Road travel can be one of the most rewarding ways to explore a familiar or unknown place. While the current situation is making it hard to visit new regions, we can expect post-pandemic travels to be able to restart safely by 2021.
Who should embrace the joys and excitements of road trips? To be fair, being on the road is not for everyone. It is a unique experience that is not so much about the destination, but more about the journey. You get to visit plenty of new places and you can stop whenever you choose, you are essentially on the go most of the time. However, if you’re an enthusiastic city visitor or a dedicated countryside explorer, you may find a road-based trip unpleasant. Some of the most famous road trips include Route 66 that crosses through the US and The Central Hokkaido Route across Japan. But, you don’t need to go far to find extraordinary roads. Here are 7 ideas for memorable road experiences in Europe.
1. Around the Irish coast
Ireland has some of the most spectacular coastal drives in Europe with plenty of stop points to recharge your batteries. Irish coastal routes take the road trip to a new level with breathtaking scenery at every turn. You can drive all around the coast of Ireland, discovering the Giant’s Causeway on the Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland, before exploring the Wild Atlantic Way from North to South. Come back along the east coast on Ireland’s Ancient East coastal drive for the ultimate scenic trip.
If you’re not based in Ireland, we strongly recommend booking a car in advance at a city location. Dublin is one of the busiest airports in Ireland, and you’re only a short bus trip from town when you land. You’ll save yourself unnecessary costs with a city-based rental.
2. Spanish road trip
Spain tends to be associated with all-night-long tapas and paradise beaches. But, for road trippers, the epic Pyrenees ranges offer serpentine routes that swirl down to the valley, along breathtaking gorges and lakes. Opt to take a motorbike tour around Spain and discover the Spanish scenery and open routes. Northern Spain is a lush region of mountains, lakes, and open countryside. Yet, if you prefer southern destinations, a south tour will take you through picturesque cities and sunny coastal destinations that hum with life.
For anyone who wants to discover Catalonia, the Pyrenees, and some of the most cities in Spain without getting stuck in tourist-crowded areas, a guided road trip is the perfect answer.
3. Mount Etna by car
Road trippers often overlook Sicily. The island is home to many beautiful and mesmerising landscapes. There’s a lot to see and experience, and a lot you can only discover with a car. A self-drive tour around Sicily covers many highlights, from the cultural melting pot, Palermo to the Greek theatre in Taormina. You’ll also be driving through some of the most famous archaeological masterpieces in Agrigento and Syracuse, the birthplace of Archimedes. The highlight of your trip is likely to be the visit to Mount Etna, one of the most active volcanoes in Europe. The volcano shows a constant state of activity, with frequent flank and summit eruptions. However, the local population has learned to live with the volcano, so eruptions rarely threaten villages and towns around. But, imagine being able to walk around the craters of Mount Etna! Now that’s an amazing Instagram shot.
4. Cycle around the sunken village in the Alps
Lake Serre-Ponçon is a French reservoir in the Alps. One of the largest reservoirs in Western Europe, the lake was specifically created to control water flow and avoid floods. During the construction, villages were sunken as the valley became a lake. A 12th-century chapel, Chapelle Saint-Michel remains visible at all times in the middle of the lake, as it was built on a hill. When the water level is low, in winter, the chapel can be reached by foot. When the weather is warm, you can also take diving lessons in the lake to explore the underwater village.
What makes Serre-Ponçon a truly unique place is the spectacular road that circles the reservoir. With over 90 miles of road, most travellers opt for a cycling adventure to explore the surroundings.
5. Head to the Nürburgring
Car racing enthusiasts will be familiar with the Nürburgring, a large motorsport complex in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. The North Loop, or Nordschleife, is a racing track that is open to members of the public. You can add the Nürburgring experience to a German circuit. The Castle circuit, a fantastic road that takes you through some of the most famous castles in Germany, stops in Cologne and Cochem Castle, both within short driving distance from the ring track.
6. Discover the land of IKEA
The first thing that might come to mind when you think of Sweden is the delicious Swedish meatballs from IKEA. But there’s a lot more to explore, from the beautiful Lapland in the north to the green and lush farmland in the south. Sweden has some of the most breathtaking, yet understated, landscapes. The coastline in the south is rich in activities, and you can drive through the iconic Småland, the Swedish region famous for its red cottages and green countryside. As you head north, you’ll encounter traditional rites and stories, such as Midsummer.
7. A Baltic road trip
Driving through the Baltic takes you to the heart of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. If you are renting a car, we strongly recommend renting it in Latvia, as this will reduce your driving time. Additionally, you’ll be able to drive the car back more easily. Plan a trip to the Hill of Crosses, in Lithuania, which is a pilgrimage site with a vast collection of wooden crosses of different sizes and shapes. It’s a poignant site of dedication and collective memory, whether you are religious or not.