Today’s guestpost is written and photographed by Roy Duffield from Holiday-n-adventure.co.uk.
What makes a good roadtrip? Or a good trip in general? Diverse, dramatic and beautiful scenery? A variety of fascinating cultures, languages and traditions? Good food? Good beer? Good people? Then by all accounts Europe is the best place for a roadtrip!
Relatively small and compact when compared with some other continents, Europe also offers an enormous range of…well, just about everything! This means you can save on fuel and get more great experiences for your buck.
Sometimes, because of the sheer diversity within Europe, it can be very hard to know where to start…and then where to go from there. This post gives my top 5 European roadtrips, helping to highlight the best roads, the most inspiring driving scenery, the little-known gems, and so on, to help you plan your epic “Eurotrip”!
So here are the 5 best road trips in Europe…in this writer’s humble opinion, of course:
The Croatian Coast.
After the troubles in former Yugoslavia, travellers are only now starting to venture back to Croatia, drawn by the famed natural beauty of its coastline (and possibly the fact it’s cheaper than Italy). But while hotspots like Dubrovnik and Split are pulling tourists by the plane load, nobody seems to be really making the most of what Croatia has to offer. What’s the perfect way to experience Croatia, a country with 1278km of winding coastline? (5835km if you include the 1185 islands.) To drive every inch of it, of course! Unlike most countries, Croatia is lucky enough to have a coast-road that runs practically from top to bottom, literally hugging the most indented and picturesque coastline on the Mediterranean. So if you’re up for long stretches of winding coast-road, old Roman settlements, peaceful islands, beaches and peninsulas, camping beside warm, clear waters, and ending every day’s drive with a serene Mediterranean sunset, this is the trip for you! If you like it that much, you can even continue down through Montenegro and Albania and into Greece.
This one is for all you speed freaks out there. Where in the world can you be pushing 140mph in the fast lane and then look in your mirrors to see an Audi right up behind you trying to overtake? Only in Germany!
The Iberian Peninsula.
Though the world is fascinated with everything Spanish, and there are towns in Spain where British holiday-makers and expats make up the majority of the population, there are still many elements of Spanish culture that are yet to be discovered, not to mention whole regions of Spain and Portugal that go almost undiscovered by the outside world. For this top European roadtrip, we recommend crossing the Pyrenees at Andorra (its own little country, famous for skiing and gob-smacking alpine scenery)(George’s note this is where I first saw lesbians and knew what they were) before heading to Barcelona (one of the world’s coolest cities), Valencia, the Costa Blanca, through Andalucía (the home of Flamenco), Granada, the hugely underrated city of Malaga, Gibraltar (technically part of the UK), Jerez (the home of Sherry – a drink I’m adamant is on the cusp of a big come-back) and Seville. At this point you can either head up through Portugal, stopping along the Algarve, in Lisbon, Coimbra, Oporto and any number of lesser-known spots, or head up through Cordoba, Madrid and Salamanca…or maybe you have time for both! Next, how about a walk to Santiago de Compostela (the end of “the Way of Saint James” and 12 centuries old site of pilgrimage), before heading back across Northern Spain to beautiful San Sebastian and Pamplona in the Basque country. You will have travelled through at least 3 different countries and many autonomous regions, and encountered at least 8 different languages…and that’s without the optional excursion to Morocco, in Africa!
Prague to Istanbul.
Eastern Europe, in addition to being much cheaper than its Western counterpart, is also incredibly fascinating and diverse. Though the term “Eastern Europe” technically refers to a divide that no-longer exists, it is still used by many to describe the many cultural and linguistic legacies leftover from the Communist era and its predecessors. Whatever route you take, from the brilliant blue lakes and green hills of Bosnia to the magnificent Tatras that divide Slovakia and Poland or the Carpathians of Transylvania, from cool little towns like Kosice, Slovakia to world-renowned epic Bohemian cities like Budapest, this trip to Istanbul, the gateway to Asia, is sure to be an adventure!
The Arctic Highway!
Scandinavia is one of the most beautiful and densely forested regions of the world and what has become known as Norway’s “Arctic Highway” is fast becoming the dream journey for many an adventure traveller. This trip begins where one of George’s roadtrips ended, in Denmark. From here you’ll cross by ferry to Sweden, hit Stockholm (the nightlife capital of Scandinavia), Oslo, and then make your way up Norway, crossing mountains and fjords and working your way ever closer to the Arctic circle and 24 hour daylight (that is, unless you’re crazy enough to try it in Winter). On the way back you can come down through Finland and the Baltics.
Runner up: Ireland! After recently taking a roadtrip around Ireland, I’ve had to add this to the list. While all of the Celtic nations (think Scotland)(or amazing Wales) are teeming with natural beauty, Ireland has to be the cream of the crop! We recommend heading South West to the Beara, Iveragh and Dingle peninsulas for some of the most incredible (and empty) scenery I’ve ever had the pleasure to come across!
Roy Duffield writes for Holiday-n-Adventure.co.uk, who offer tours of Eastern Europe, walking holidays in Spain and even a Scandinavia roadtrip! He is also author of the travel blog Notes from the Road.