Exploring Europe’s Best Driving Routes
One of the best ways to see Europe’s dramatic scenery is from behind the wheel of your car. There’s nothing like a road trip to really experience a country. You can fly along coastal highways and through dizzying mountain passes, turn off the engine and stare in wonder at the magnificent views across national parks, stop at the top of a mountain and look out at the world laid out below… From England’s Peak District to Transfăgărășan in Romania, here’s a list of our top ten driving destinations.
Ten of the Best
#10 The Peak District, England
One of the best routes to travel is right here in good old Blighty. Follow the route from Sheffield to Manchester and you’ll soon realise that the route through the Peak District National Park rivals any road in the world. Travel the famous Snake Pass – a twisting section of road between Glossop and the Ladybower Reservoir – to take in stunning views of the Peak District and the Pennines.
#9 Col de la Bonnette, Alps Maritimes
At 2807 metres, the Col de la Bonnette is the highest road in Europe, and one of the most famous. Smooth and sweeping, the ascent is easier than you’d expect. The route takes drivers through vistas dominated by verdant greenery at the base up to a barren, almost volcanic atmosphere at the top. At the summit of the pass you’ll see a plaque to confirm your exploit and, laid out below, one of the most stunning panoramas in the world.
#8 Trollstigen, Norway
Trollstigen translates to the Trolls’ Ladder. The route follows a serpentine mountain road through Rauma, and is part of Norwegian National Road 63, connecting Åndalsnes in Rauma and Valldal in Norddal. The road is a popular tourist attraction, due to the steep nine percent incline and the eleven hairpin bends which twist and turn their way up Trollstigen. A plateau is cut into the mountainside at 700 metres, and visitors can park their car and look out across the stunning landscape, with views of the Stigfossen waterfall, from one of the viewing balconies.
#7 St Gotthard Pass, Switzerland
Switzerland has some of the best driving routes in the world, and the St Gotthard Pass is one of its most impressive roads. The Pass leads travellers through the heart of the Alps, rewarding the intrepid explorer with beautiful, snow-capped scenery and stunning mountain vistas. Located between the towns of Andermatt and Airolo, St Gotthard Pass switches between smooth, grey asphalt and cobblestones, posing a unique challenge for drivers.
#6 French Riviera, France
Follow the winding costal highway that runs through the south of France, taking in the glamorous resorts of St Tropez and Cannes, the French Riviera is stunning; especially if you’re in a convertible with the top down. The coastline itself has some spectacular views, and as you descend into the towns you’ll get a flavour of the luxury and refinement that the French Riviera is famous for.
#5 The Black Forest, Germany
Starting in Knibes and ending at Baden Baden, Route 500 winds through one of the most spectacular stretches of Germany’s Black Forest. Drivers travel a fast, sweeping road, descending into deep woodland with frequent lay-bys where they can stop to soak up the views. The final stretch, leading into the famous spa town of Baden Baden, drives like a racetrack, with tight switchback turns and barriers along the route.
#4 The Amalfi Coast, Italy
The Amalfi coast is widely considered Italy’s most scenic stretch of coastline. The landscape is populated by towering bluffs, pastel-hued villages terraced into hillsides, cornice roads and luxuriant gardens, and the Mediterranean provides a stunning backdrop for a drive through the green-swathed mountains and twisting lanes along the south side of Italy. Deemed by UNESCO as ‘an outstanding example of a Mediterranean landscape’, the coast was awarded a coveted spot on the World Heritage list in 1997.
#3 San Bernardino Pass, Swiss Alps
The San Bernardino Pass is one of the highest paved roads in the world, at an elevation of 2066 metres, and is also one of the smoothest and most beautiful mountain passes in the Alps, often frequented by vintage rally drivers. Stretching for almost 100 kilometres against the stunning backdrop of the plunging Rhine valley, this route is almost obsolete as a transport link today, but is still the prettiest way to get from Switzerland into Northern Italy.
#2 Stelvio Pass, Italy
The Stelvio Pass is the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps, and the second highest in the Alps. It was chosen by Top Gear as their choice for the ‘greatest driving road in the world’, on the basis that it would satisfy ever ‘petrol head’s’ driving fantasies (although it has now been knocked off the top spot by Transfăgărășan). The Stelvio Pass is a truly dramatic road, and the wall of 48 switchbacks running up its north face really are a sight to behold – the route is worth taking for that part alone.
#1 Transfăgărășan, Romania
Known as DN7C, Transfăgărășan is the second-highest paved road in Romania, and weaves a delicate path around beautiful mountains, rivers and forests. DN7C was built as a strategic military route between the highest peak in the country, Moldoveanu and the second highest, Negoiu, and incorporates 90 kilometres of twists and turns which run north across the tallest sections of the southern Carpathians. It took 20 tonnes of dynamite to forge the route’s path, but it now sits between the Curtea de Arges and Cartisoara as the most majestic stretch of road in the known world.