The 5 most scenic roads in Europe
Friday, 24 February 2017
There’s nothing quite like a great road trip. Here in Europe, we’re blessed with some of the most picturesque driving routes in the world: routes that have been immortalised in everything from video games to movies.
In celebration of Europe, we’re going to take a look at five of the most scenic roads on the continent: we’d recommend getting behind the wheel and heading to any of them.
Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse, Austria
Continually one of the most popular roads in the world, this stunning High Alpine Road runs through the equally picturesque Hohe Tauern National Park. The road boasts some jaw-dropping, almost limitless views across a 37 mountain range, with a high road point of 2,504 metres.
In terms of picturesque locations, it’s hard to match.
There’s some seriously good driving on offer, too: 36 hairpin bends make the road a challenge for any driving enthusiast. If you’re heading there, go in spring or summer: the route is actually closed between November and May, simply because the sharp turns and the cold weather don’t go too well together.
Scenery varies throughout the route, taking in everything from barren cliff faces to green meadows to lakes and glaciers. 30 miles of absolute beauty that should take you about an hour to drive.
Verdon Gorge, France
France offers a lot of beautiful road, but the Verdon Gorge – found in the almost universally-stunning Provence region – might well be the best.
In terms of technical challenges, the Verdon Gorge is right up there. Though you could theoretically burn through the 115 miles of road in a few hours, you’d probably crash attempting it. There are a lot of high roads and tight turns in the route, with some of the drops as high as 2,000ft. If you love a challenge, this region is a must.
(And, of course, there are the Verdon Gorges themselves to enjoy: the closest thing Europe has to the Grand Canyon).
Head there in autumn or late summer; at the height of summer, the roads get very busy. It’s worth starting early in the morning, so you’ve got time to drive the whole route.
Romantische Strasse, Germany
While some of the routes on this list can be done in an hour or two, we’d recommend at least a few days to traverse the Romantische Strasse, simply because there’s so much to see.
Winding through Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg, the route covers everything from fairy-tale castles to medieval villages. If you’re an architecture enthusiast, you’ll love it. Notable stops include the spa town of Bad Mergentheim and Tauberbishofsheim, a medieval wine village that’s one of the most stylish of its kind in the country.
Perhaps the most impressive sight on the rote is the ramparts at Rothenberg ob der Tauber, which circle a beautiful medieval townscape quite unlike anything you’ll see in the UK. And, of course, you can also enjoy driving through the foothills of the Alps, which is something every motoring enthusiast should do at least once.
We’d recommend heading to Germany during spring or summer (or early autumn), simply because the longer days will give you more time to see the sights.
Route One, Iceland
Nature lover? This is definitely the road trip for you. Iceland’s natural landscapes cover almost every extreme imaginable, from volcanoes to waterfalls to geysers to lava fields. Route One traverses almost the whole island, so is perfect for taking in as much of the country as possible.
Needless to say, it’s a longer trip – 800 miles all in – so make sure you’ve got a good four-wheel car and a good week or so off work. As with Germany, summer is the best time of year: you’ll need as much sunlight and good weather as possible to cover the majority of the route.
Highlights are numerous, but include the western section – which offers a stunning section of coastline – the beautiful north-east ash fields, the waterfall at Dettifoss and Husavik which, if you’re prepared to take a detour, is great for whale-watching.
Ring of Kerry, Ireland
Looking for something a little closer to home? The Ring of Kerry is ideal. Possibly the most renowned driving route in the British Isles, it takes in everything from the Killarney National Park – which boasts some stylish uplands – to the beach at Glenbeigh and the fishing harbours at Ballinskellig and Portmagee.
In terms of timing, the Ring of Kerry can be done in a long summer day – it’s a little over 110 miles – but it’s often worth giving up two full days. (Waterville’s a good stopover point, especially if you’re a golfer!) Summer is a good time to go, but tourist traffic can be heavy, so autumn or spring are also worth considering, as long as you’re prepared for more unpredictable weather.
Oh, and tradition dictates you head counter-clockwise from Killarney: it’s easier to navigate traffic on the narrow roads when heading this way.
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