7 of Europe's finest road trips
COVID-19 turned the world upside down and threw everyone’s summer holiday plans into chaos. Would countries be open to tourists? Will planes be operating? Will every trip to a restaurant be taken behind a face mask?
But as ‘lockdown’ (hopefully) becomes a term of the past, nations have given the green light for holiday-makers to return and experience travel once more.
So if you’re considering putting on your out-of-office and heading off on a road trip, we’ve pulled together a list of some of the ‘must-do’ routes across Europe, covering all different types of holidays from amazing coastal locations to adrenaline-pumping routes with a difference. Happy planning!
Best for: Views
Iceland is well-known for its beautiful scenery. From geysers to glaciers, waterfalls to wildlife, travelling Route 1 – the country’s ring road circling the entire island – offers road trippers a bit of everything when it comes to spectacular views.
Many recommend seven days to travel the 1,300-plus kilometres, stopping to whale watch in Húsavík, walk across glaciers at Jökulsárlón lagoon and marvel at Europe’s most powerful waterfall (Dettifoss). If driving at night, you might even be lucky enough to see the Northern Lights – one of the world’s greatest natural sights.
Runner up: Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse, Austria
Best for: Speed Freaks
Germany’s Autobahn is legendary amongst petrolheads, mainly due to drivers largely being able to drive whatever speed they like.
Although the whole 13,000-kilometre system isn’t totally unrestricted (speed limits apply near urban areas and there are ‘dynamic speed limits’ in certain zones), there are stretches where drivers can put their foot down and travel at their own pace, with signs giving only recommended top speeds.
The Autobahn covers the entire country so which route you take depends on your itinerary. However, one suggestion is to start from the North in Cologne and travel through cities such as Dusseldorf and Hamburg to finish up in the cultural Mecca that never sleeps, Berlin.
Runner up: Autostrada, Poland
Best for: Coastal Lovers
Described as Scotland’s answer to route 66, the North Coast 500, or NC500, is a scenic road trip that offers breathtaking views to all those who love to be beside the sea.
Starting in Inverness, drivers can head along the west coast where they will be spoilt for choice for world-class beaches. Mellon Udrigle beach in Wester Ross is a firm favourite, offering visitors a stunning combination of white sand and views of the majestic Highland Mountains.
Carrying on north over high cliffs and past fairy tale castles, drivers will eventually reach the northernmost point of Britain, John O’Groats, making sure to visit the spectacular sea stacks rise from Duncansby Head before bending back south towards the Black Isle – one of the country’s best viewpoints for bottlenose dolphins.
Runner up: Adriatic highway, Croatia
Best for: Thrill-Seekers
For those seeking an adrenaline rush on their road trip, Norway is the place to be.
Tucked within a mountain range, Trollstigen – or Troll’s Ladder – is one of the country’s most famous stretches of road, connecting the small towns of Åndalsnes and Valldall.
While the drive isn’t a very long one (just six kilometres), it offers thrill-seeking visitors the chance to manoeuvre 11 hairpin bends, a 9% gradient and a height of 858 metres above sea level – all along a nerve-wracking one lane road.
Further north is Norway’s Atlantic Ocean Road, an in-car rollercoaster ride for all those who drive it.
The road winds above the Norwegian Sea, connecting the island of Averøy with the mainland via tiny islets and eight bridges, the most famous being Storseisundet Bridge which gives an illusion of vehicles dropping into the sea.
The weather in the area is unpredictable, meaning visibility can soon disappear, the temperature drop and strong winds pick up, causing waves to crash over the barricades and lash vehicles travelling the road.
Runner up: The Transfagarasan, Romania
Best for: Wine Lovers
France is still considered by many to be the world leader when it comes to fine wine, with an abundance of vineyards up and down the country.
For wine lovers, we recommend the Route des Grands Crus (“Route of the Great Wines”) through Burgundy – the oldest wine route in the country and home of pinot noirs, chardonnays and, of course, the Burgundy wine.
The 60-kilometre stretch takes drivers through the picturesque countryside and small wine villages rich in history, allowing for stop-offs (and stay-overs to avoid drink driving) at wineries between Dijon and Beaune to sample the region’s famous produce.
Vineyards cover the ground as far as the eye can see, enclosed by stone walls, wrought iron arches, rivers and hedges – creating a wonderfully scenic road trip.
Each wine-growing plot – known as a climat – has its own unique characteristics and can be completely different geographically and climatically. In 2015, these climats were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site to help preserve them for future generations.
Start north in the Côte de Nuits, an area known for its red wines, then travell south to sample vintages along into the white wine stretch, the Côte de Beaune. Don’t forget to stop off at the historical sights along the way, such as the Palace of the Dukes and Hôtel Dieu.
Runner up: La Rioja to Ribera del Duero, Spain
Best for: Foodies
It’s not much of a challenge to eat your way across Italy. Wherever you go lies a culinary adventure filled with pizza, pasta and prosciutto.
Iif we had to pick just one route, the Sorrentine Peninsula and Amalfi Coast would be our top choice – an area well-known for its beauty as well as its food.
Start in Naples with a few slices of pizza Napoletana, before heading south hugging the coastline. Stop off in Sorrento for Gnocchi alla Sorrentina and park up in Nerano for Spaghetti alla Narano – both simple, yet delicious Italian dishes.
Full of fishing villages, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a restaurant in the region that doesn’t offer seafood. Try the famous Spaghetti Alle Vongole – pasta with clams – or if you’re craving salty anchovies, head to Cetara for the tastiest.
The sun drenched Mediterranean climate means that lemons in the Campania region are said to be some of the juiciest in the world, so don’t forget to try Delizia al Limone in Positano, a traditional dessert made of lemons, sponge and custard. If that hasn’t satisfied your sweet tooth, try Amalfi for the best gelato in Italy.
Runner up: Barcelona to San Sebastian, Spain
Best for: Families
The family has always been a key focus of Greek culture, making Greece a perfect place to head with your children for a road trip.
We suggest driving from Athens to Thessaloniki, a 500-kilometre journey filled with beautiful views and amazing history to keep the kids entertained along the way.
In Athens, explore sites like the Acropolis to teach them about Greek mythology and watch their imagination run wild with stories of gods, goddesses and strange beasts.
Head to the Pelopponnese Peninsula to discover the place where the first Olympic Games took place and the ancient theatre of Epidavros, followed by a day at one of the region’s beautiful beaches.
Thessaloniki is a modern metropolis yet is still rich in history. Aside from its archaeological sites, kids will love the dinosaur park as well as the area’s shallow, sandy beaches.
Runner up: Porto to the Algarve, Portugal