Europe has stunning road trips for every type of traveler. Drive through beautiful alpine scenery, alongside dramatic coastlines, stay in pretty towns and walk on cobbled streets, visit grand palaces, sample delicious foods from paella to pizza, see abandoned Soviet Era buildings, and explore historic monasteries. Find the 25 best European road trips to take at least once from the tulip spring drives in Holland to Northern Lights winter trip in Lapland!
While road trips are a quintessentially American concept, with Route 66 being the Mother Road that started it all, Europe also has its share of stunning road trips. Due to its immense size and varied landscapes, European road trips come in many different flavors: there’s the winter road trip in Norway for snow lovers, cultural trip through Renaissance era in Italy, road trip through the dramatic landscapes of Ireland and Scotland, and the unique trip through Soviet Era buildings in the Balkans.
Note: While this post is a collaboration with fellow travel bloggers, we have tried to verify the accuracy of recommended activities and places. If you find any discrepancies, please let us know so we can dig deeper! Thanks.
While train travel and backpacking on public buses are some of the most popular ways to travel for the college-aged crowd; road tripping through Europe is so much more convenient for couples and families. You have the freedom to stop and savor the attractions along the way and determine your own pace, while you experience the elegant countryside. To make this post easier to navigate, we have broken down the best road trips in Europe by region. Here are favorite European road trips as recommended by travel bloggers:
Western Europe Road Trips
For the purpose of this post, we consider Western Europe to include France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Austria. These countries have some of the most incredible road trips that pass through wineries, charming old towns, and stunning countryside. Driving in these parts is very easy; roads like the Autobahn in Germany are a delight to drive. The best season for most of these road trips is from spring to fall. Explore some of the best Western European road trips below:
Road Trip from Munich to the Black Forest, Germany
By Yulia of That’s What She Had
I moved to Germany five months ago and have been exploring the country every chance I got: from cool and hip Berlin to traditional Munich to fairytale like Rothenburg ob Der Tauber. My most memorable trip so far has been to Schwarzwald — Black Forest. Your road trip from the heart of Bavaria to the Black Forest can look like this: Munich — Stuttgart — Baden-Baden — Baiersbronn.
Start in Munich, the capital of Bavaria, famous for beautiful architecture, a multitude of museums, and some amazing locally-brewed beer. By the way, if you are planning this trip in September, you can visit Oktoberfest, the largest beer festival in the world that attracts over six million people annually. Be sure to read good Oktoberfest tips for first-time visitors to make the most of your trip.
From Munich proceed to Stuttgart. Stuttgart is known to be a manufacturing hub. Both Mercedes-Benz and Porsche have headquarters here. If you are into cars, visiting their museums will be the highlight of your trip. If you are not, Stuttgart has a lot more to offer: from visiting Ludwigsburg Residential Palace to wondering around Stuttgart City Library to exploring the outdoors in one of the many public parks, you will have a great time.
From Stuttgart drive to Baden-Baden, located near the border with France and known as Germany’s spa town. Baden-Baden, with its many thermal baths, is a perfect place to relax and unwind. It used to be a popular resort for the European elite, visited by the likes of Queen Victoria, Victor Hugo, Marlene Dietrich, and Ivan Turgenev. Today it features an array of excellent restaurants, a beautiful promenade by the Oos River, and a famous concert hall.
Finally, head for Baiersbronn, a small town in the Black Forest with a population of 16,000 people and — believe it or not — 3 Michelin-starred restaurants. Baiersbronn is a perfect base for exploring the Black Forest. If you are visiting in winter, go skiing and tobogganing. In summer, there are multiple hiking trails open for visitors. And once you return to the city after a day of hiking or skiing, a dinner at a critically-acclimated restaurant will be your reward.
Epic Austrian Road Trip
By Cazzy of Dream Big, Travel Far
For a road trip with epic views, diverse scenery, and high-quality cultural attractions, Austria is the perfect fit. You might be tempted to take the fast, quick toll roads in Austria but the non-toll roads are often more scenic plus free!
Every Austrian adventure should start in the snowy city of Innsbruck, which offers an abundance of sights to see. Take some time and drive around to smaller towns in close proximity to Innsbruck for amazing snowy mountain views, and tantalizing ski resorts.
From Innsbruck, drive towards picture-perfect Hallstatt with its beautiful lake views, delicious restaurants, and fantastic shops. Spend a day or two enjoying the city’s charms. Next, head on the road towards beautiful Salzburg, made famous by the iconic “The Sound of Music”. It’s filled with wonderful museums and traditional Austrian restaurants.
Next, it’s time to visit Linz which brings with it new landscapes and new adventures. Be sure to visit the Mauthausen Concentration Camp, located about 20 km from Linz, to see one of the most well-preserved Nazi concentration camps in Europe. The walk through the Memorial is a gut-wrenching but intense, educational experience into the horrifying history of the Second World War.
After Linz, it’s time to take the open roads to the beautiful capital of Austria, Vienna. Vienna is bursting with amazing things to do but something unique that you should try in the city is a private Viennese Waltz lesson- it’s where the dance originated after all!
This route in Austria will take you through the great highlights, but if you’d like to make it longer, you could easily add in other stops such as Graz. Either way, an Austrian road trip is scenic, easy and the fuel is cheap. What more could you want?!
Loire Valley Road Trip, France
By Eloise of My Favorite Escapes
The Loire Valley is a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage-listed region close to Paris. Attracted by the favourable climate (compared to Paris!) and the proximity from Paris, the French nobility chose it to build their castles.
A road trip through the Loire Valley is a journey through time and space. You can feel the history in the architecture, the antique furniture, the art galleries, and the gossips. Or you can imagine fairy tales wandering around the donjons and magnificent gardens. The hardest part will be to choose which French Castles to stop at among the few hundreds in the region. This Loire Valley Map will help. The most famous ones are Chambord, Chenonceau, Azay-le-Rideau, Ussé, and Villandry, but that’s just to name a few.
But this European road trip is not only about castles. Visiting the Loire Valley also takes you to famous historical towns such as Nantes, Tours, Saumur, Orléans, Chinon, Blois, Angers, and Amboise. They make great overnight stops. Each has different charms and stories to tell, with one thing in common. They all offer what France does best: beautiful buildings, delicious local food, and wines. The Loire Valley is a world’s famous areas of wine production that include the reputed Muscadet, Sancerre, and Pouilly-Fumé.
The more time you spend in the region; the more gems you discover. Don’t believe the travel time shown by your GPS. You will take longer to go from one place to another as you will want to stop to admire the breathtaking rural or river vistas or wander in the small villages. We only had a couple of days and drove from Amboise to Saumur. We wished we had more time as we had to skip many beautiful spots and couldn’t go all the way to Nantes.
Grossglockner High Alpine Road, Austria
By Helene of Masala Herb
The Grossglockner High Alpine Road in Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria is one of the most breathtaking road trips to experience in Western Europe. This road is the highest surfaced mountain pass in Austria. It connects the Austrian provinces of Salzburg and Carinthia. The road is normally open from May to October. From spring to autumn, the road takes you up the Alps and across the Alpine Divide through Hohe Tauern Natural Reserve, which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will be driving through a series of breathtaking hairpin curves as you drive up Hochtor Pass. Nature in its purest form awaits you at every turn and a real alpine experience within the local surrounding is in the offering.
The ultimate aim of the road is to reach the Grossglockner, Austria’s highest mountain at 3798 meters. The overlook at this point has panoramic views over the vast Pasterze Glacier. You will be traveling in Franz Joseph I – the late Austro-Hungarian Emperor’s footsteps – the closer you get to the highest mountain in Austria. The Visitor Center here has different shows including one about the environmental damages to the area and another about the evolution of cars in the last century to just name a view. You can go down the Pasterze Glacier as well or go up to the Swarovski viewpoint to look out for wild ibex and marmots in the area. You will also discover various stops along the road trip with thoughtful exhibitions that teach you about the flora and fauna of the area.
The toll road starts in the Bruck region of Salzburg, takes about 1 1/2 hours, and leads to the quaint village of Heiligenblut in the region of Carinthia. The road was built right after World War I when Austria was impoverished and stripped of lands. Cars back then were a novelty and the government took a big risk in constructing the high altitude road. Because this was an old trade route, the toll road was a success. Today the Hohe Tauern road is considered one of the most environment-friendly toll roads. The toll funds are used for the conservation of the area and its diverse variety of plants and animal species.
Zurich to Interlaken, Switzerland
By Arzo by Arzo Travels
The very best place to road trip in Europe? The answer has to be Switzerland. Switzerland is not only one of the most beautiful countries in the world, but also the easiest to drive around. Driving in Switzerland is a treat for the eyes. Eye candy at its best.
If you have two to three weeks, then you can do the “Grand Tour” of Switzerland – an epic route through the most scenic places, drives, and attractions. If you have less time, I recommend the beautiful road trip from Zurich to Interlaken.
While driving from Zurich to Interlaken via Lake Lungern, you will drive past Lake Zug and Lake Lucerne. The distance is just about 120 km but it will take at least a day or two with all the interesting stops on the road. Ideally, book an overnight stay in Zug or Lucerne before heading to Interlaken.
In Interlaken, stay for a few days – there is so much to do – before taking your car and driving along Lake Thun, located south of Interlaken. On this route, make sure to visit the St. Beatus Caves, explore Thun, visit cute villages like Merlingen, and visit the Oberhofen Castle before heading back to Interlaken or Zurich.
In the summer months, I suggest driving a few mountain passes near Interlaken, including the stunning Sustenpass. The pass is closed from November to June due to weather conditions but when it opens in summer, it has great views of the Stein Glacier.
To thoroughly explore the country, I suggest spending at least 5 to 7 days in Switzerland (ideally way, way more) and planning enough time for stops along the way. “The journey is the reward” has never been truer than in the case of road tripping Switzerland.
Tulip Fields Road Trip, The Netherlands
By Manon of Visiting the Dutch Countryside
The Netherlands is a wonderful country to visit, no matter what time of the year it is. However, the country truly comes to life when it’s spring. From terraces filled with people who are enjoying the first rays of sunshine to tulip fields. A lot of tulip fields. Tulip fields are only blooming in The Netherlands during spring, from mid-April until the beginning of the first week of May. That’s why I recommend you to take a spring road trip through The Netherlands. Remember, don’t walk into the tulip fields. Here’s the recommended route for this trip: Amsterdam – Flevoland (Lelystad, Dronten, Emmeloord) – Hoorn – Schagen – Anna Paulowna
From Amsterdam, we continue our way to the province of Flevoland. In and around the towns of Lelystad, Dronten, and Emmeloord you can find tons of tulip fields. But not only tulip fields, there even is a tulip festival called Profytodsd Tulpenfestival near Emmeloord. Here they created a tulip route so you can walk, cycle and ride along the tulip fields in Flevoland. I would recommend you to stay at least one full day in Flevoland.
After Flevoland, you’d have to drive via the Houtribdijk to the area that we call West Friesland. In this area, I recommend you to first visit the medieval city of Hoorn, before continuing to the area of cities such as Schagen and Anna Paulowna. This area is called De Kop van Noord- Holland and has the biggest number of tulip fields in The Netherlands, but not many tourists. Near Schagen it’s best if you travel to the areas of Schagerbrug and Petten. Around Anna Paulowna it’s great to go around Breezand and ‘t Zand.
So while enjoying your spring road trip through The Netherlands, you’ll discover many places without tourists as well as an incredible amount of tulip sightings.
By Arzo of Arzo Travels
When it comes to road tripping Germany, Bavaria is the best place to do so. The most southern state is also geographically the biggest state in Germany. And due to its location, there are quite a few amazing routes you can take to have a wonderful road trip.
The most famous road trip might be the “Romantic Road” – it goes over a length of 413 km and starts in the northern part of Bavaria in Würzburg, passes through the most beautiful German town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber and other cute and medieval towns before heading to one of the main attractions of the Romantic Road, Schloss Neuschwanstein in the southern part of Bavaria. This is the famous castle that inspired Disney’s Cinderella Castle and is indeed well worth a visit. I would plan in 4-5 days minimum for this road trip.
While there are many other beautiful towns along the Romantic Road, there is another road trip in Bavaria which I enjoyed even more – the “Alpenstrasse“. Driving along the Alpenstrasse just next to the Austrian border is the better option for outdoor and nature lovers, as the scenery is amazing. While you will not pass many medieval towns, you will pass rivers, drive over mountains, through cute little villages and along beautiful lakes including the Königssee Lake. For this road trip, I would plan between 4-7 days.
One of the best things about road tripping in Germany – apart from highways that do not have any speed limit – is that there is no toll to pay as of Spring 2019. So, while you have to pay in most other countries you never have to worry about avoiding certain highways or streets to avoid tolls. That is as great as it sounds though even with a toll both road trips would be worth it.
Southern European Road Trips
Southern Europe, along with Western Europe, are exceedingly popular with road-trippers and you will find some of the most popular road trips in these two regions. Southern European road trips pass through Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, and Cyprus. These road trips feature ancient cultures, delicious food from paella to pizza, coastal views, and sunshine. We would take any of these road trips in a heartbeat – they are the essential Eurotrip routes!
Barcelona and Costa Brava, Spain
By Justine of Latitude 41
Along Spain’s eastern coast is the beautiful region of Catalonia. Its capital, big-city Barcelona, is to the north, along the Mediterranean coast is the Costa Brava region (“The rough coast”), and slightly inland is Girona. This road trip would perfect vacation for a warm-weather holiday because it blends the metropolitan urban city of Barcelona with relaxing beaches.
Barcelona is an ideal take-off destination: it’s a mecca for modernist architecture by Antoni Gaudí, whose creations like the peculiar Basilica of the Sagrada Familia and the eccentric Park Guell are colorful creations full of symbolism. Barcelona is also a center of world-class Mediterranean gastronomy, ancient Roman ruins, and ongoing concerts, events, and festivals.
From there, you can explore further north along the towns of the Costa Brava. Tossa de Mar is a coastal town that blends medieval charm with the craggy coast. Its medieval walls decorate the Platja Gran beach, and behind those mysterious walls is the quiet, cobblestoned town of the Villa Vella, a place to explore by foot and get sweeping views of the sea.
Girona is another culturally rich town nearby. It’s become famous recently because it’s a filming location for the “Game of Thrones”. Its behemoth Gothic church, medieval quarters, and the unique bridge of Pont Pedra overlooking the Onya River make it an interesting city and is less chaotic than Barcelona.
Lastly, further north is Cadaqués, a whitewashed village with small and intimate bays, azure blue doors, and narrow winding streets. It’s no wonder that Dalí liked to spend his summers in Cadaques. Unfortunately, the only way to arrive there is via a swirling road which you’ll have to stomach, but the destination is worth it!
Road Trip in the Dolomites, Italy
By Michela of Rocky Travel
If you are planning a trip to Venice in summer, keep aside a few days for the beautiful Dolomite region. See the highlights of this popular Italian city in a few days. Explore the beautiful St. Mark’s Basilica and people watch in the St. Mark’s Square. Take a Gondola ride on the Grand Canal and see the famous Ponte di Rialto bridge. Eat the famous pizza in Venice’s popular restaurants. After you have seen the city, explore more of Venice’s scenic surroundings. One of the highlights that you shouldn’t miss out is a day road trip to the Eastern Dolomites.
Even though the iconic destination of Cortina is the main attraction in the region, there are many smaller towns in the Dolomites worth adding to your itinerary. If you feel confident in self-driving across the alpine landscape, this is a great road trip for nature lovers.
The first trip leg is smooth on the motorway from Venice through Belluno, where you can stop for a short visit to this beautiful small town in the mountains. You will then proceed through the winding mountain roads through smaller places like Pieve, San Vito di Cadore to get to Cortina.
From there take the scenic route to Passo Giau, about 25 minutes drive where you can stop for a stunning view of the majestic Mount Nuvolau peak. You can also go on the Croda da Lago circular hike that you can easily do in less than 4 hours. It takes you through a lunar mountain landscape, green valleys and is an easy walk with breathtaking views of the Eastern Dolomites and Cortina in the background.
East Italian Road Trip from Bologna to Bari
By Gemma of Highlands 2 Hammocks
One of the best ways to explore Italy is by car. A road trip down Italy’s east coast from Bologna to Bari, will give you an insight into authentic Italy, away from all the main tourist destinations. This trip will allow you to see a variety of small Italian towns, plenty of beaches and some countryside and mountains too. This trip could be completed in a week, however to make some more stops along the way and spend more time at each location, we would recommend two weeks.
Start your road trip in Italy’s seventh biggest city by population, Bologna. Did you know Bologna has a leaning tower that is competing with the Leaning Tower of Pisa? There are two towers standing together in Bologna and the shorter one is leaning more dramatically than the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The straighter tower is available for climbing to get a beautiful view of the city.
From Bologna, head south and follow the sea until you reach the well-known beach city of Rimini. This beautiful seaside resort is popular for its 15 km long stretch of sandy beach and the choice of hotels, bars and restaurants. Rimini is perfect for relaxing, beach bumming and swimming in the sea.
Travel further south down the coast, through the mountainous landscapes and you will reach Foggia. Here you will experience the truly authentic side of Italy. Spend the day exploring Cattedrale di Foggia and Museo del Territorio to learn about the history Foggia. Finish of your day of exploring at La Fassina, a cheap pizzeria that will set you back €3 for a really tasty pizza.
Complete your road trip in Bari, the central hub for shipping around the South East of Italy. The old town of Bari is nestled around the harbour and is very distinct in comparison to the new town. You will find Bari Castle in the Old Town, where you can walk around the courtyard and learn about the history, all whilst appreciating the beautiful architecture. Watch the sunset from Bari beach to round of your epic East Coast Italian Road trip.
Southern Spain Road Trip
By Emily of Wander Lush
Southern Spain is one of my favorite places in Europe to hit the wide open road. A couple of years ago, I did a huge road trip from Barcelona to Tarifa and in the process, discovered that Andalucía is by far my favorite part of the country.
Renting a car in Spain is inexpensive, and provided you plan ahead and avoid toll roads, driving can be a very affordable way to get around. Manual cars are more common so I highly recommend making a reservation in advance if, like me, you only drive auto. Well-maintained highways make driving in Spain safe and easy. Focusing your itinerary on the south means you can avoid driving in the big cities, Madrid and Barcelona—which can be overwhelming to say the least.
Having your own two wheels gives you the opportunity to visit smaller towns and more remote corners of Southern Spain, including the Sierra Nevada (inland from Malaga) and its gorgeous ‘White Villages’—a string of communities perched on a mountainside and connected by steep, narrow roads.
Other highlights of a Southern Spain road trip itinerary include the great cities of Cordoba, Seville, and Granada. The Alhambra in Granada and the Mezquita in Cordoba are both iconic buildings and awe-inspiring to see in person. Malaga and the coast are easily accessible by car, giving road trippers easy access to some of Spain’s best beaches. And if you feel the need, southern Portugal and the Algarve are only a short drive away.
Naples to Palermo, Italy
By Talek of Travels with Talek
Italy has the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites among all countries in the world. A Southern Italy road trip is a wonderful opportunity to explore an ancient culture that has endured for thousands of years. This 1,300-mile journey from Naples to Palermo, the capital of Sicily, is perfectly crafted to hit the best historical and cultural sites that have gone into making southern Italy the cultural hub that it is today.
Naples, the third largest city in Italy and home of the pizza, is the first stop of this epic road trip. You must do two things in Naples – sample the famous pizza and visit the ‘Secret Museum / Cabinet’ section of the National Archaeological Museum where you can see the historical erotic art collection discovered in Pompeii and Herculaneum, that was previously banned for centuries.
Continue to otherworldly Matera, the underground UNESCO World Heritage site, where Mel Gibson’s Passion of Christ, The Omen and Ben Hur were filmed. After seeing matera, continue to Villa San Giovanni where you will take the ferry to Sicily. The ferry takes 30 minutes, costs about €35 and takes you to Taormina with its imposing Greek Amphitheater built in the 3rd century BCE. Continuing south from Taormina you will find Siracusa (Syracuse) and the historic city of Ortygia. Wandering the narrow alleyways and hidden trattorias of this island town is like stepping back in history.
At this point on the southern Italy road trip, all signs are pointing to Agrigento and the Villa Romana del Casale, both must visit UNESCO World Heritage sites. After exploring the area, head north to the nearby Monreale and the capital city, Palermo. The Cathedral of Monreale, built in Normal style of architecture, is one of the highlights of the road trip through Southern Italy.
Last stop of the trip is Palermo. Despite the many cultural attractions that Palermo offers like the Palermo Cathedral and the Palatine Chapel, its streets and the food markets are the real treat. Ballaro Food Market is one of the best markets to sample local cuisine and enjoy local life. Here you will find everything from produce to pastries and is the amazing end to this wonderful road trip.
Northern Italy Culinary Road Trip
By Rebecca of Maybe This Way
After sampling an Apérol Spritz in Venice, you might be tempted to continue discovering the wonderful food and drinks of Italy! If you are, then a road trip around Northern Italy makes for a great foodie road trip, while visiting some cities you might have otherwise skipped.
For the meat lovers, you must stop in San Daniele for the prosciutto, where the city has the perfect setting for curing the ham. It has to do with the air and the surrounding mountains. It might not be a glamorous stop, but you must have prosciutto crudo the way it was intended.
You can’t go to Italy without having some grappa and there is no better place than in Bassano Del Grappa. The two main grappa brands, Nardini and Poli, are based in this town and can be spotted across from each other.
The cheese lover will appreciate the mountains of Asiago, which is home to a hard cheese that manages to be mild and full-flavoured all at once. Asiago cheese has been made in these foothills for thousands of years from unpasteurized cow’s milk.
Finally, the Via Di Prosecco can’t be missed! Make sure to get a designated driver because you’re going to want to stop along the road often to try glasses of prosecco from the exact region where prosecco is from. Surrounded by the vineyards, it makes for a wonderful addition to a foodie road trip.
These might not be well-known areas of Italy but they are definitely worth a visit – your stomach will be very happy with you!
Portugal Road Trip
By Anisa of Two Traveling Texans
Portugal is a hot destination these days and the best way to see the country is by driving. We had a great time on our eight-day Portugal road trip. The roads were similar to what I am used to in the US with a few more roundabouts. There is so much to see and it is not all in the major cities so having a car gives you a lot more flexibility.
We started and ended our road trip in Lisbon and made stops in Sintra, Obidos, Nazare, Coimbra, Porto, Fatima, and the Algarve. Some of the highlights of our Portugal vacation were sightseeing in Lisbon, visiting the palaces in Sintra, doing the city wall walk in Obidos, port tasting in Porto, and taking a boat ride to see the Algarve caves. We enjoyed the delicious food (especially the natas which are a Portuguese egg custard) and the wine. It was a trip with many memories that will last a lifetime.
It was a lot to squeeze into eight days but we still didn’t get to see everything we wanted to. Looking back I would have liked to do the same trip over 10 days and also spend some time in the Douro Valley and maybe another small Portuguese village like Evora. If I could have extended the trip even longer, then I would have liked to visit some of the towns in the Algarve like Tavira, Olhao, and Portimao. I guess it’s a great reason for me to go back to Portugal.
Italian Lake District Road Trip
By Or of My Path in the World
Italy is always a good choice for a road trip destination and it doesn’t get any better than the Italian lake district. In 1-2 weeks you can experience the best of the 3 biggest lakes in Italy: Lake Garda, Lake Como, and Lake Maggiore.
Since Lake Garda is the largest one, you should spend at least 3-4 days exploring it. From relaxing on the beach to strolling through colorful towns to engaging with outdoor activities, Lake Garda has something to offer to any type of traveler. Some of my favorite places to visit on this lake were Sirmione, Malcesine, and Lake Tenno.
Continuing your road trip, head to Lake Como for 1-2 days. Towns like Varenna and Bellagio are the lake’s crowning glory, and both of them are definitely worth the visit. The third lake, Lake Maggiore, is the one that often gets overlooked. Personally, I think it deserves at least 1-2 days on your itinerary, and the main sights you should visit are the Borromean Islands. This group of islands located near the town of Stresa is owned by the Borromeo family since the 16th century. You can get to the islands by ferry from Stresa, and you’ll need a full day to visit all of them.
If you have some extra time, visit Lake Orta which is less than 30 km away from Lake Maggiore. On a final note, I highly recommend going on this road trip slightly offseason, so you can enjoy the weather, and the area won’t be overcrowded with tourists.
Road Trips in the British Isles
On a road trip through the British isles, you will find exotic scenery, dramatic landscapes, rolling hills of the Emerald Isle, ghostly castles draped by fog, and odd things like the largest bookshops, thousand and one literary references, and good old tea! Trips in the British Isles are quite different from those on the continent: you will be driving on the left hand side! Here are the best road trips in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England:
The North Coast 500, Scotland
By Kate of Love From Scotland
With beautiful coastal scenery, Caribbean blue seas, dramatic driving roads, castles and distilleries along the way, Scotland’s North Coast 500 route takes in some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in the world.
Start your road trip in Inverness by visiting the Culloden Battlefield, site of the last Jacobite battle, before walking along the River Ness. exploring the Caledonian Canal and finding the famous Leakey’s Bookshop. Make sure you try the organic lager and pizza at the Black Isle Brewery for dinner.
Then it is time to head north on your road trip. The first part of your drive will take you north from Inverness along Scotland’s east coast to John O’Groats. Stop at Chanonry Point to spot dolphins feeding in the bay, take a tour of the famous Glenmorangie distillery, descend the Whaligoe Steps, and visit the amazing Dunrobin Castle along the way.
When you reach Scotland’s far north coast, don’t miss photographing the incredible Duncansby Head Stacks, exploring the huge Smoo Cave, trying the famous hot chocolate at Cocoa Mountain and hiking to the beautiful and remote Sandwood Bay Beach.
Heading south, the North Coast 500 route now takes you through the otherworldly landscapes of Assynt, past incredible rock formations and strangely shaped mountains, the ruined Ardvreck Castle and a coastline with white sand beaches with turquoise blue seas – don’t miss walking on Clachtoll and Achmelvich beaches.
Finally, your drive will take you through the monstrous Torridon mountains, past fiord-like lochs to the Applecross Peninsula where you end your trip around the North Coast 500 driving the famous Bealach na Bà pass. Scotland’s North Coast 500 will take you on an incredible road trip around the far north of Scotland. It’s a road trip you won’t ever forget.
Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland
By Teresa of Brogan Abroad
If you enjoy truly spectacular road trips combined with some of the best hospitality you will ever find, then look no further than Ireland. It keeps getting voted as one of the friendliest countries in the world, where the craic (the art of enjoyable conversation, fun and entertainment) lives alongside natural wonders and mystical legends.
And Ireland is where the longest defined coastal touring route in the world is – the Wild Atlantic Way. This incredible road trip stretches out 2,500km, starting (or finishing depending on which direction you are travelling) in Malin Head in Donegal, and finishing in Kinsale in West Cork, in the south of the country. The route takes you through some of the world’s most dramatic landscapes, with rugged coastlines, blue flag beaches and plenty of remote off-shore islands where time has stood still.
There is a plethora of interesting points to explore along the Wild Atlantic Way. Highlights include Slieve League, the highest sea cliffs in Ireland and some of the highest in Europe, and the Skelligs, a small group of rocky islands jutting out from the sea and well known for being a Star Wars film location and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The route also goes through the famous Cliffs of Moher, Ireland’s iconic cliffs and most visited natural attraction.
The Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland
By Allan of Live Less Ordinary
With just 29 km of coastline, Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast may not be the longest of road trip itineraries in Europe. But there is no doubt that it packs a lot into such a short distance, as the entire length has been designated by UNESCO as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). However it has been one of the main draws to the region since before this designation, with visitors travelling from all over the world to see the Giant’s Causeway, famous for its iconic interlocking basalt columns (around 40,000 of them) that inspired legends of Giant’s battling between the Irish and Scottish coastlines.
These days, however, the focus has shifted along the coastline, to the many filming locations of scenes from the Game of Thrones franchise, including the Downhill Strand (Dragonstone), Port of Ballintoy (Iron Islands), the Dark Hedges (Kingsroad) and Cushendun Caves (Birthplace of Shadow Baby), among others. And they will be signposted along the way. Otherwise the scenery and landscapes along this coastal road, such as the cliff ruins of ‘Dunluce Castle’, seem as though they came straight from the fantasy franchise.
So any visit to Northern Ireland, or Ireland even, should include the Causeway Coast. And while big bus tours follow similar routes from the main travel hubs of Belfast, it is infinitely better travelling on a road trip with an independent itinerary, and maybe add in an overnight stay near the famous Bushmills Distillery. It is also relatively easy to reach by car from the airports and the city of Belfast, where roughly an hour should reach a decent starting point along the coast of Cushendall.
Edinburgh to Isle of Skye, Scotland
By Vanessa of Wanderlust Crew
One of the most spectacular road trips in Europe is the road from Edinburgh, Scotland to the Isle of Skye. This road trip requires some good driving skills and the ability to dodge sheep and highland cows, and pull over for oncoming cars on tiny one lane roads, but the scenery you will be rewarded with is worth the effort!
One of the perks of this highland road trip is that you have something amazing at either end of your journey. If you begin in Edinburgh you can tour the castle, take a Harry Potter tour, and enjoy the ancient city. Once you arrive on the Isle of Skye, you’ll be greeted with stunning landscapes, amazing hikes, and beautiful beaches.
But the road to get there is what makes your visit truly worth it. To begin your drive, you’ll head up the A9 into the highlands of Scotland, passing ancient bridges, quaint houses, and historic castles. Be sure to stop at Blair Castle about an hour and a half into your drive where you can tour the old castle, explore the beautiful gardens, and relax with some afternoon tea before continuing your voyage.
The next stop on your Scottish road trip will be the town of Inverness where you can wander Culloden battlefield, explore the standing stones at Clava Cairns, and visit the Loch Ness Monster and Urquhart Castle at Loch Ness.
As you continue on your way to the Isle of Skye, be prepared to be blown away by the beauty of the highlands. The moody skies and sweeping landscape of the mountains will take your breath away.
Once you arrive in the Isle of Skye there is a wealth of Scottish culture to keep you busy, as well as spectacular hikes, educational museums, and quaint and quirky restaurants. Be sure to visit the Fairy pools, Quairaing, Museum of Highland life, Kilt Rock, Neece Point, and Eilean Donan Castle. Read here to find out more about this Scotland Itinerary.
Wales Coastal Road Trip
By Danielle of Live in 10 Countries
The freedom of the open road often makes up think of Route 66 and long cross country roads, but how about zigzagging your way around the coastline of an entire country. A three day Wales tour is all you need to see coastal sights, fabulous countryside, two national parks and much more!
So, fuel up the car and make a start! I recommend making for the north east corner first and from there it’s all good along the North Wales Expressway which will take you to the western coastline – nice and fast. In fact, the whole route has good roads and you don’t need to stray into any country lanes. If you’re in a motorhome or huge vehicle, you shouldn’t have any problems.
Three days might seem short, but it’s actually a good balance of stops and fair driving distances. By the end of the final day, you should be near Cardiff or somewhere along the base of Wales, so you have a good run back to London if you’re staying in the capital.
There are so many places you can stop, but my recommendation would be to indulge in a few gorgeous castles in the north and if you’re a walker, definitely make time for Snowdonia‘s incredible trails. As you turn south and start to drive down the coastline, it’s beach time – try both Cardigan Bay and St Davids. The last day puts you near cities and unusual attractions, so for example you might fancy a pit stop at Dylan Thomas’ tranquil boathouse.
Northern Europe Road Trips
Northern Europe promises beautiful fjords, stunning waterfalls, dramatic landscapes, and never ending sunshine in summer and a winter wonderland of skiing, igloos, husky sledding, Christmas cheer, and Northern Lights in the winter! Here we cover road trips through Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. Northern European countries also happen to be some of the most expensive countries in the world – so budget your trip carefully!
Lapland Road Trip, Finland
By Sara of Our Kind of Crazy
One of our favorite road trips in Europe was Lapland, Finland. We went in March which turned out to be the perfect time for a dreamy winter vacation. While the Northern Lights were the biggest draw for us, we also packed a lot more into our two-week itinerary.
We started our road trip in Rovaniemi and headed straight to Kemi, where we stayed in an ice castle for a day and got to eat in their ice restaurant. That was definitely an experience we won’t forget. For the rest of our stay in Kemi, we stayed in a beautiful Seaside Glass Villa overlooking the Baltic Sea. Of course, you can’t miss riding on the Icebreaker Sampo, which is a huge ship that was used to break the ice so other ships could get through the frozen Baltic Sea.
After our time in Kemi, we headed north to Saariselka, which quickly became one of my favorite places. We stayed in glass igloos and had the perfect view of the Auroras from the warmth of our cozy cabin. We went on several awesome winter excursions including ice fishing, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, and a husky safari.
Further up north, we made a final stop in Ivalo, where we went on some great “Northern Light chases”. We had the most wonderful time watching the Auroras each night and got really lucky with our timing. We finally understood what it meant to “chase” the Northern Lights because sometimes you really have to drive around somewhere to catch them. We recommend planning to stay as long as possible to catch this awesome natural spectacle. The road trip in Lapland, Finland is one of our most memorable trips yet.
Iceland’s Golden Circle and South Coast Road Trip
By Amanda of Fly Stay Luxe
One of the most spectacular road trips in Europe is Iceland’s Golden Circle and Southern Ring Road. Not to be confused, with the full ring road, which encircles the entire island, the Golden Circle is a road trip easily experienced in a day from the capital city, Reykjavik. If you have at least a week to spend in Iceland, you can also add the southern section of the Ring Road for the perfect 7 day Iceland itinerary along one of Europe’s most iconic and scenic routes.
Start your trip in Reykjavik, enjoying the vibrant nightlife, cool cafes and stock up on supplies, before you embark on the isolated journey ahead. The food scene in Reykjavik is unbelievably good. Svarta Kaffið, Kol Restaurant and Gló are some of my favourite picks. If you’re a coffee lover, check out Reykjavik Roasters. Visit some of the city’s best attractions, including Hallgrimskirkja, the Sun Voyager on Reykjavik harbour, and for a slightly more unique experience, check out the quirky exhibit at the Icelandic Phallological Museum.
Spend the next two days exploring the Golden Circle route, stopping off at the popular tourist sites including Thingvellir National Park and try snorkelling between two tectonic plates in the Silfra Fissure. Continue onto the spouting Great Geysir and one of Iceland’s biggest waterfalls, Gullfoss.
Spend at least 3 days exploring Iceland’s southern coast region, and you’ll be guaranteed to come across some absolutely spectacular landscapes. The route will take you along the Ring Road’s southern section to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, returning via the Blue Lagoon. Along the way, you’ll see Iceland’s most famous waterfall, Skógafoss, among others, the iconic black beaches and towering basalt stacks surrounding the town of Vík, cute Icelandic horses, moss covered lava fields, and some of Europe’s largest glaciers.
Road Trips in Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Caucasus region
Road trips through Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Caucasus region are probably the most unique of them all. On a road trip through this region, you will find unique cultures and accents, Soviet era buildings lying in ruins, a blend of Asian and European cultures, ancient monasteries perched atop hilltops, and some of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. While these road trips will be the cheapest on the list, we recommend planning diligently for these trips. Many of these countries, especially those in the Caucasus region are not Schengen members and may require separate visas for some nationalities. Here are some of the best road trips in this region:
Cultural Road Trip through Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia
By Karolina of KarolinaPatryk.com
The best way to see all the amazing cultural sights that Eastern Europe has to offer is to take a road trip through Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Begin your road trip in Warsaw, Poland where the charm of its Old Town’s neoclassical and gothic structures will fascinate you.
Continue your journey to Bialowieza, where you can trek and camp in one of the oldest forests in Europe. Then, from the endearing city of Suwalki with its classical architecture, museums, nearby lake districts, and national parks, cross the border to Lithuania and head to the city of Kaunas. Take a trip back to the 14th century by touring the gothic Kaunas castle and continue your journey through the timeline by visiting Pazaislis Monastery which was built in 1664 and the Ninth Fort which was reconstructed in the 1800s and features exhibits and memorials that recounts the grim events that transpired during the Holocaust.
Your next stop is Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, where the cobblestone steps, the Gothic and neoclassical structures, and the 16th-century Gate of Dawn will once again take you back to the past. From here, make your way to Riga in Latvia. The Old Town of Riga is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is known for Art Nouveau or Jugendstil style of architecture. Riga is the biggest metropolis in the Baltics; make sure to sample the city’s fabulous dishes in Riga’s restaurants and wash it down with cocktails made of the Riga Black Balsam.
At the end of the journey is Tallinn, Estonia’s capital city by the Baltic Sea. Charming Tallinn has the most beautiful old town squares in Eastern Europe. Walk around the gardens of the Kadriorg Art Museum and admire the designs on the facade of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. End your time in Tallinn by seeing the grand views of the city and the Baltic Sea from the tower of St.Olav’s Church.
Tbilisi Road Trip, Georgia
By Rahma of The Sane Adventurer
Georgia, a small country located in the Caucasus Mountains of Eastern Europe, is a hidden gem that is yet to be explored by most travelers. The country is home to highly diverse landscapes and has a history that dates back to the 5th century. There are lots of things to see and do in Georgia; going on a road trip around the capital region of Georgia is a great way to explore the country for beginners.
The Georgian road trip begins at Tbilisi which is the center of the country’s history and culture. The Ottomans and the Arabs were the first prominent rulers of Tbilisi and the culture of Georgia, which can be easily seen on the streets of Tbilisi, is significantly influenced by the Turkish and Middle Eastern culture. In Tbilisi, you will also find monuments and museums from Soviet times.
From Tbilisi, take the road towards Ananuri. This charming Georgian town is famous for its sixth-century church that overlooks the blue waters of an artificial reservoir in the mountains. A flea market located outside the church is a great spot to buy unique souvenirs for your Georgian road trip.
From Ananuri, take the uphill drive to the ski resort town of Gudauri. This mountain town is located at an elevation of 7200 feet / 2200 meters above sea level. The road leading to Gudauri is surrounded by green mountains and flowing rivers and is one of the most picturesque roads in Georgia. In Gudauri, you can enjoy a day skiing the snow-covered mountains.
For the final leg on your road trip, drive towards the town of Stepantsminda that lies just 10km away from the Georgia – Russia border. Stepantsminda was formerly Kazbegi and is still popularly referred to by the old name. This mountain town is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and offers hiking, mountain biking, horse-riding, and paragliding.
Transfagarasan Highway, Romania
By Bella of Whisper Wanderlust
Transfagarasan is definitely the most spectacular road in Romania and one of the most beautiful in Europe. For this reason, a road trip here is the ideal option when visiting Eastern Europe. Even Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson described it as the best road in the world.
Transfagarasan crosses a piece of the Carpathian Mountains and climbs up to an altitude of 2042 meters. It is about 150 kilometers long, but it will take almost a day to finish it. That’s because you will want to stop in many places to enjoy the scenery. At the top, the views are spectacular and will take your breath away. No matter what season you choose to go there, you will definitely fall in love with irremediably. The road consists of not only many curves and slopes but also tunnels. You will cross pine forests and lakes.
Among the best stops on Transfagarasan are the Poenari Fortress, the Vidraru Dam, a viewpoint above the Capra chalet, and Balea Lake, which is firmly on the top. Here, in winter, a superb ice hotel is built. At Lake Balea you will stop for a longer time, and that’s because you will have a superb view of the lake and the mountains in the background, but also because here you can eat your lunch at the cottage. Or you can get to the bottom of the mountain with the cable car. At the end of the trip, you can stop in the city of Sibiu, one of the oldest and most beautiful in Romania.
Pula to Omis, Croatia
By Nina of Where in the World is Nina
Croatia is known for quite a few things but unfortunately not many think to road trip it, despite it being a perfect destination to do just that! The roads are well maintained, it’s easy enough to navigate, and of course, you’re surrounded by Croatia’s striking beauty the entire time.
The perfect Croatian road trip starts in Pula. Pula’s amphitheater is stunning and the famous Krka and Plitvice waterfalls live up to their hype. The pebbled beaches along the way and the charming town of Omis that has a hidden adventurous side can all be done in a week driving along the coast. You could, of course, spend a month doing this road trip and just scratch the surface.
Omis was probably the best spot, in my opinion, as there was a beautiful little black sand beach to play at and a cute town to wander but beyond that, there were an incredible amount of adventurous activities! My morning was spent kayaking along the coast and stopping at crystal clear deserted beaches and then I went rock climbing in the afternoon. There also an eight-track zip line which traverses over gorges and rivers! The river you just zipped over has white water rafting and canyoning as well.
My best tip would be to spend the least amount of time in Split. While it’s popular and lovely unless you’re looking for nightlife it was the least favorite stop of mine on the trip and the hardest to find parking too!