Exploring by bike ranks high on
Exploring by bike ranks high on our list of adventures via Shutterstock (Ljupco Smokovski)

Take Two

Our favorite long hauls on two wheels

Exploring by bike ranks high on
Matthew Power

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The World’s 4 Best Motorcycle Journeys

Exploring by motorcycle ranks high on our list of adventures. There’s the obvious stuff: the blur of road beneath your feet, the shifting horizon. Then there’s the satisfaction that comes from, say, fixing a broken chain in the middle of nowhere. These are our favorite long hauls.

The Best Motorcycle Journeys: Ruta 40, Argentina

Lake Nahuel Huapi Argentina
Lake Nahuel Huapi, Argentina via Shutterstock (Kastianz)

For distance, scenery, and the great outdoors, there’s no better ride on the planet: Argentina’s national highway parallels the Andes for 3,100 miles, from the bottom of Bolivia to Tierra del Fuego, the tip of the continent. Rent a bike in the colonial town of Salta, 235 miles below the Bolivian border. Then point it south for as long as you like. The road passes through red sandstone deserts, the wine regions of Mendoza, and the Patagonian adventure hub of Bariloche, where you can kayak 1,400-foot-deep Lake Nahuel Huapí. Beyond that are the granite peaks of Los Glaciares National Park and, eventually, Ushuaia, the southernmost city on earth.

The Best Motorcycle Journeys: Grossglockner High Alpine Road, Austria

Grossglockner High Alpine Road Austria
Grossglockner High Alpine Road, Austria via Shutterstock (Mariusz Niedzwiedzki )

No route is as renowned for hairpin turns as the Alps’ serpentine Grossglockner High Alpine Road, which winds 30 miles over Hochter Pass. Paired with glaciated peaks and Sound of Music landscape, it’s a motorcyclist’s dream. Rent a BMW R1200GS at Salzburg Biking (from $194 per day), in Mozart’s hometown; it’s a torquey mountain goat perfectly suited to steep asphalt curves. You’ll wind past blooming mountain pastures, fragrant forests, and mighty cliffs. At the top of the pass, hop off and hike up Edelweiss Peak for more vast views. Then it’s on to Heiligenblut for a little après-motorrad at the beer hall of your choice.

The Best Motorcycle Journeys: Manali-Leh Road, India

Buddhist monks as seen from a Royal Enfield in Ladakh India
Buddhist monks, as seen from a Royal Enfield, in Ladakh, India (Timothy Allen/Aurora)

From chaotic megacities to some of the most isolated terrain on earth, India is a never-ending adventure for two-wheeled travelers. Grab a Royal Enfield from Bikes on Rent in New Delhi (from $95 per week) and follow the 1,500-mile Grand Trunk Road northwest into the jungled Himalayan foothills. Watch for monkey crossings in the hippie mecca of Manali before snaking over 18,000-foot passes to Ladakh, a.k.a. Little Tibet—a high-altitude moonscape dotted with Buddhist monasteries. Warm up with momos (Tibetan dumplings) and yak-butter tea in Ladakh’s capital city of Leh, then ride all the way to the Himalayan snows of Khardung La. At 17,582 feet, the mountain pass is nearly as high as Everest Base Camp.

The Best Motorcycle Journeys: Route 6, New Zealand

Along New Zealand's Route 6
Along New Zealand's Route 6 (Petr Hlavacek)

The 200-mile stretch along the South Island’s west coast is a fantasia with unparalleled scenery—misty mountains, dramatic cliffs, and countless waterfalls. Launch from the capital city of Christchurch, on the east coast, with a Harley-Davidson Road King from South Pacific Motorcycle Tours (from $260 per day). The town of Greymouth, 150 miles northwest, is your starting point. Head south to Franz Josef Glacier and strap on a pair of crampons. The glacier, located at the mouth of a dry riverbed, looks like a raging flash flood paused in time. Farther south, you can’t get out of Queenstown without some nut-job excursion like heli-biking, bungee-jumping into a 440-foot canyon, or paddling the Class IV Shotover River. Or head 180 miles southwest onto Route 94 to the sheer green cliffs of Milford Sound for penguin spotting.