Like a patchwork quilt, the hive of European countries all bring something unique to the tableau. Domineering alpine ranges transition into padded meadows; packed city borders shed layers along the highways and transform into simple but no less gorgeous townships. While it’s impossible to see it all, start by checking off some of the best road trip routes on the continent. From the burnished stones of the Italian coast to the moody Finland snowlands and glossy Irish plains, these routes will leave behind impressions you’ll never stop chasing. Here TheTravelGang researches the best road trip routes in Europe!
- Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse
There are three times more hairpin bends along this Austrian High Alpine Route as the twisty ‘s’ in its name – a highly challenging incline that beckons motorcyclists and sports car owners to flirt with danger. The climb peaks at 2,504 meters to display boundless mountain ranges, shooting through the heart of Hohe Tauern National Park. It’s not all barren cliff faces either. The scent of pine is heavy in the air, exchanged only for wildflower fields and glacier lakes found amid the Alps. Since the drive itself is a quick hour, stop by the Alpine Nature Show museum to study the region’s natural ecosystems.
The route starts at Bruck, Salzburg Valley and ends at Carinthia. It’s closed through November to May due to winter dangers; check weather forecast for fog before attempting it.
- Verdon Gorge Circuit
Experience France at its finest by looping around the sultry Provence region, bookending the route with Lorgues. The drive is tiered, starting with a lively market town and drifting leisurely through stirring valleys; perched high up are defensive villages like Tourtour. The vaulted streets have nothing on the deep Verdon gorges however, where sharp elevation reverses into a dramatic drop. No doubt your jaw will drop at the ethereal reaches of Sainte-Croix Lake and the softer edges of Thoronet Abbey. We recommend a full day drive to fully appreciate the austere sceneries.
Because the gorges clog in mid-summer, you’ll want to go during the cooler seasons of spring and fall. Take your time as the hilly roads pose some risk at high speeds.
- Lapland: from Rovaniemi to Inari
Road trips aren’t solely a summery affair – the Icelandic chain of Rovaniemi, Kemi, Saariselka and Inari proves that fall and winter are plenty beautiful too. Drag out your exploration over 10 days to fully enjoy the winter splendor and one of the best road trip routes in Europe.
Santa’s home is your first stop at Rovaniemi but don’t stop there – discover the reindeer and husky farms via a snowmobile tour! Kemi stuns with an elaborately constructed Snow Castle that changes its design every winter. Wonder how trade reaches the port? Icebreaker Sampo Cruise is another Kemi itinerary you’ll want to see; watch how icebreaking ships shatter open a path and maybe take an icy dip. Take a few days to breathe at the Seaside Glass Villas or head straight to Saariselka for their dreamy glass igloos at Northern Lights Village. Lucky ones will sleep under the wisps of Auroras; others may chase the lights via snowmobile excursions or snowshoe tours. To round off, Inari is your cultural punctuation – feed some reindeer, learn the culture.
- Romantische Strasse
Your long-awaited romantic adventure lies with the slinky, seductive route that wind through Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. Aim for any non-winter season for optimum sunlight hours.
Germany is a collector of imposing walled townships and mysterious castles; you, the avid fan. From the get go, Würzburg Residenz tempts with a Tiepolo ceiling fresco over a grand staircase. Pull away for the next attraction, the medieval village of Tauberbischofsheim which will wine and dine you. From there, Tauber River leads like the pauper to the still standing ramparts at Weikersheim. Say farewell to the whimsical architecture and hello to the giant crater of Ries, an eerie road that paints the picture of earth after being hit by a meteorite. Fortunately, you’ll soon enter a world full of color again – Landsberg am Lech and Füssen rounding the dramatic journey.
- Andalucía: from Granada to Córdoba
There’s no end to the Spanish story but for your next road trip, skim through the chapters of Granada, Nerja, Ronda, Pueblos Blancos, Seville and Córdoba. Whether you spend 10 days or 15, this gorgeous region never runs out of character-filled buildings and mouthwatering cuisine.
The Moorish marvel that is the Alhambra is your Granada eye-opener. Fortress and palace is embossed with intricate stone carvings and tilework, dedicate at least three hours to exploring the massive complex. When tired, enjoy the free-flow tapas so signature to this city. Nerja follows up ancient behemoths with fresh air and beach fun, while Ronda takes you to new heights with its 200-year-old 100-meter-high bridge. The buildings built into the rocky outcrops are engineering brilliance but the charming pueblos blancos may win out with their small village ambiance. For more cobblestoned feels, drop by Grazalema and Zahara la Sierra before returning to majestic architecture at Seville. The jaw-dropping Alcázar deserves an in-depth exploration. Córdoba is a fitting end note, the candy-striped La Mezquita a startling mosque-cathedral you’ll never forget.
- Sardinia: Bosa to Palau to Capo Caccia
Sardinia is an all-rounder when it comes to Italian flavor, drawing on the orange-hued rooftops and soft sanded bays so characteristic of the Mediterranean. Your week-long journey is as such: Bosa, Cuglieri, Buggeru, Cagliari, Villasimius, Palau, Maddalena Island and Capo Caccia.
Pick your choice attractions! Cuglieri is a stunning menagerie of thatched roofs and terracotta tiles, watched over by a hilltop basilica. Portside Buggeru is a blue contrast to the mountains above Cagliari; the middle stop is the flamingo hotspot of Quartu Sant Elena. You can spend an entire day lounging about the beaches of Villasimius or bypass it for longer hours at Palau and La Maddalena Island. For a twist on the usual swim and dip, seek out the dolphin pods at Capo Caccia atop incredible cliffs.
- Ring of Kerry
Like the promise of a brighter future, the Ring of Kerry encircles Ireland’s Iveragh peninsula to highlight open grasslands while paying tribute to historic estates. The traditional route is as follows: take the N72 from Killarney to Killorglin, shift to the N70 around the peninsula, return via the N71. This truly is one of the best road trip routes in Europe.
You can expect verdant landscapes, especially beautiful throughout Killarney National Park. Sparkling lakes and rolling hills paint an Irish classic; the looming Macgillicuddy’s Reeks adds a scrap of drama in the background. Choose between Cahersiveen and its historic riches or the foamy seafront along Glenbeigh. At the tip of the peninsula are the true main characters, the fishing harbors of Ballinskelligs and Portmagee. If you’re dedicating a weekend to this drive, consider a trip out to the Skellig islands or gentle Valentia. Finally, detour to the ancient ringfort at Staigue before feasting at Kenmare to celebrate your astounding journey.
Alternatively, let someone else do the driving on this Ring of Kerry and Valentia Island Full-day Tour.
- Gauja National Park
The oft overlooked Latvia gifts us with a pleasant cruise through its largest parklands. Gauja National Park encompasses small towns which all ping the ‘cozy’ radar, but it’s the nature that steals the show. Karlamuiza starts you off with forested trails that bring you right to the edge of Amata River’s famous sandstone cliffs. Part with your car at Cesis for a few hours and bicycle over to Valmiera for the national park’s grassy plains, thick forests and wildlife-ridden grounds. Those travelling in the summer will fall in love with Sigulda’s Midsummer Festival, ripe with flower ceremonies, fire dances and plenty of singing.
The best season to visit is summer! For 4 days, you’ll have nature and all the peace that comes with it.
- Dalmatian Coast
Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast is revered among seafarers but you don’t have to charter yachts to admire the Venetian-inspired cities up close. Plan a week-long cruise in the cooling breezes of spring and fall.
Dubrovnik is the best introduction, lavishing you with its ancient sea walls, fresh seafood and of course – Game of Thrones film location tours. Similarly, Split is chockfull of historical architecture and sites; spare a day or two for island hopping as well. Trogir is by far the most Venetian of the cities, featuring promenades, classy squares and plenty of variety. Before your final destination of Zadar, which houses lovely waterfront vistas, visit the quaint town of Primostene for a refreshing dose of boutiques and charming residences.
- The Transfagarasan
If you drive for the thrill and fancy yourself a professional, Romania’s Transfagarasan is probably your version of paradise. That said, do be careful when you approach the hairpin bends – you also want to check that the road is open as it is usually closed from late October to June due to snow.
Starting at Curtea de Arges (DN7C), this ambitious track is tarmac on tarmac, chasing tunnels and viaducts and bridges in an astounding feat of engineering. Originally built in the case of a Soviet invasion during war days, this mountain pass wasn’t put to use until much later. It serves as a much better leisure route because it is so audacious; go slow and break for lunch at the glacial lake of Balea. We hope you have enjoyed our list of best road trip routes in Europe!