Picking up a car at the airport and hitting the open road is the ideal way to get off the beaten track and see parts of the world that you’d usually miss on a short holiday. Whether you want to drive through majestic mountains or follow winding coastal roads, a road trip is a brilliant and safe way to see it all. From epic routes through Scotland to easy to follow drives around Iceland, these are Europe’s best road trips.
Scotland’s beautiful islands and spectacular Highlands make it the perfect place for a road trip. Take a loop around the popular and beautiful Isle of Skye, with the chance to hike up the rugged Cuillin mountains and park up and camp on the banks of Loch Slapin. Or opt for one of the country’s dedicated road trip routes. The North Coast 500, also known as the NC500, has become a huge hit in recent years. The 500 mile route starts in Inverness and heads to some of the most northerly parts of mainland Scotland. There are different itineraries to choose from, including a nine day food and drink focused route that takes in classic whisky distilleries and amazing seafood spots on the coast. Alternatively, try the active adventurer route, with the chance to surf at Caithness or walk over the rolling hills of Easter Ross.
Iceland has become synonymous with road trips, with great roads, easy car hire at the airport and amazing natural sights drawing in visitors from all over the world. The Ring Road, also known as Route 1, is unquestionably the most famous, taking in Reykjavik, the Blue Lagoon, Vik, Godafoss and Jökulsárlón, the Glacier Lagoon. At 1,300km, it’s long, but you can easily do a single section and set your own itinerary if time is short. It’s best to do it between May and September, as the roads can become challenging to drive on during winter. For a shorter trip, the Golden Circle route from Reykjavik takes in the famous Gullfoss waterfall, Þingvellir National Park and the Geysir geothermal area, and can be done in a day. For something more rugged, the Westfjords, in the north west, offer the perfect opportunity to test your 4×4 driving skills, catch sight of seabirds and soak in isolated thermal pools.
Europe’s best road trips. Sweden
Sweden has some of the most easily accessible wild places in Europe. Setting off from Gothenburg, itself a great place to enjoy fika and some much-needed downtime, you can reach Dalsland and the beautiful Sörknatten nature reserve in an hour and a half. The hiking here is legendary, with hilly routes offering vast views across the forest. A stay at the nearby isolated 72 Hour Cabin is a must. This stop off has become famous for offering a chance to switch off devices, allowing guests to immerse themselves in nature, with the opportunity to swim in the refreshing lake and walk through the trees. From there, drive to Fjällbacka, park up and take a 30 minute boat ride to the Weather Islands to see a traditional way of life up close. These rocky islands, with their classic wooden fishing villages, are perfect for slow strolls and ideal for amateur landscape photographers to hone their craft.
Within easy reach of Milan, Italy’s lake region is great for a road trip. Lake Maggiore is a great place to start. The pretty town of Stresa, with its cobbled streets and quiet charm, offers sensational views across the water, while the trails that snake up into the mountains are ideal for cycling. Hire mountain bikes and you can easily get away from the crowds by the water. Take time to drive around nearby Lake Orta and visit Orta San Giulio, set on its own garden peninsula, before heading east to Lake Como and then on to Lake Garda. With excellent Sostas, official campsites for motorhomes and campervans, you can cover hundreds of kilometers and see some of Italy’s finest scenery in just a few days without having to find a hotel or guest house.
Europe’s best road trips. Germany
Germany’s superb infrastructure and great campsites make it ideal for first time road trippers. The Fairy Tale Road is a great option, starting just outside Frankfurt and heading on a winding road north to Bremen. The route follows that taken by the Brothers Grimm and is steeped in fairy tale history. The first stop is Steinau an der Strasse, home to the brothers when they were children and exactly as you’d imagine, with picture postcard houses, winding streets and the looming presence of Schloss Steinau. It then goes onto medieval Marburg, Kassel, where the Brothers Grimm worked as librarians, Gottingen and Hameln, home of the Pied Piper. This is traditionally German as it gets, made all the easier by the ability to fly into Frankfurt and easily hire a car.