Sports Utility Vehicles are the world’s most popular type of car amongst consumers, and 2018 saw 30 million of them sold across the world giving them 36.4% of the entire global market share.
Yet despite their popularity, a large number of SUVs are driven only in urban areas and used on school runs than off-road. Therefore, they rarely get the opportunity to live up to their rugged looks and four-wheel-drive systems.
On behalf of the travelling petrolhead, Smart Lemur has done that job and gone on a journey to explore the top six off-roading destinations in the world from Dakar in Senegal to Botswana in Africa which was infamously tackled by Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond on the popular BBC TV show, Top Gear.
1. The Sahara Desert - North Africa
The Sahara covers the entirety of North Africa, and its +40 degree celsius temperatures, unforgiving terrain, and stunning landscape make it one of the most challenging off-road destinations in the world. The 12,000 kilometre trip from Casablanca in Morocco to Cape Town in South Africa is one of the 'must do' adventures for 4x4 enthusiasts, and will push even the most experienced off-road drivers and their vehicles to the limit with its sand dunes, dust, and general obstructions that will inevitable arise when attempting to cross the largest desert in the world.
2. Baja - Mexico
Baja ranks amongst one of the top destinations for the petrolhead and the wellness seeker alike. On one hand, this northwestern Mexican peninsula is much-loved for its long, sandy beaches, rich wildlife, and generally laid-back, California-esque vibes. That’s no surprise really though, as it borders the Golden State. For automotive enthusiasts, it is better known for the Baja 1,000 - one of the fastest off-road endurance races on the motorsport calendar. Visitors to Baja do not have to be professional race drivers to enjoy the best that Baja has to offer because its sandy, off-road trails can also be explored by SUV, ATV, or even motorbike.
3. Makgadikgadi - Botswana
Botswana's Makgadikgadi region is home to one the world's largest salt flats, as well as some of the world's most challenging off-road conditions. The African nation's most popular trail takes drivers through its national park, where they will encounter some of the most spectacular and most-photographed landscape on earth. However, this visual feast comes as a reward for successfully overcoming +35C temperatures and a flat and dusty terrain, which is littered with suspension and potentially vehicle-destroying potholes.
4. Dakar - Senegal
Dakar is the name most synonymous with off-roading thanks to the Paris-Dakar Rally - a motorsport event, which used to run 10,000 kilometres from the French capital to Dakar in Senegal on Africa’s west coast. The event was characterised by dirt tracks, camel grass, sand dunes, as well as rocky terrain and temperatures of +40C. In 2008, the event was moved to South America due to safety concerns. However, off-road enthusiasts who are adventurous enough can still follow the original route across North Africa to its original destination should they wish to be responsible for their own route and follow in the footsteps of off-road legends.
5. The Rubicon Trail - California
The Rubicon Trail is 35km of spectacular rock formations and twisty off-road conditions that require plenty of forward-thinking, a steady hand, patience, and dose of natural ability behind the wheel. This internationally recognised trail is so iconic amongst off-roaders around the world, that U.S. car manufacturer, Jeep, bestowed one of its popular Wrangler models with the Rubicon name. Those willing to brave the conditions and put their vehicle and driving skills to the test will with finish their adventure with a stunningly beautiful drive through the Sierra Nevada mountain range, as well the satisfaction of defeating one of the most notoriously tough off-road drives in the world.
6. Moab - Utah
Utah's Moab region is recognized to be amongst the finest off-road locations in the United States thanks to its stunning natural desertscape, which is defined by its trails for drivers of all abilities. Furthermore, Moab’s expansive and seemingly endless sandstone-scattered scenery is not just a playground for off-roaders - outdoor enthusiasts can also enjoy some of the best conditions in the Western US for hiking, camping, and mountain biking.
To help you on your next off-road adventure, also check out Smart Lemur’s top-ranked navigation apps.