We have covered a fair few road trips in Europe through various times of the year, with around 16 different European countries under our belt now. And here we share a quick list of our best road trips in Europe to date when travelling on Self Drive Holidays in Europe. And while the list is far from complete, I can say we have covered many of the more iconic road trips on Self Drive Holidays in Europe, though we may not have written all of them up fully yet (we’re busy bees). Otherwise, this list shares some of our more standout road trip destinations and I will link to the full guides self-drive holidays where possible. Many of these destinations also come under our ‘extreme sightseeing’ itineraries where we travel ridiculous distances to photograph things, then travel ridiculous distances again to the next. Anyway, here I share some of our best road trips for self-drive holidays in Europe. We will also add to them with travels to come.
The Alps, Switzerland
With its ridiculously scenic mountains and landscapes topped with snow, the Swiss Alps would have to be in contention for the best road trip in Europe, all year round. And as with most road trip destinations, there are specific and signposted routes (in this case the Grand Tour of Switzerland) which can be followed, or like us just roam them alone. As the scenery is almost always immensely beautiful throughout. From Lake Geneva to the highest peaks of Europe. However it is undoubtedly the most expensive destination on this list for Self Drive Holidays in Europe, and the highest peaks and scenery of Switzerland will always be better covered by trains and cablecars.
The Pyrenees, Spain
This road trip, or at least the sheer beauty of it, was completely unexpected, as we travelled south from France’s seaside city of Biarritz, to our planned destination of Alquezar, a medieval village in Huesca Province. Where along the way we followed fascinating and unexpected contrasts, as the French mountainside transforms into landscapes of towering rock structures, bright blue lakes, and dry desert-like surroundings. It felt like we had arrived in Mexico. Yet snow still capped the peaks of the further Pyrenees mountains. Honestly, I didn’t realise places like this even existed in Europe, and a full Spanish road trip should soon be on the cards.
Upper Carniola, Slovenia
The real standout, but also touristy and built up attraction in Slovenia, is without a doubt Lake Bled, which makes the ideal base for travel in the Upper Carniola region. However the surrounding lakes and mountains for me were the real highlight, as the region shares such silent and pristine natural beauty in winter, including Lake Bohinj, found next to a small village settlement and cute church just 20 mins out. However the drive into the Julian Alps is also a must, where we crossed right over the borders into Austria, after a stay in the snowy mountain town of Kranjska Gora. This was easily one of the best routes during an 8-country road trip through East-Central Europe (Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic).
The Bohemian Forests, Czech Republic
This was another unlikely destination, again taken on in winter, when we crossed the borders from an earlier stay on the Danube in Passau Germany, into the Bohemian Forests of the Czech Republic. This is when driving became much more secluded and slippery, as we leave behind the big motorways, to find remote roads completely covered in snow. It was admittedly a bit terrifying at first, which may have even added to the excitement of this road trip, however the roads were otherwise empty in this area of the Šumava mountains, where the only other vehicles passing us were Mitsubishis and Subarus which looked to be racing in the area. We also ended at Czechy Krumlov which is just enchanting in winter covered in snow.
The Riviera, France
I really didn’t enjoy driving in the Riviera (on my third time) as it is busier and more congested than pretty much any road trip route we’ve taken on. However the route is no doubt inspired lined with green hills on one side, and coastline marinas, soft sand beaches and pristine aquamarine sea on the opposite. A lot of massive yachts as well. The route along the way runs alongside palm trees, pedestrian promenades and boulevards, where joggers, roller skaters, and topless bodybuilders, make it almost a bit kitsch and cliche. But the real sense for this road trip route is the iconic destinations like Cannes, and Nice, and Monaco (Circuit de Monaco) along the way. It’s just overall fascinating, albeit not overly enjoyable.
The Highlands, Scotland
The Scottish Highlands are easily the best winter road trip in all of the U.K. By a long way. And it is simply because it is the only region that is pretty much guaranteed snow throughout the winter months (e.g. Glencoe, Cairngorm and Aviemore ski ranges). But we were somewhat lucky during a 7-night road trip in the Scottish Highlands when the entire region, from Lough Lomond to the Isle of Skye, was blanketed in heavy snow. And there were just some of the most fascinating, wild and expansive mountain landscapes, that set it apart from the more iconic Self Drive Holidays in Europe’s more mountainous peaks. Seriously, despite being so close to home, the Scottish Highlands is one of the best road trips in Europe, year-round. And it’s just out-of-this-world in winter. Check the video below.
The Burren, Ireland
To date we have covered most of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, however for me the real standout road trip is at the Burren (County Clare) area, found in one of the most touristic parts of Ireland, yet we barely passed another vehicle in hours. Probably because the busloads of tourists couldn’t fit on these windy roads. So this area is just fascinating, with karst landscapes, vast cracked pavements of glacial-era limestone, cliffs, caves, fossils, rock formations and archaeological sites (thanks Wikipedia). And also wild horses, hairy cows and Father Ted’s house. The Burren also forms a leisurely loop with the coastline, connecting between the Cliffs of Moher and the nearby base of Galway City. Then maybe add in some Connemara for an all Ireland-overload. Easily the best road trip in the Republic of Ireland.
The best road trip is very hard to choose from France’s countryside, but for us, Provence would pip the Ardèche to the post (I still have a lot of France to write-up). And this is due to the sheer diversity of landscapes, and while Provence is foremost famous for its lavender fields, and the usual wheat fields, vineyards, and French cliches, it also has Gorges Verdan, with winding roads teetering on cliffsides, and just magnificent views from above. Then there is Rousillon, the Maritime Alps, and of course the Camargue region which offers a handy start to the Côte Dazur, and the French Riviera. France will always be home to many of the best road trips and Self Drive Holidays in Europe.
Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland
I haven’t included Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way in this list, as it is somewhat too specific, and it ignores other landscapes and coastlines which I feel would be better time spent. The Burren, of course, is there, but I’d maybe add in Wicklow, and most definitely the Causeway Coast of Northern Ireland for any road trip on the island of Ireland. As the Causeway Coast just has so many close-knit attractions to explore such as the basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway, the Bushmills Distillery, along with the various filming scenes and backdrops from the Game of Thrones. There’s Ballintoy Harbour, Murlough Bay, Cushendun Caves, Dunluce Castle, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, Rathlin Island, almost too much to list. In fact, Northern Ireland as a whole would be in the best road trips in Europe.
Hallstatt would be one of the better-known attractions in Austria is, found in the Salzkammergut region, and it was solely this lakeside village that brought us to these parts of Austria. However the entire area turned out to be just ridiculously picturesque when heaped in snow, with cute alpine mountains, lakes and small-town scenery along the way. I have no idea where any of the photos below were taken (although the third photo maybe Traunkirchen) as we never set out to stop at or explore any of these destinations. But it was incredibly hard not to stop to photograph them, and play in the snow for a bit. Austria is just picture perfect in the snow.
The Riviera, Italy
I am a bit torn in adding the Italian Riviera to this list of best road trips in Europe, and while there are no doubt some insanely beautiful coastal scenes along this route, they are otherwise extremely hard to enjoy. Because parking is almost impossible to find on the coastline, the roads are ridiculously thin and winding, and Italians really are just not known for their patience in driving or hospitality. Then add in the motorbikes. So the drive itself can be ridiculously frustrating, however the sights are just phenomenal on the Italian Riviera, including the iconically colourful Cinque Terre, Portofino, and just every coloured and characterful coastal town along the way. We ended this day’s road trip later in the town of Pisa.