From the Mediterranean to the Nordics, Europe offers an inviting mix of cultures and breathtaking landscapes for you to discover. Add to that the sense of freedom you get on a road trip, and you’ll find that a European driving tour is pretty hard to beat!
If you’re thinking about taking the wheel, you might wonder how to choose from so many options. That’s why we’ve pulled together a round-up of the 8 best road trips in Europe to add to your wish list.
Whether you want to visit medieval castles, explore pristine fjords or glimpse vast glaciers, you’ll find your perfect road trip. Europe is calling.
1. The Ring Road – Iceland
Embark on a road trip in Iceland and you’ll be rewarded with some of Europe’s most dramatic scenery. Expect thundering waterfalls, mighty glaciers and geothermal hot springs on your drive through this enchanting Nordic nation.
Instead, experience the best of Iceland by allowing 6–14 days to drive the Ring Road.
From here travel along Iceland’s south coast, stopping off to witness waterfalls, black sand beaches, and the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Then, drive up the east coast to reach North Iceland where you’ll discover volcanoes, craters and the Mývatn Nature Baths.
Spend the following days uncovering the local folklore surrounding places like Goðafoss (“Waterfall of the Gods”) and Trollaskagi (“Peninsula of the Trolls”).
As you’re travelling through West Iceland on your way back to Reykjavík, why not take a detour to the Snæfellsnes peninsula? Moss-covered lava fields, a glacier-topped volcano and historic fishing villages are waiting for you.
Iceland’s Ring Road is an excellent way to see as much of the country as possible on one trip!
Start & end: Reykjavík
Distance: 1,332 kilometres (828 miles)
Duration: 6–14 days
Highlights: Thundering waterfalls, giant glaciers and geothermal pools
2. Multi-Country Alps Adventure – Germany, Switzerland & Austria
The mountains of the Alps stretch across 8 European countries. With so much ground to cover, travelling by car is one of the best ways to experience multiple countries on one trip.
Venture to the Alps, and we recommend beginning your journey in Munich, the capital of Germany’s scenic Bavarian region. This way, you can explore the city's historic landmarks and toast your trip with beer from 16th-century breweries.
Next, set off for Zürich, Switzerland’s largest city. Along the way, marvel at the gushing waters of Rhine Falls and wander past intricately painted medieval buildings in Stein am Rhein.
Now it's time to head for the charming city of Lausanne on the shores of Lake Geneva in French-speaking Switzerland. Spend time relaxing on the city’s lakeshore promenade before making your way into the Swiss Alps.
The instantly recognisable Matterhorn should be first on your list. Enjoy views of the pyramidal peak by hiking nearby trails, riding cable cars, or strolling around Zermatt, a chalet-style town at the mountain’s base.
You can then make your way into Austria, where you’ll experience the third country on your Alpine adventure. Stop off in Salzburg, where the hills truly come alive with The Sound of Music. Discover the city's Altstadt (“Old Town”), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and visit Mozart's birthplace.
As your trip draws to a close, return to Munich via idyllic mountain passes, and reflect on the unforgettable experiences you’ve had.
Start & end: Munich
Distance: 1,945 kilometres (1,208 miles)
Duration: 12 days
Highlights: Ancient castles, glacial lakes and cable cars
- Embrace the freedom of travelling at your own pace with these Alps self-drive tours
- Related: Must-see mountains in the Alps
3. The Fjord Route – Norway
Norway’s fjord and mountain landscapes are renowned for their breathtaking beauty. So if you love nature, a self-drive adventure in this part of Europe will suit you perfectly.
What makes a Norway road trip so special is the sense of escape it offers. Imagine the wonder you’ll feel as you gaze up at forested mountains, glittering fjords, and mighty waterfalls.
There are so many self-drive routes you could choose from, but one of our favourites is a journey through western Norway. This road trip will have you weaving through fjord-dotted countryside and stopping off at picture-perfect towns and villages, such as Flåm, Balestrand and Ålesund.
Begin in beautiful Bergen – Norway’s second-largest city and gateway to the fjords. From here, drive northeast to Sogndal and the gorgeous Sognefjord, for the chance to swim, kayak or bike in the area.
A scenic drive takes you further north through Jotunheimen National Park and the highest mountain pass in Northern Europe, Sognefjellsvegen. You’ll then reach the stunning Geirangerfjord, characterised by forests, waterfalls and craggy peaks.
After a ferry to Linge, prepare for a thrilling drive along the mountain road, Trollstigen. Meaning “Troll’s Ladder”, the route has 11 hairpin beds through epic mountain scenery – it’s one of the most famous roads in Europe.
Following a stop in Ålesund, sweep back south along the coastal road with blue fjords as your backdrop.
You could also detour north to the Atlantic Road (Atlanterhavsveien), an 8-kilometre (5-mile) stretch of road that connects several islands. Here, you’ll drive over 8 bridges as you take in the sea views. Then, stretch your legs at one of the nearby traditional fishing villages, like Molde.
Start & end: Bergen
Distance: 1,234 kilometres (777 miles)
Duration: 10 days
Highlights: Deep fjords, craggy mountains and plunging waterfalls
- Find your ideal adventure and check out these Norway self-drive tours
- Prepare for your road trip with these tips for driving in Norway
4. The UK Experience – England, Scotland & Wales
Soak up the sights of 3 countries on one tour with a UK road trip. Delve into each of these nations, and learn why they all have their own distinct appeal.
Your starting point will be London, the UK’s lively capital. From here, head east towards Oxford, where you’ll see striking university buildings, and the River Cherwell weaving its way through the city.
Then, travel north, passing through the Peak District, a national park with towns oozing old-world charm. Continue north past York before reaching Hadrian’s Wall, one of England’s most iconic Roman sites.
Cross the border into Scotland, the second country of your trip, and make for Edinburgh. Stroll down winding lanes and cobbled streets in the historic capital. And end the day with a “dram” (a small glass) of the nation’s most famous drink, whisky.
From there, start heading south again towards the Lake District, where you’ll feast your eyes on deep valleys, blue lakes and quaint English towns.
Journey towards Wales, a small country with a friendly and patriotic culture. Walk along the golden sands at Llandudno, “Queen of the Welsh Resorts”. And allow time to stop by Eryri (“Snowdonia”) National Park for views of rocky peaks.
Travel back into England where you could visit the UNESCO-listed city of Bath. Then check out Stonehenge, one of the country’s best-known Neolithic sites, on your way back to London. Here you can take your pick of attractions, like Big Ben, the London Eye and Buckingham Palace.
Start & end: London
Distance: 1,935 kilometres (1,202 miles)
Duration: 7–14 days
Highlights: Beautiful national parks, vibrant cities and ancient Roman sites
- See 3 countries on one road trip with these UK self-drive tours
- Related: Visiting the UK – Travel tips from a local expert
5. The Scandinavian Triangle – Sweden, Denmark & Norway
Although it’s made up of 3 different countries, you can easily drive between them in a loop over a few days. It won’t take long for you to fall for the Scandinavian Triangle, with its trio of cool capital cities, Baltic coastline and lush countryside.
A good place to start your Scandinavian road trip is the Swedish capital of Stockholm. After roaming around the city’s Old Town (Gamla Stan), Royal Palace and the islands of the Stockholm Archipelago, drive south along the coast towards Denmark. En route, admire southern Sweden’s medieval towns and castles.
An overnight ferry will then whisk you from Denmark to Norway across the North Sea. After docking in Oslo, relish the chance to get to know the city’s art scene and history. The Norwegian capital has some fantastic museums and galleries.
From Oslo, make your way back to Stockholm via the gorgeous Swedish countryside. You could stop in Karlstad, Kristinehamn and Örebro on the way, admiring fairytale castles and manor houses as you go.
Start & end: Stockholm
Distance: 1,352 kilometres (839 miles)
Duration: 10 days
Highlights: Cool capital cities, opulent royal palaces and the Baltic Sea
6. The Wild Atlantic Way & Beyond – Ireland
With its rugged coastline, rolling landscapes and friendly cities, Ireland is a dream to discover on a road trip. In fact, driving is the easiest way to get around, with short distances between stops and scenic backdrops.
The Wild Atlantic Way is a 2,400-kilometre (1,500-mile) route along the west coast of Ireland. But for the best Irish road trip experience, you’ll want to travel sections of it as part of a journey that explores beyond the Atlantic coast.
We recommend a tour that starts and finishes in Dublin, the Republic of Ireland’s capital. From here, you could take a 10 to 14-day loop around the country to see its top highlights.
Throughout your journey, you’ll get the chance to visit castles and manor houses, stroll through harbour towns, and rub shoulders with the friendly locals in Irish pubs. And of course, you’ll be treated to breathtaking coastal views when you visit the likes of the Cliffs of Moher, Achill Island and the Aran Islands.
Start & end: Dublin
Distance: 1,800 kilometres (1,118 miles)
Duration: 10–14 days
Highlights: Wild Atlantic coastline, Celtic castles and toe-tapping folk music
- Pick the route that’s right for you and explore these alternative self-drive tours in Ireland
- Related: Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way – Your guide
7. The Highlands & Islands – Scotland
With its sweeping moors and heather-carpeted valleys, Scotland’s scenic routes are prime for driving adventures.
On a Scottish road trip, you can stop off at viewpoints as often as you like to admire sparkling lakes (or “lochs”), majestic castles and old-world towns.
Scotland’s most popular road trip is the North Coast 500. Also known as the NC500, it starts in Inverness, from where it loops around the country’s north and west coast. You can drive the entire route or just join for sections of it.
Another option is to begin your journey in Edinburgh and make your way to Inverness from there. Explore Edinburgh’s winding streets, and elegant Georgian avenues as you gaze up the hilltop castle.
From here, begin your road trip into the captivating countryside. As you venture north along Scotland’s scenic east coast, you'll discover sleepy fishing villages and dramatic sea cliffs.
Cross into the Highlands, where you’ll see the rugged peaks of the Cairngorms National Park. Not to mention castles like Crathes and Balmoral, which offer a glimpse into Scotland's regal past.
From northern Scotland, you could hop aboard a ferry to the Orkney Islands. Here Neolithic sites such as Skara Brae and the Ring of Brodgar will transport you back in time. Later, return to the mainland to explore the west coast on the iconic North Coast 500 route.
Finally, wind your way back to Edinburgh via the picturesque Trossachs National Park, a fitting finale to your Scottish adventure.
Start & end: Edinburgh
Distance: 1,820 kilometres (1,130 miles)
Duration: 12 days
Highlights: White sand beaches, rugged islands and age-old castles
8. Towering Mountains & Chalet Towns – Switzerland
Gliding through Switzerland’s Alpine scenery is certainly one of the best European road trips you can go on.
Start your trip in Switzerland’s largest city, Zürich, home to many historic churches, like Grossmünster and Fraumünster. Then, in less than an hour’s drive, you’ll reach Rhine Falls, one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe.
From here, continue to the Swiss capital of Bern. Take in the medieval Old Town (“Altstadt”), the Parliament Buildings and the Gothic Cathedral.
Then, drive towards the Alps, passing the sparkling waters of Lake Geneva where you can visit Lausanne, a cosmopolitan French-speaking city.
The scenery becomes even more dramatic as you head east towards the mountains surrounding Zermatt. From your window, you’ll be able to see an iconic symbol of Switzerland – the Matterhorn. Ride a gondola or take a train up high for even more stunning views of this 4,478-metre (14,692-foot) tall pinnacle.
As you meander through the Swiss Alps, don’t miss the opportunity to explore Alpine towns and villages, like Grindelwald, Spiez and Interlaken. You can also experience the outdoors however you like. You could hike across wildflower meadows, ramble through peaceful pine forests or go for a leisurely swim.
As you make your way back to Zürich, you’ll have the chance to take in one more gorgeous Alpine view.
Ride a cable car up Mount Pilatus, at more than 2,000 metres (7,000 feet) above sea level. Savour the sprawling views before heading back down, and driving back to Zürich via the pretty shores of Lake Lucerne.
Start & end: Zürich
Distance: 826 kilometres (513 miles)
Duration: 10 days
Highlights: Towering mountains, chalet-style towns and delicious Alpine cuisine
- Marvel at soaring peaks on a self-drive tour of Switzerland
- Related: Switzerland in summer – What to do & where to go
Hit the road with Nordic Visitor
These are just some of the top road trips in Europe. In fact, there are lots of options when it comes to European self-drive tours, and yours can be tailored to suit your wish list. So you’ll be in for a treat regardless of the one you pick.
Travel with Nordic Visitor and we’ll take care of the details for you. A dedicated travel consultant will book your accommodation, arrange your rental car and plan the best route for you. They’ll use their insider insight to craft your ideal getaway.
If you love the sound of taking the wheel on a European road trip, get in touch with our travel experts to make your dream getaway a reality.