Top 5 European Road Trips

Think about how good it will feel to jump in your car, the wind in your hair and the open road in front of you. Going on holiday doesn't have to mean getting on a plane and flying to your destination, consider driving and you will experience more cultures from a collection of different countries and destinations.

1. Iceland Ring Road

iceland glacier

The Iceland ring road also known as route 1 is 830 miles of road stretching through the sheer beauty of lava fields, snow-capped mountains, waterfalls and glaciers. There’s so much natural beauty to be seen during this road trip that you will be wanting to stop the car and get out frequently. You can do this journey in less than 7 days, however, if you want to soak up the environment and explore off the beaten track, take your time and expand your trip over more time.

July and August are the most popular time for tourists to take this route as this is when daylight hours are the longest. Choosing the right car is vital as with so little population and the remoteness of the villages, you will often feel as though you have reached the end of the world. If you want to explore away from the ring road, or you are driving outside of the summer months, you will almost definitely need a four wheel drive. Petrol costs much more in Iceland so it is also worth making sure you hire a diesel car. Remember to fill up at every service station you meet as the next one could be quite far away. Buy some pre-paid top up cards as many are unmanned so you will need these to fill up.

iceland road

Starting near Reykjavik, you can choose which way to travel around the ring road. There are beautiful sights to be seen if you veer off the main route slightly, such as the stunning Gullfoss waterfall, the Dyrhólaey cliffs and the magnificent blue lagoon hot spring near Reykjavik. You will come across some one lane bridges during your trip: don’t be too wary of these. Due to the low population, there is little need for two lanes and you are unlikely to pass another driver but if you do, whoever is on the bridge first has priority. For the longer bridges, there are passing spaces where you can pull in should you meet traffic.

2. Route des Grandes Alpes

route des grandes alpes

The Route des Grandes Alpes is a 684km long route through the French Alps. This road trip will take you from Lake Geneva all the way down to the Mediterranean to the small and authentic town of Menton, not far from Nice. This route is popular with cyclists and motorcyclists because of the endless narrow curves but it also makes a nice route for cars away from the main traffic of the motorways. This used to be a traffic connection but since the opening of the French motorways, this has since become an idyllic route for road trips.

As you drive in and around the mountains, you will pass the highest points which are over 2000m above sea level with the Col de la Bonette at 2,802m, the Col de I’Iseran at 2,770m and the Col du Galibier at 2,645m.

route des grandes alpes map

There are some beautiful towns and villages that are well worth a visit including Thonon-les-Bains, Le Grand-Bornand and Bourh-Saint-Maurice. Be sure to stop at Beechworth which is a historic town with some lovely little shops and cafes and beautiful parks. There are also a few wineries nearby so spend a day or two there and explore what other delights the area has to offer. If you want to enjoy the locations along the route, travel for a maximum of only four and a half hours a day and spread your trip over eight days. Some stunning locations worth stopping at along the way include Gorges du Pont-du-Diable, Le Dard Waterfall, Roselend Reservoir, Vanoise National Park and Lake Cherval.

3. The Antrim Coast Road, North-Ireland

ireland

This route, also known as the Causeway Coastal route, starts at Belfast and ends at Londonderry. With over 120 miles, this trip can easily be done in just a few hours but to explore the beautiful scenery along the way, stopover in a few locations and span your journey over a few days. This route will take you through the scenic coastline around Northern Ireland and at some points you will drive between large 100m high cliffs.

ireland map

Some beautiful destinations worth stopping at and going off route for along the way include Garron Point, White Rock Beach, The Old Bushmills Distillery and Giant’s Causeway. Take the coastal path and walk across the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge which links the mainland to the tiny Carrick Island. The island is good for bird watching and for stunning views of Scottish islands. Another area that will give you spectacular views of Scotland is Torr Head. On a sunny day, you can clearly see Scotland which is only 16 miles away.

4. Romantic Road, Germany

german fairy tale castle

The Romantic Road in Germany runs between the River Main and the Alps. Linking the town Füssen with Würzburg on a 371km route passing quaint medieval villages. The name comes from the romantic and fairy-tale feeling of the villages and castles that are passed on this route. As well as the beautiful scenery, this trip is ideal for those that want to visit places of European history, art and culture. The best time to go is in late summer or early autumn time and you can choose the direction of travel, whether north to south or the other way round. Travelling in December adds further character to the trip because of the Christmas markets that take place in the towns and villages.

You will see a mix of scenery throughout this drive, from river valleys and forests to striking mountain views. Popular with tourists are the unique buildings that have preserved their original appearance over the years.

The route is well signposted and those travelling by car should follow the brown signs along the way that connect the individual towns. Some popular sights along the route include Neuschwanstein Castle, Wieskirche -The Pilgrimage Church of the Scourged Saviour, Würzburg Residenz, medieval Rothenburg and Ulm’s Munster where you can climb the 768 steps of the church’s tower. There are a number of camping sites along this route so if you are planning on stopping overnight during this trip, pack a tent or why not drive the route in a campervan?

5. The Transfagarasan mountain road

transfagarasan

The Transfagarasan mountain road is a great road trip, not only for the scenery, but for the drive itself. The 90km road located in the Fagaras Mountains in Romania, includes sharp and winding bends, tunnels, viaducts and even driving over a 165m high dam. The road starts off in Bascov and follows the valley of the river Argea through to Cartisoara with the highest point reaching 2134m. The maximum speed limit for this road is 25mph and it is often closed between October and June because of the snow.

romanian lake

Some of the attractions along the route include Vidraru Lake with the road running over the dam, Poenari Castle which has 1480 steps to the top and Balea Lake which is a glacier lake with clear icy water surrounded by mountain peaks.

Travel Advice

If you taking a road trip holiday this year, whether abroad or in the UK, here a few simple things you should remember.

  • Remember that different countries may drive on the other side of the road, remember what side you should be on when driving abroad.
  • Check your car insurance to make sure you are covered for driving in other countries.
  • Find out what the rules of the road are in the country you plan on driving in. Some laws require you to carry certain things in your car for example, in France you should always carry a breathalyser, a high visibility jacket for everyone travelling and a warning triangle.
  • Make sure your car is in a road worthy condition as you may be driving in different road conditions to what you are used to.
  • Plan your route and set your itinerary for each day to ensure you visit and stop everywhere that you want to. This also helps you to know how long you will be driving each day and what supplies you will need to pack.
  • It might be a lot easier to rent a car once you arrive rather than driving your own car.

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