With no tour operators frantically shepherding you to cliché photo opportunities and bundling you into coaches before the day’s end — packing the car and taking a road trip is our favorite way to travel on land. Here are our suggestions for the best scenic and culture-filled road trips to take in Europe!
The Ring Road, Iceland: 7 Day Trip
There are few places that compare to a road trip through the iceberg-strewn, volcano-filled, dramatic expanses of Iceland’s Ring Road, one of the most popular cyclical routes to take around the glacial countryside of the island’s periphery.
Start off your journey at the Golden Circle, near Reykjavik — small enough to see in a day and home to Lake Thingvallavatn, Iceland’s largest lake in the gorgeous Thingvellir National Park. With so much to see, from lava tubes to geothermal geysers, you’ll have to be careful that you don’t get stuck here for the remainder of your trip!
Next — time to marvel at some of the most impressive waterfalls on earth. Stop off at Seljalandsfoss Waterfall where you can shoot some excellent behind-the-waterfall photos and Skogafoss Waterfall to witness rainbows forming against the cascades.
If icebergs and glaciers are your thing, then you’ll want to take your time on the next leg through Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon and Diamond Beach where the landscape is littered with shockingly blue-tinted ice formations.
After traversing the fjord-littered eastern expanses of the rugged countryside, you’ll be treated to the geothermal regions of the North where you can plan excursions to Bárðarbunga Volcano or Námafjall Hverir geothermal area from the comfort of Iceland’s second largest city, Akureyri.
To end your trip, either head straight back to Reykjavik or meander through the Snæfellsnes Peninsula for the last few priceless waterfall shots before heading home.
The Fjord Region, Norway: 7-10 Day Trip
The Scandinavian heartland of Norway, where Vikings once roamed and sailed their fjords, is a truly spectacular place to take a road trip. With glassy lakes, waterways, mountains and not another human being in sight for miles on end — you can end up feeling like you’ve stepped back in time!
A short flight away from Oslo is the picturesque town of Kristiansund, a perfect starting point to explore the fjords of the Northeastern region of the country. From here you can set off along the National Tourist Route on the Atlantic Ocean Road where you’ll be treated to a scenic drive across the ocean on a network of bridges that connect the endless miniature islands of the area, surrounded by tranquil sea, verdant fields and quaint fishing villages.
Head South to Molde, a seaside community reminiscent of Alaska with visible snow peaks on all sides where you can catch a ferry to the deeper fjords around Åndalsnes where the land steepens to reveal truly spectacular mountainscapes filled with waterfront villages.
For the last leg of the journey, you can ascend further still into the mountains on the Trollstigen National Tourist route for the crème-de-la-crème of mountain drives, filled with 180 degree bends overlooking sheer drops and banks of clouds obscuring the road.
The Hebrides, Scotland: 5 Day Trip
Cloaked in mystery and rugged highland beauty, the Inner and Outer Hebrides isles in Scotland have long been a destination for road-trippers seeking long, empty highways to cruise down, fairytale towns and castles and an abundance of gorgeous scenery.
Easily accessible, you can set off from Oban towards the Isle of Barra, where you’ll be hard pressed to find a person in sight and can lose yourself in the delicious tranquility you’ll find among the peaceful hills and moors. Don’t forget to visit the beaches around Barra that wouldn’t look out-of-place in the Caribbean, with azure, crystalline waters and white sand. Expect the water to be a little colder though! A favourite overnight spot is the beautiful Castlebay Harbour.
Hop on a ferry northward to the North Uist, the remarkably scenic island strewn with causeways and freshwater lochs that shimmer under the sunlight, adding to the fairytale effect of the landscape. From here, you’re in the perfect place to explore the areas of Berneray and Benbecula – filled with enough wildlife to compete with the world’s most abundant nature reserves.
Further North you’ll think you’ve taken a wrong turn and ended up back in the Middle Ages when you reach the Isle of Harris, populated by rolling hills, abandoned castles and lunar landscapes of black crags. A network of crafting and fishing villages fill the trail ahead through the Isle of Lewis until you reach ports where you can leave the beautiful islands on a ferry bound to Ullapool.
Jungfrau Region, Switzerland: 3-5 Day Trip
Arguably the be-all and end-all of Alpine destinations, Jungfrau is the jewel of the Alps with a network of scenic road routes deserving of that title. Opting for a drive through the beautiful mountainscape can be oh-so-much-more rewarding than buying a pricey train ticket and will give you the freedom to pit-stop to your heart’s content to marvel at the scenery.
To the East and West of the city of Interlaken — you’ll find lakes to drive around and admire or even leave your car and hike on some less accessible routes in search of better views.
A short drive up from the city you can reach the “Top of Europe”, known as Jungfraujoch, where you’ll discover postcard panoramic Alpine views, ice caves, museums and authentic locales where you can sample Swiss food in style from the top of the world.
You’ll be able to get the trip done in 3-5 days, but remember that if you want to extend your road time, Mont Blanc, Geneva and a host of other incredible European destinations are all within reasonable distance!
Ring of Kerry, Ireland: 1-2 Day Trip
This 180km circular route on Ireland’s western side is one of Europe’s lesser-known but most entertaining road trips on account of the sheer variety found in the little Irish gauntlet. Start off in the buzzing little town of Killarney where you’ll be charmed by the cobbled streets, an amicable atmosphere, and no shortage of authentic Irish pubs. Make sure you’ve got a designated driver if you plan on staying for a drink or two!
As you continue on your route, be sure to make stops at Ross Castle and Torc Waterfall, a mere stone’s throw from Killarney but beautifully historic and magically rural in their own right. Reaching Killarney National Park further north, you can go hunting for the best viewpoints of the verdant mountains and lakes, followed by a coastal detour that’ll bring you to the shores of Derrynane Beach.
Here you can soak up the rays in the summer and indulge in water sports to your heart’s content. The best thing about the Ring of Kerry is that you’ll have no time constraints and no limit to how long you want to spend in a certain place. From pubs to beaches, there’s a little something for everyone!