taormina with its cobbled streets, fabulous restaurants, piazzas, flowers, incredible vistas, beautiful beaches, great shopping, and puffing Mount Etna. On to Siracusa and Ortigia Island. It feels both Italian and Greek which is not surprising as it was founded by the Corinthians. Our next stop was Agrigento, famous for its Valle dei Templi – a collection of the remains of impressive Greek temples. From Agrigento to Erice perched on top of a mountain surrounded by stone city walls. We spent a week exploring, driving, and drinking in the beauty of the sights that surrounded us.

    Siracusa Ortigia Island
    Siracusa- Ortigia Island
    Valle dei Templi Agrigernto
    Valle dei Templi-Agrigernto.
  6. Tibet: From Lhasa to Namtso Lake.
    From Lhasa, we zigzagged up the Kampala pass. A narrow pass with sheer drops and spectacular views. We stopped at emerald blue Yamdrok Lake, and marveled at the stark beauty of the terrain between the lake and Karola Glacier. On to Gyantse and the spectacular Kumbum stupa and Palkhor Choede monastery. An overnight in the little town of Shigatse – then onwards, climbing ever higher into the Shugar La Pass at 16,000 feet. We drove on to Yangpachen Hot Springs which boil and gurgle as their steam floats skyward. Along our route, we passed through small villages and glimpsed the life of the nomads who inhabit the area with their sheep and yaks. Namtso Lake- meaning “Heavenly Lake”- a salt water lake at 15,479 feet, is completely surrounded by snow-capped mountains. It’s revered by Tibetans and has an indescribable aura of peace and spirituality. We spent a second overnight in the dusty little town of Damxiong, before returning to Lhasa.

    Yamdrok Lake_Tibet
    Yamdrok Lake_ Tibet.
    Nomad family Northern Tibet
    Nomad family Northern Tibet.
  7. The Canadian Rockies: From Edmonton to Banff.
    We flew into Edmonton and drove to Jasper National Park, where we spent the night in a lodge that overlooks the point where the Miette and Athabasca rivers meet. Early the next morning we continued on to Pyramid Lake for breakfast, and then to breathtaking Maligne Lake, where we took a boat to Spirit Island which rests in the middle of the lake. A short drive and a gentle hike later, we marveled at the majesty of Maligne Canyon, its stunning chasms and waterfalls. Next stop – a true highlight: the Edith Cavell Glacier and the ice ponds, which reminded me of a meringue pie. A visit to the Athabasca falls where the water swirls between towering, jagged, textured, soaring rocks and fragrant pine trees clinging to the rock face, followed by a drive through the Columbian Ice Fields. Finally Banff, and the picture postcard perfection of the turquoise gem of the Canadian Rockies – Lake Louise.

    The Ice Ponds at Edith Cavell
    The Ice Ponds at Edith Cavell.
    Lake Louise
    Lake Louise.
  8. The Amalfi Drive (Italy): From Sorrento to Minori. Bella Italia!
    The drive from Sorrento to Minori is seductive. Navigating the narrow road which handles buses, cars, cyclists and trucks – while hugging the edge of a sheer cliff as it winds its way along the coast – is an experience in and of itself. Sorrento demands a few days to see the Blue Grotto and the Isle of Capri, as well as the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Positano is an artist’s paradise.
    Amalfi is awash with color. Ravello with its vines planted on soaring hillsides, boasts stunning must see ancient villas and superb ceramics. Maiori and Minori are mellow and not as flooded with visitors. To make the most of the Amalfi coast and absorb its magic, linger and spend several nights along the way.

    Positano an artist's paradise
    Positano, an artist’s paradise!
    Ravello, with the coastline below
    Ravello, with the coastline below.
  9. South Africa – The Garden Route: From Port Elizabeth to Mossel Bay.
    Forty-five miles from Port Elizabeth, one arrives at Jeffrey’s Bay – one of the finest surfing spots in the world. Nearby is the Seekoi River Nature Reserve – a birdwatcher’s delight. The scenery is glorious along this entire route. Near Storms River lies the dense Tsitsikamma National Forest, where the best that nature has to offer, is on full display: rivers, gorges, mountains, birds, marine life and impressive old towering yellowwood trees- the granddaddy giant among them is eight hundred years old. Plettenberg Bay – simply called Plett by locals – has a vibey little town with great restaurants and beautiful beaches. On toward Knysna for oysters and lovely hikes. Between George and Mossel Bay – drive inland to the jaw dropping Cango Caves near Oudshoorn. Plan on spending several days to indulge in the richness of this sumptuous drive.

    Ancient Yellowwood Tree
    Ancient Yellowwood Tree.
    Idyllic Plettenberg Bay
    Idyllic Plettenberg Bay.
  10. Morocco: Over the High Atlas to the Sahara.
    From Marrakech we headed for the High Atlas Mountains dusted in a fine sprinkling of snow. We passed nomads on the move as we wound our way from the Middle to the High Atlas; ancient kasbahs; little villages nestled into the mountains; and Palmeraie, consisting of regiments of tall graceful palm trees that stretch as far as the eye can see. We stopped at little tea rooms in the middle of nowhere and ended our drive in Amezrou on the edge of the great Sahara Desert. From there a sign announces that it’s a fifty-two day camel trek across the Saharan Sands to Timbuktu.

    Kasbah on the edge of The Sahara
    Kasbah on the edge of The Sahara.
    52 days to Timbuktu
    52 days to Timbuktu.