Flights are one of the most obvious ways to travel throughout Europe, but that doesn’t mean that they’re the most affordable, comfortable, or even the most memorable. In fact, one of the best ways to explore Europe is to drive.
There’s a huge diversity of natural scenery throughout Europe, much of which you miss when you’re flying at 35,000 feet. And with roads which wind directly through some of the world’s most incredible landscapes, if you’re visiting the following European hot spots you should trade in your plane ticket for a set of car keys and drive.
Killarney, Ireland (Ring of Kerry)
For those who haven’t visited, you would be forgiven for thinking the Irish countryside seems too beautiful to be true. With captivating peninsulas, dramatic wildness and undulating hills, Ireland boasts some of the most remarkable landscapes in Europe, seemingly ripped straight from the pages of a fairytale.
The Ring of Kerry is the best way to drive throughout the country and take in everything it has to offer. This is a 200 km loop which takes you through the mountain ranges to the beaches, lakes, and rivers of the Emerald Isle. You’ll experience scenery, history, culture, national parks and medieval villages. This is part of the mystical & unspoilt region of Ireland that has attracted visitors for hundreds of years.
The Ring traditionally starts and ends in Killarney, circling the Iveragh Peninsula. You can complete it in one day, though should consider taking it more slowly to take advantage of everything along the way.
Pro Tip: Ireland is known for unpredictable weather. Be sure you travel with wet weather gear (umbrellas, raincoat etc), and have flexibility in your itinerary for unplanned overnight stops until the weather clears. It’s also a good idea to organize single trip breakdown cover as much of Ireland is remote.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
While it’s a white knuckle drive, the road along the Amalfi Coast is one of the world’s most scenic drives. It winds its way through villages, beaches, and mountains along Italy’s most scenic stretch of coastline.
The drive follows the shoreline from Sorrento south to Salerno, and weaves through a number of different viewpoints and villages along the way. It winds along the cliffs and was built at a very steep angle, so is quite the thrilling drive.
On one side is a steep rock face, and on the other, a dramatic drop into the Mediterranean (with only the occasional guard rail to stop you plummeting over the side).
It’s a short 80 km drive but is one of the most cinematic in the world, the region being most famous for its pastel-hued villages terraced into hillsides with panoramic views over the sea.
Reykjavik, Iceland (The Ring Road)
Iceland is a country full of natural wonders; a stunning patchwork of majestic glaciers, cracked lava fields, gushing geysers, vibrant green fjords, dramatic waterfalls and geothermal lagoons.
The only way to take in all of Iceland’s stunning scenery is to drive. And the only way to drive, is around Route 1 (the Ring Road). Starting and ending in Reykjavik The Ring Road wraps it’s way around the country in a circular fashion – 1300km of mostly paved highway, this is your main road from which secondary roads break off, leading to further adventure.
The drive is best completed in summer (July and August) as come winter many sections of the road are closed. While you could complete the Ring Road in 16 hours without stopping, you should plan for 7 – 10 days.
There are so many spectacular villages, attractions and sights off the Ring Road itself that you’ll miss the majority of the country by not taking detours. The western section in particular deserves a few days – it’s here you’ll find access to the Westfjords and Snæfellsnes peninsula.
Nice via Les Corniches, France
Nice has long since been a hub for tourism to the French Riviera, though the most scenic way to arrive is via Les Corniches – a trio of corniches (coastal roads) which hug the cliffs between Nice and Menton.
Each route runs somewhat parallel to each other following the Mediterranean coastline, with many medieval perched villages, Roman ruins, elegant 19th century villas, and exotic gardens to discover along the way.
For the grandest views you should take the Grande Corniche, though the lowest of the three, the Corniche Inférieure, means you’ll have access to a string of snazzy coastal resorts. If you have spare time, you can plan to stop in Monaco along the way.
Norway’s epic landscapes rank among the most stunning in Europe, and the sheer drama of the fjords is alone worth the effort of coming here. One particularly beautiful drive is the mountain pass road known as Trollstigen (or the Troll Route), which starts at the town of Andalsnes in Rauma.
As you take Country Road 63, you’ll soon discover breathtaking mountain scenery and dramatic cascading waterfalls as you navigate tight hairpin bends and vertiginously steep inclines. This is a route which is famous for its sharp twists and turns; a narrow road often lined with rows of jagged stones.
There are viewing platforms located throughout the drive, with some of the best views from from the 2,300ft plateau where there’s a car park and visitor centre.
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