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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.

Caherdaniel Viewpoint - Ring of Kerry

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.

Amalfi Coast, Italy

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.

Iceland car truck

Iceland Waterfall RF

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.

Trollstigen, Norway

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.

This is a route which is famous for its sharp twists and turns; a narrow road often lined with rows of jagged stones.

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

Photo credits: The Ring of Kerry by Tony Webster. Amalfi Coast by quiquefepe. Iceland truck by Moyan Brenn. Trollstigen by Eleonora Gorini.

    46 Comments

  1. Nice suggestions Meg! Driving scenic roads has always been my passion. Trollstigen and les Corniches are amazing!

    • Thanks! Awesome that you’ve driven Trollstigen and les Corniches – I’m constantly in awe of how we have managed to build roads through some of these spectacular destinations!

  2. I love deriving to new travel destinations, it’s so great to see the world at your pace and being able to stop wherever you want (as long as it’s safe..)! Ring Road was one of my favorite drives ever…I think Amalfi Coast is next for me!

    • I totally agree – the freedom and flexibility of exploring at our own pace is why we love road trips so much too. I could just drive in a constant circle around the Ring Road and be happy for the rest of my life :D! It’s so beautiful there!

      Have an amazing trip to the Amalfi Coast!

  3. Ok seriously, I want to do all of these drives! As I kept reading, I was like oh yes this one, no wait, this one! Iceland is just beyond gorgeous and spending 7-10 days on the Ring Road drive would be unforgettable. I am, however, a sucker for France and Italy. One mention of medieval or colorful villages, classic villas, and stunning sea views and my eyes are glazed over imagining a scenario where I happily never find my way off the routes!

    • The nice thing about Europe is that the vast majority of it is connected, and you can combine everything into an epic roadtrip if you wanted to, driving from one incredible road to the next :D! Might have to fly to Iceland though and pick up a rental for that stretch :D!

  4. I have been wanting to do Ring Road in Iceland so bad, but all of these other options look amazing too, especially the Amalfi Coast in Italy! We are going to Killarney in October so perhaps we should plan a few more days and take an unforgettable road trip!

    • Definitely looks at renting a car for the Ring of Kerry if you’re in Killarney in October – can’t wait to see some of the drone footage you guys produce! Ireland is an incredible destination for aerial shots!

  5. My family and I have been considering to do another summer roadtrip in Europe and I think this is the exact push that I needed! I was not familiar with the route to Nice via Les Corniches so I am saving it immeditely 🙂

    • Glad we could help out with some ideas Claudia! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions while planning your trip 🙂 Happy travels!

  6. We’re taking a road trip through Europe this fall (Amsterdam to Berlin to my native Slovakia and back through Austria) and unfortunately miss all of these places. But the real point here is that as much as travelers prefer train, bus, and plan travel, there’s a lot to be said for car travel (road trips!) in Europe.

    • Sounds incredible Peter! There is definitely a lot to be said about car travel through Europe, and even though you’ll miss these roadtrips, your route sounds incredible; Europe is stunning in general no matter which part you visit.

      And it just means you have an excuse to plan a return roadtrip 😀 Happy travels!

  7. Wow, these are really picturesque drives. I drive every Summer between Nice and St-Tropez, but I didnt realize the road via Les Corniches is more beautiful. I took the bus across Norway last Summer and I also rode a bus across the Amalfi Coast last Summer. The views were amazing! I have yet to do the drive around Iceland.

    • Definitely check out the Les Corniches the next time you’re driving to Nice – one of the most stunning drives in Europe :D!

      Sounds like you have a lot of this list already ticked off – hope you have the chance to visit Iceland soon! Happy road tripping 🙂

  8. During our travels in 2012 we did a lot of driving throughout Europe. We were unlucky in the fact that the entire time we were driving around the Ring of Kerry it was raining, but it was still beautiful. Later in our trip, we had a home exchange and were able to take the car first throughout Spain and Portugal, and then France.

    • Drats – that’s Ireland for you though! Still beautiful even through the rain, but yes, the weather is definitely unpredictable. I always recommend people travel with umbrellas and raincoats – we got hit quite a bit on our drive too.

      Home exchange in Europe sounds great – I watched the film the Holiday with Cameron Diaz and always wanted to do something similar – have never had a house to exchange though lol :D!

      Happy travels Rhonda!

  9. Such a great list! I haven’t gotten to do any of these, but the Amalfi coast is high on my list. I can also vouch that Norway’s fjords are stunning, so I’d imagine the drive through them is as well!

    • Thanks Tamara 🙂 Hope you have the chance to drive a couple of these in the future!

  10. Would love to go on a driving tour or Ireland and Norway. Thanks for the tips. When I lived in Europe, I use to live driving across Bavaria. So beautiful!

    • I would love to spend time driving across Bavaria – hope you have the chance to tour Ireland and Norway soon! 🙂

  11. Great list! I’ll be driving around Ireland in a few months and I absolutely can’t wait! (even if I am nervous about driving on the left!)

    • Thanks Mags! Have an incredible time in Ireland! You’ll adapt pretty quickly to the other side of the road. If all else fails, if there’s a car coming towards you, jump to the other side 😀 lol

      Happy travels!

  12. Great suggestions! We love road tripping and always try to fit it in if we can. Iceland was a fantastic spot to road trip and we are heading to Killarney, Ireland, later this year for a road trip–can’t wait! Would love to check out the other spots too sometime, especially Trollstigen, Norway!

    • Thanks Jenna 🙂 Have an incredible time in Ireland – if you have some free time in Europe maybe you could fit Trollstigen in too 😀 Happy travels!

  13. Hey Megan,

    I’m heading to Ireland this autumn and I’m overly excited!

    Another country to add to your lovely list is Portugal. A few years ago we did a lot of driving along the Algarve coast and it was unbelievable what you can discover away from mass tourism!

    Cheers,
    N.

    • Have an incredible time in Ireland! It’s such a beautiful country, you’ll have a blast 🙂 Just remember to pack wet weather gear – the weather is notoriously unpredictable re rain!!

      Thanks for the tip on Portugal – will have to check out the Algarve coast soon!

  14. Hello Megan, The road you proposed is a very good choice. I have done more of the south of Europe as Sun has to be part of my journey. If can recommend you two beautiful road trip for you or your readers, I would defintly recommend: – road trip in the Rioja region in Spain, wine valley with excellent food, ending the trip on the atlantic coast of Spain in San Sebastian leaving from Barcelona (Around 700 km per way) or a very virgin region of Italy, Apulia around 800 km road tour from Bari or 1100 km if you leave from Rome. I wish you the best in your journey, I am off for Athens in few week, getting exciting.

    • Hi Amarante, thankyou for your suggestions – I will add the Rioja region and Apulia from Bari to our list! Hope to get back to Europe soon so we can explore more 🙂

      Hope you have an incredible time in Athens – Greece is an amazing country, I’m sure you’ll have such a fun time! Happy travels 🙂

  15. Europe has indeed some scenic routes – all offering amazing views! I’d add Romania to the list – we took a 2 weeks vacation in the Apuseni Mountains, drove each day, loved every moment and discovered some wonderful places!

    • Thanks for the recommendation on Romania Lori … I’ll have to look up the Apuseni Mountains – thanks for the tip!

  16. A great list guys. My bucket list just got longer 🙂

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Dave 🙂 Happy road tripping!

  17. Interesting this point … I for example started my travels around the world at my 18 years of age and even though it was not something my parents wanted very much followed my adventurous heart and I have been through more than 60 countries. Traveling is something that to me is addictive and incredible. But I only find it interesting when you have a cash income that does not depend on physical means to win. And I also really prefer to travel by car on the roads than by plane. You miss a lot of incredible things like amazing landscapes and places. Very good article 🙂

    • Glad you enjoyed the article Raiane, and happy to hear that you followed your passions and sought out fabulous experiences in travel! Agree on travel being addictive – the travel bug also bit me when I was 18!

      Road trip is one of our favorite ways to travel, as you said, you see a lot more of a country this way than you do if you’re flying.

      Happy travels!

  18. ugh I want to road trip through the Amalfi coast so badly! I’m just thinking of all the good food I would eat! Thanks for this list…this summer I’m going to Iceland but I am going trekking instead of renting a car. I hope to visit some of those waterfalls though!

    • The Amalfi Coast is definitely a worthwhile destination for the bucketlist! Have an amazing time in Iceland – we LOVED our visit during summer, and while a road trip is something I absolutely recommend, there’s so much incredible trekking so you’ll have such a fabulous adventure!!

      Happy travels!

  19. I did the Ring Road in Iceland. That was incredible. This country is amazingly beautiful.

    • Fabulous Emmanuelle! One of our favorite adventures to date as well – the Ring Road certainly makes for an unforgettable road trip 🙂

  20. The Czech Republic has preserved its cultural heritage since the Middle Ages, brews the best beers, and joined the EU, which gives many reasons for visiting Prague and other cities of this wonderful country! Feel free to plan an independent trip to the Czech Republic! Czech Republic definitely will please both active youth and their parents, because Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Be sure to visit this truly stunning medieval city. Although the Czech Republic is not only a Prague baggage! In the camp there are many castles and cozy, literally toy towns. It is advisable to visit several of them, for example, the famous Karlovy Vary or Cesky Krumlov. Also you can trip Georgia – the firework of new impressions! Georgia is ideal for any kind of recreation and. A separate chapter of admiration belongs to the stunned kitchen! In addition, Georgia is the country of winemakers, therefore, when going to Kakheti, be sure to taste the local divine wine. Christianity in Georgia is no less ancient than in neighboring Armenia. So for believing people you can make a route of individual pilgrimage. Georgia is cheaper than Europe, it is small, albeit a mountainous country.

    • Thankyou for the recommendations Garret 🙂 I totally agree that Prague is one of the most beautiful city centers in Europe. I haven’t done a road trip around Czechnia yet, though I would love to get back and have the opportunity to discover some of the idyllic countryside towns.

      And thanks for the tip on Georgia. I haven’t been, so hopefully I can fix that on an upcoming Europe trip!

      Thanks for your suggestions 🙂

  21. I think we all have that something special that we will travel the world for. And that’s great! Let our passion drive our decisions, and we no doubt will be happier. It such an interesting post for me because I love road trips. I bookmarked to Norway and Island to travel list for my next trips. I hope that trips more adventure than my other trips. Thanks for sharing this fabulous post. I waiting for your next post.

    • Absolutely Jon, glad to hear from a fellow road tripping enthusiast! Glad we could inspire you to consider Norway or Ireland for your next trip – both incredible countries!

      Happy travels 🙂

  22. There are some amazing destinations in Europe – I can vouch for the sheer beauty of the landscape around the Ring of Kerry. We have taken quite a few road trips over the years, and traveling through Italy is always fun. Switzerland has some spectacular scenery as well, especially if you explore the alpine villages. This year, we are taking a vacation in the Cayman Islands, so our next road trip will have to wait until the following year.

    • Sounds like you’ve covered quite a lot! I would love to take a road trip through Switzerland, my only issue with Europe is that there’s too much to choose from lol 😀

      So glad you enjoyed your time around the Ring of Kerry, that’s a particular trip that really stands out in my memory. We loved that trip 🙂

      Have a great time in the Cayman Islands!

  23. Loved your piece. Would like to add few more things about Amalfi coast . It’s one of the best holiday destinations to travel on the roads of Europe. Driving along the Amalfi coast will make any traveler go back in time with the beautiful architecture of Italy. It is the mixture of history, architecture, cuisine and set design that makes this one of the best road trips in Europe.

    • Thanks Rob! So glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks for sharing your love of the Amalfi Coast – one of my favorite regions in Italy for sure 🙂

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