From driving fun on the Autobahn to admiring the breathtaking views of the Alps, touring awe-inspiring castles, and overnight stops at wineries, hitting the road is the most scenic way to “do” Europe. And the best part is, you can find all of those suggestions in just one country such as Germany! Driving allows you to go at your own pace, take detours and explore more than when you’re bound to strict timetables and schedules. Plus, if you plan your itinerary right, you can save money by staying outside big cities and popular destinations, possibly even camping along the way.
Here’s our look at nine countries with some of Europe’s best road trips – all worth checking out from behind the wheel on your next vacation!
Motorcyclists, sports car enthusiasts, and anyone craving an adrenaline rush with a mountain backdrop (emphasis on drop!) should consider driving Austria’s Grossglockner High Alpine Road. Spread across three provinces through Austria’s biggest national park, this 30-mile route with 36 turns is the highest surfaced mountain pass road in Austria. Top elevation of the road is more than 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) with even taller peaks in view much of the way.
Launched in 2015, the Grand Tour of Switzerland is a 1,000-mile self-driving route to the “must-see” sights and attractions across the country’s four language regions and along its most scenic roads. The route takes in five Alpine passes, 22 lakes, and 11 UNESCO World Heritage Sites while steering clear of motorways wherever possible in preference of country roads and rural byways.
The south of France is gorgeous, especially the Verdon Gorge Circuit in Provence. This 115-mile chateau-dotted route takes you through vineyards and charming villages and along the 2,300 feet (700 meter) deep Grand Canyon of Europe. There’s plenty for outdoor lovers to do in the Verdon Gorge area with some of France’s best hiking, kayaking and bird watching. The historic cities of Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, Cannes and Nice and the beautiful Cote d’Azur are all within a reasonable distance of the gorge.
Germany’s Autobanh is legendary for not having speed limits. In reality, only a few stretches of the country’s 8,000-mile highway system (similar to America’s interstate system) has no speed limit, where the rest of the route has an 80 mile-per-hour (130 kilometer) speed limit. And in the home of Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and Porsche the appeal is self evident to car fiends. The 185-mile A24 between Hamburg and Berlin is one of the best bits of road to floor it. Just keep in mind where there are speed limits, they are strictly enforced!
For an otherworldly driving experience, there’s Iceland’s eerily serene Route 1. The 830-mile national highway circles the island and offers drivers the chance to take in much of this arctic country’s stunning landscape and dramatic coastline. The entire road can be driven in less than 24-hours, but the idea is to slow down and enjoy the ride. Itineraries of more than two weeks can still leave visitors wishing they’d had more time. Road conditions in the winter are usually good but the odd snowstorm can shut off parts of Route 1 for a day or two.
The Emerald Isle’s Ring of Kerry does a 110-mile circle around the Iveragh peninsula. Friendly little fishing villages, epic ocean vistas, and plenty of rolling hills and bucolic scenery ensure there’s always eye candy splendor for the driver. Star Wars fans will love catching a glimpse of the Skellig islands (as seen in the most recent films as the hideaway home of Luke Skywalker) or even planning a boat ride out to them.
There’s a lot of lovely driving to be done in Italy. But perhaps the best drive to recommend is the Strada Statale 163 Amalfitana aka the Amalfi Coast Route. With its switchbacks and sea cliffs, this coastal road traces the Salerno Gulf and connects famously fabulous resort towns of Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi and more. End to end (Sorrento to Salerno), the Amalfi Coast Route is less than 50 miles but take your time! It’s so picturesque it can be treacherous. Make sure to keep your eyes on the road and not drifting across the Mediterranean Sea below you!
We’ve got two Norwegian routes to recommend: Trollstigen and the Atlanterhavsvegen.
Just over 60 miles, the Trollstigen (literally the “trolls road”) winds around some of Norway’s most rugged scenery with fjords, mountains, waterfalls and more to see. The highest point is about 2,815 feet (860 meters).
Part thing of beauty, part engineering marvel, the Atlanterhavsvegen (aka the Atlantic Road is a series of eight bridges spanning an archipelago of tiny islands and islets for a five-mile hopscotch across the Norwegian Sea. The short, curvy and unbelievably placed patch of highway is part of the longer County Road 64.
Crazy Transfagarasan highway zigzags along and through the Southern Carpathain mountains of the Transylvania region of Romania for slightly more than 70 miles with what seems like an endless number of hairpin curves. As the story goes, it was created in the early 1970s for dictator Nicolae Ceausescu as a way to escape the capital of Bucharest should the Soviets ever invade. Luckily for Nic, that never happened. Luckily for the rest of us, it’s an odd and beautiful ribbon of road as there ever was paved.
Have you ever been on a road trip across Europe? Where did you go? Any tips for aspiring travelers?