One of the most difficult aspects of planning a vacation to Europe is trying to decide just what sights and attractions to see and experience. Too often, the itinerary of the trip is limited to a specific city and the immediate suburbs, leaving large stretches of countryside undiscovered and unexplored. This is unfortunate because so much of a country’s personality and character lies in those in-between areas. For the more athletic traveler, backpacking through these regions may be an option, but one of the best ways to see and experience Europe is by taking a road-trip.
Best European Road-trip Routes
Despite a troubled past, the beautiful natural coastline of Croatia, all 1278 kilometers of it, features a coast-road simply begging to be driven. The road winds along the Mediterranean, hugging the coast from top to bottom. Old Roman settlements dot the countryside and are some of the most popular inland sites. With every day’s drive punctuated by a stunning Mediterranean sunset, it may be worthwhile to keep on driving straight down through Montenegro, Albania and Greece.
A pivotal region in both medieval times and during WWII, Pas de Calais is still one of the top regions to visit in France. A road-trip through the region may begin at the Calais ferry or the Eurotunnel terminal. The familiar wide sandy beaches of the area are a welcome sight while driving and the rural roads are classically French, with the drive to Hesdin along the river Canche considered one of the loveliest stretches in all of northern France. Boulogne offers up historic cobblestone streets and squares, while Le Touquet’s boutiques and boulevards recall the elegance of the 1920s. Medieval history buffs will enjoy walking the grounds of Agincourt. A stop in Calais’ many food markets and wine shops before heading home is a must.
The Alps are unsurprisingly a popular destination for road-trips. One of the classic drives in Europe is the scenic route along the Bavarian Alps in Germany. Here, cows with large bells around their necks graze in lush meadows beside wooden chalets; King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein Castle perches above ancient forests; here also is Zugspitze, the highest peak in Germany. The Alpine Road is considered more interesting than the Romantic Road but can be difficult to follow as it twists and turns through small villages and towns, including Ettal, Oberstaufen and Oberammergau. Remember to bring an up-to-date atlas along.
European Road-trip Tips
Driving laws vary greatly between countries and it is extremely important to learn the rules of the road for the regions being visited. Knowing what side of the road to drive on is very important; for example, in England drive on the left; in France, Holland and Germany drive on the right. Do the research and be prepared.
Having the right documents is also vitally important. This begins with having a valid passport and visa (when required). Many European Union countries facilitate easier border crossing without separate visas, but not all members are participating; check online or consult a travel agent for the most recent and accurate information about each country. Also, consider investing in European car insurance in addition to travel insurance.
Use the Internet to book a car rental in advance; many European car rental companies offer attractive online deals and advance booking discounts.