Its open roads might not share the same pop culture status as some of the iconic U.S. highways, but Europe is home to some incredible drives that showcase the continent’s incredible landscape. Europe offers a diverse range of natural settings, from Germany’s Bavarian Alps to the rugged beauty of rural Ireland. And exploring the continent by car at your own pace is one of the best ways to experience it all. With that in mind, here are six of the best road trips to take in Europe.
1. Ring Road, Iceland
While it may be geographically distant form the rest of the continent, Iceland is most definitely part of Europe. A tour of the island by car could take as little as 12 to 14 hours, but you’ll want to slow it down to admire the stunning icebergs, volcanoes, and hot springs that line the famous Ring Road route. There are two things to remember on a road trip through Iceland: First, take a good camera because photo opportunities are aplenty. Also, try to rent a 4x4 vehicle, so that you can veer off-road to witness even more untouched, natural beauty.
2. Aix-en-Provence to Castellane, France
Beautiful lavender fields, magnificent mountains, and idyllic lakes serve as the backdrop for the drive from Aix-en-Provence to Castellane. From the flat, lavender-specked fields of Provence, the road soon rises and you’ll encounter the stunning Verdon Gorge. As is the case in much of France, the roads here are quiet and a dream to drive on. However, it’s worth noting that this trip isn’t for the faint of heart, as some mountain passes are extremely narrow and the road cuts through and around the rocky terrain of the gorge. Tip: Steer clear of the main A51 motorway. Instead, make your own route on the picturesque local roads that pass a number of beautiful small towns on the way to Castellane. We recommend going through Barjols, where you’ll find charming narrow streets and an array of cascading waterfalls.
3. Ring of Kerry, Ireland
Plenty of visits to Ireland start and stop with major cities like Dublin, but to get a real sense of the Emerald Isle, hit the road and explore. In a country that’s known for its natural beauty, deciding which route to take can be tough. However, you won’t be disappointed with a tour of the Ring of Kerry and Skellig Ring in the southwest part of the country. We recommend starting and ending in the vibrant town of Killarney. Covering just under 186 miles, the route passes castles, waterfalls, beaches, mountains, and fishing villages as it weaves through national parks and “Star Wars” sets (Skellig Islands were used as locations in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”)
4. German Alpine Road, Germany
Sure, speeding freely on the Autobahn, where speed limits aren’t enforced, can be exciting, but driving on the German Alpine Road will bring you alpine passes, forested roads, green pastures, quaint villages, and beer gardens. Stretching just over 310 miles, the German Alpine Road, or Deutsche Alpenstrasse as it’s known in German, explores Bavaria and southern Germany, as it navigates its way close to the Austrian border and into the German Alps. Highlights include the gorgeous Lake Constance, King Ludwig’s castles, Benediktbeuern Abbey, and countless lakes, mountain peaks, valleys, and quaint villages.
5. North Coast 500, Scotland
The 516-mile North Coast 500 route is the ultimate way to explore the amazing scenery of the Scottish Highlands. Kicking off from Inverness, on the eastern side of the country, the route loops up and around the coast before heading to Applecross, Ardarroch, and back again. Along the way, keep an eye out for castles, lochs, mountains, and rolling glens, plus more than one whisky distillery (just make sure to make it an overnight stop). As a bonus, the drive offers solitude to go along with the awe-inspiring sights.
6. Italian Lakes and the Dolomites, Italy
With stunning landscapes throughout, Italy is well worth experiencing on a road trip -- specifically, the northern lakes and the Dolomites. Spread this journey over a week to give yourself ample time to soak in the sights and villages. You'll also want to take a quick dip in the lakes (Garda, Iseo, Como, Lugano, and Maggiore) and pull over to snap some photos of the lakeside villas, forests, and rolling hills. Towns to visit include Bellagio on Como, Sirmione on Garda, and Cannobio overlooking Maggiore. Stop in romantic Verona before making your way to the Great Dolomites Road, which will take you into the mountains via plenty of hairpin turns and over 62 miles of incredible scenery. We recommend embarking on this trip in the summer, before the snow begins to fall.
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