9 Amazing Road Trips in Europe
Pack your bags, pick the playlist and head out on the open road to see Europe’s best places. We’ve got the itineraries covered, from wind-in-your-hair coastal routes to epic cross-country drives.
Bloemen Route, Netherlands
Distance: 25 miles
You'll be hard pressed to find a more colorful road trip than the Bloemen route, a floral circuit that takes in blankets of blooms (tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and more) in the west of the Netherlands. Start in Haarlem (12 miles west of Amsterdam) and set the scene by admiring floral paintings by Dutch Masters at the Frans Hals Museum, one of the country's top small galleries. From here, head to Lisse to visit the Keukenhof Garden, a 70-acre plot that showcases the talents of Dutch flower growers with indoor and outdoor displays made from more than seven million bulbs. Take time to tour the 17th-century castle just opposite. In Leiden, explore the 16th-century botanical garden and don't miss the De Valk Windmill Museum. You'll finish in Naaldwijk, where the town's huge flower auction offers guided tours. The best time to visit is in April or May when the flowers are in full bloom; consider setting off on a week day to avoid the weekend traffic.
The Black Forest, Germany
Distance: 37 miles
With its half-timbered houses and dark tree-covered hills, the Black Forest is one of Germany's most scenic spots and has inspired many a Grimm Brothers fairy tale. See it at its beguiling best by driving along the Schwarzwald-Hochstrasse, an elevated section of highway between Freudenstadt and Baden Baden. This panoramic passage is a wide sweeping road that's smooth and easy to drive. There are plenty of pit stops around the highest point of Hornisgrinde, where you can take in the full extent of the region's valleys and verdant forests. The final stretch towards Baden Baden cuts deep into the forest along dozens of switchback turns. Toast your arrival with a restorative soak in the thermal waters of this 19th-century spa town.
The Amalfi Coast, Italy
Distance: 43 miles
Between Sorrento and Salerno in southwest Italy, the Amalfi Coast is one of the world's most romantic routes. It's where pastel-colored medieval villages cling to hillsides against a Mediterranean landscape of green mountains, lemon groves and towering bluffs. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is best explored in a classic Italian car with the top down. The roads are winding, narrow and (in parts) challenging but the views are jaw-dropping. Drive east to west for the best oceanside views and consider booking overnight stays in Ravello, where Wagner, DH Lawrence and Virginia Woolf found inspiration; Positano, with its photogenic good looks and Amalfi itself, where sun-soaked piazzas give way to a petite beach.
Distance: 65 miles
This challenging course in west Norway snakes up a steep mountainside in the Isterdal Valley and features no fewer than 11 hairpin bends. The 'troll's path' is generally open only between mid May and October and up to 2,500 cars a day tackle the steep inclines during high season. Set off as early as possible to avoid the tourist buses and drive slowly to appreciate the landscape of fjords, waterfalls and lakes. The largest viewing platform hovers 200 meters above the road and there's a visitor center at the top where you can stop for Norwegian waffles and coffee.
Iceland's Ring Road (Route 1)
Distance: 830 miles
When it comes to dramatic drives, Iceland is hard to beat. Where else can you take in active volcanoes, geothermal springs, lava fields, thundering waterfalls and breathtaking fjords in one trip? And that's before factoring in the magic of the northern lights. Route 1 circumnavigates the island and connects most of the inhabited parts of the country. To drive the whole loop you'll need to set aside between 7 and 10 days. Highlights include Reykjadalur or 'Steam Valley', where you can bathe in a hot river; Skogafoss, one of Iceland's biggest and most beautiful waterfalls; Jokulsarlon, a gorgeous glacial lagoon and Vatnajokull, Europe's biggest glacier. In the summer months, keep your eyes peeled for herds of sheep crossing the roads and note that come winter, parts of Route 1 may be closed.
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The Atlantic Highway, England
Distance: 77 miles
In southwest England, the Atlantic Highway is a coast-hugging route that links two of the country’s prettiest regions: Devon and Cornwall. The course is gentle rather than gripping with a series of shallow dips and curves that wind past quaint fishing villages, Celtic ruins and secluded beaches. Start in Barnstaple, a thriving market town with a Norman mound and a 13th-century bridge before driving towards Bude to kick back on one of the surf-friendly beaches. Further south, Tintagel is reputedly where King Arthur was born and the ruins of a 13th-century castle sit on a chunk of headland reached only by footbridge. Finish up in Newquay, a lively clifftop town lined with bars, clubs and surf shops.
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Marseille to Monaco, French Riviera
Distance: 185 miles
Make like Grace Kelly and Cary Grant and cruise the French Riviera with the top down. This classic coastal route is dotted with ritzy resorts, hilltop towns and twisting mountain roads. If you're pushed for time you can squeeze the highlights (St Tropez, Cannes, Nice, Monte Carlo) into a weekend escape but to see the Cote d'Azur in all its glory, set aside a week. Start in Marseille, an edgy city with a thriving arts scene and a bustling harbor, and follow the coast round to St Tropez to kick back on Pampelonne beach with the bronzed and the beautiful. Take a customary stroll along La Croisette in Cannes and leave time to explore Nice's cultural treasures. Between Nice and Monaco you'll follow the Grand Corniche, an elevated route built by Napoleon. End on a high in Monte Carlo by following the Monaco Grand Prix circuit.
Transfagarasan Highway, Romania
Distance: 56 miles
Channel your inner racing drive on this epic mountain road in central Romania. The Transfagarasan Highway cuts through the Fagaras mountains in the Transylvanian Alps and follows the course of the Argea river. The sharp hairpin bends make for a challenging route but the lofty views (its highest point is 2,042 meters) are spectacular. Built in the 1970s as a military route to cross the mountains in the event of a Soviet invasion, the road is typically open only between June and October. Scenic highlights include the ruins of Poenari Castle, once home to Vlad the Impaler, and the Balea glacial lake.
Ring of Kerry, Ireland
Distance: 120 miles
There's a reason why the Ring of Kerry is one of Europe's most popular road trips. This scenic circuit in southwest Ireland is a greatest hits tour of the Emerald Isle that takes in wild Atlantic beaches, rugged mountains and enchanting villages. Set off early from Killarney and travel clockwise to avoid getting stuck behind the parade of tour buses. Stop at Ladies View to see Killarney National Park at its best before heading to Kenmare, a charming town lined with rainbow-colored houses and traditional pubs. At Staigue Fort explore the ancient stone circle and follow the road to Portmagee for views across to Skelling Michael island, a former monastic settlement. Leave time to hit the beach in Rossbeigh (a popular spot for surfers) before finishing up with a tour of Ross Castle back in Killarney.
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