Africa’s vast landscapes beckon drivers, cyclists and bikers yearning to explore the breathtaking scenery. But sometimes the roads themselves are the attraction, and they are often as incredible as the mountains, rivers and coastlines they traverse. Here are 10 of the most memorable roads in Africa.
1. Sani Pass Road, Lesotho
The vertiginous Sani Pass is the only road connecting Lesotho to South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province. Its countless bends and rugged unsealed surface make it a favorite with 4×4 drivers, but if your nerves are of the steel variety, the pass can also be tackled on a bicycle. The road stretches just over 20km, but rises 1000m and comprises 20 switchback bends in one short section. Whether you start in Lesotho or South Africa, you’ll likely fancy a beer at “Africa’s highest pub”, the Sani Top Chalet at 2874m, either to steady your nerves for the downward leg, or to reward yourself after making it to the top!
2. Atlas Mountain Road, Morocco
Carved into the side of the Dades Gorge in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, the N9 is a 117-mile route that can take several hours to navigate — if your stomach can handle it. If you make it to the Tizi-n’Tichka pass, the reward is a truly unbelievable view.
3. Chapmans Peak Drive, South Africa
The most scenic way to drive between Hout Bay and Noordhoek is on Chapman’s Peak Drive, a winding 5.5 mile (9km) road that hugs the side of a mountain, with sheer cliff on one side and the ocean 500 meters (1600 feet) down on the other side. It’s recommended that you drive slowly around the 114 curves, and stop periodically at one of the numerous vantage points, in order to savor the view over the Atlantic — dolphin and whale sightings are common. There’s also a hiking trail that leads up to the top.
4. Serra da Leba Pass, Angola
The Serra da Leba Pass is a favorite of cyclists. A national landmark in Angola, the pass is situated 20 miles west of the city of Lubango on the road to Namibe. Built in the 1970s, the road ascends 1845 m in just 10 km and crosses three different climate zones in the process.
5. Avenue of the Baobabs, Madagascar
The famed Avenue of the Baobabs is located in the wild west country around Morondava. Here, along a dirt path heading to Belon’i Tsiribihina, two dozen trees rise up to 90 feet (30m) in the air.
6. Swartberg Pass, South Africa
The R328 between Oudtshoorn and Prince Albert passes through some of the most spectacular scenery in South Africa. Hairpin turns reveal craggy rock formations, amazing views over the Little Karoo, and hundreds of plant species. The 700-foot quartzite cliffs at the northern end are the most famous part, especially the “Wall of Fire.” This road is not paved, so a 4×4 is required, and don’t attempt it in the rain.
7. Wolkefit Pass, Ethiopia
The Wolkefit Pass is the highest point in the Semien Mountains, elevation of 3,250 m (10,662 feet) which form part of the Ethiopian Highlands. The pass is full of treacherous hairpin turns and switchbacks that snake dangerously close to sheer cliffs. Before getting to the pass, one must travel 2000 m down the gravel road between Gondar and Axum before ascending again into the mountains.
8. Estrada da Corda, Cape Verde
This road, which rises from the town of Ribeira Grande, translates to “road of laces” in English — no doubt due to its narrowness and many winding turns. The vista point in this photo overlooks a 1000m (3000 ft) drop.
9. Van Zyl Pass, Namibia
Located in Marienfluss in remote northwest Namibia, this untarred section of D7303 is a favorite with intrepid offroaders. The road is rough and water is scarce, but you’ll see local Himba people, incredible scenery, and endless, endless landscapes.
10. Decumanus Maximus Road, Timgad, Algeria
This ancient Roman road is one of six that intersect at the center of Timgad, a town that dates back to 100 AD. (In Roman city planning, “decumanus maximus” is always an east-west street.) Timgad became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982. The town contains numerous ruins, including those of a Roman ampitheater, four thermae, a library, and a basilica.