Holiday Roads: Where to Find Europe’s Ultimate Road Trip VacationsBy Valerie Conners
Whether you’re itching to reach Dolomite mountain heights, find the fairy-tale castle of your dreams or sweep past craggy coastlines and windswept beaches, Europe has a road trip to satisfy every type of traveler in every country — as long as you know where to drive.
Get inspired and read on to discover some of Europe’s most unforgettable road trips by country.
With thousands of miles of dramatic coastline and a rugged interior, the United Kingdom offers no shortage of scenic road trips. Set your sights on southwest England’s Atlantic Highway, which winds its way past beaches, bays, sand dunes and barley fields.
Though the road connects Bath to Falmouth, the most scenic stretch is between Barnstable and Newquay. Stop to admire the crashing coastal waves — or hop on a board and surf ’em! — and then take a hike across the moors in Exmoor National Park.
Head north to Scotland for a spin along the North Coast 500, where you’ll be wowed by the exquisite Scottish Highlands as you spot ancient castles, whisky distilleries, fishing villages and white sand beaches like Achmelvich Bay — and perhaps even get a glimpse of the Loch Ness monster as you drive past the famed lake.
The Causeway Coastal Route is Northern Ireland’s most famous drive with good reason; along this 195-km (121-mile) route from Belfast to Derry/Londonderry, you’ll want to explore highlights including the Giant’s Causeway, the Dark Hedges (made famous in “Game of Thrones”), Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and the Glens of Antrim.
Germany is a land of fairy-tale settings, and it’s no surprise that road trips throughout the country are, indeed, fabled. Start your journey on Castle Road and embrace your inner royal as you gape at more than 70 stunning castles and palaces along the drive.
This 1,200-km (746-mile) route stretches from Mannheim to Prague (in the Czech Republic), so you’ll only drive a portion of the journey within Germany. Must-see spots include the castles in Heidelberg, Bayreuth and Nuremberg.
For a deep dive into fairy-tale vibes, traverse the storied Black Forest Route linking Baden-Baden to Freiburg, where visions of “Hansel and Gretel” will dance through your head.
You’ll pass villages of half-timber houses and cuckoo-clock makers and then dine on Black Forest ham and a tipple of cherry brandy (Kirschwässerle). Soak in the air of the verdant pine forests, snap photos of the looming Vosges Mountains and seek out the Triberg Waterfalls, some of Germany’s tallest cascades.
Reach new heights on Deutsche Alpenstrasse (the German Alpine Road) between Lindau to Schönau, a 450-km (280-mile) journey. Climb through the foothills of the Bavarian Alps and admire Alpine lakes, charming farmsteads, lush valleys and what may well be the most photographed castle in the world, Neuschwanstein Castle.
Steer away from crowded cities like Paris and Marseille, and instead get your fix of white-cliff coastlines, quaint fishing villages and World War II’s D-Day beaches on a drive along the coastline of Normandy. From here, head into the Loire Valley to explore its chateaux and medieval towns.
For another super-laid-back journey, take the route from Bordeaux to Biarritz, where you’ll sip your way through Bordeaux wineries, be charmed by the village of Navarrenx, catch Insta-worthy views of the Pyrenees Mountains, and finally, chill on the beaches of Biarritz.
Nature lovers will appreciate a trip through the winding roads of the Rhone Valley, where steep canyons, grottoes and caves have been carved by the rushing waters of the Rhone River. Drive along the D290 roadway between Vallon-Pont-d’Arc and Pont St.-Esprit, which runs in part alongside a canyon’s edge, for unforgettable panoramic views.
From towering cliffside towns to rolling hills and craggy mountain peaks, Italy’s road trip fodder is a delight for every type of traveler. A drive along the hairpin curves of the Amalfi Coast is a must. The “too blue to be true” water of the Salerno Gulf hugs the coastline here, as pastel-colored towns seemingly tumble toward the sea. Park out in Positano for epic photos, and plan for pit stops in Ravello and Villa Cimbrone and Villa Rufolo.
Land lovers might opt to head inland for a drive through the Umbrian countryside, a less-touristy — but no less spectacular — alternative to Tuscany. You’ll pass through hilltop towns like Spoleto and the walled hamlet of Norcia, where trying the local black truffles is a right of passage. Delve into the region’s culture in Perugia, and pay a visit to the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi.
Get your mountain fix driving through Alpine vistas on the epic Grande Strada delle Dolomiti (the Great Dolomites Road). The route stretches for 110 km (68 miles), but take your time soaking in the beauty of the surrounding Dolomite Mountains as you cross over vertigo-inducing mountain passes. Be sure to be camera ready if you stop at Falzarego Pass to hop a ride on the Lagazuoi Cable Car up Mount Lagazuoi.
Start your Spanish road trip in Malaga along the country’s southern Costa del Sol, winding through beach towns like Marbella, before heading inland through the Andalucia region to explore the sparkling Pueblos Blancos, or white villages, a series of 19 tiny towns comprised of whitewashed buildings bedecked with wrought-iron balconies and draped with colorful bougainvillea.
It’s hard to choose among them, but take pains to visit Ronda, Frigiliana, Arcos de la Frontera and Mijas.
From Andalucia, head northeast to drive through the Costa Brava region, escaping Barcelona’s crowds for a decidedly more tranquil setting. Choose a route that winds through the medieval town of Girona (the setting for Braavos in “Game of Thrones”), and then head east to hug the Mediterranean coastline, passing through fishing villages like Cadaqués and beaches perfect for a stroll or waterfront meal.