There’s nothing more pleasant than to experience the beauty of any country while driving among valleys, mountains, along rivers and coast lines. I can name at least four super drives along the Carpathians and the rivers which slice through them. Unfortunately, I had to choose only 9 of the most beautiful roads in Europe.
1 – The Grossglockner High Alpine Road, Austria
This incredible road dances on Austria’s highest mountain, connecting the state of Salzburg with the state of Carinthia. There are numerous hairpin curves on the 48 km road and an incredible panoramic view of the Pasterzen Glacier. The road is open only during the summer (usually from late April until end of October) and it’s a toll road. Since the road runs through a national park, last admission is 45 min before the park closes (between 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m., depending on the month). If you decide to stop for a while, there are hiking and nature trails for every level of fitness.
2 – Shipka Pass, Bulgaria
The drive starts in Veliko Tamovo, which is a charming medieval town. Head south towards Dryanovo Monastery passing through Shipka pass. It’s located at 1,300 m on the Stara Planina Mountain. The views are magnificent and you’ll also pass through the Valley of Roses (most of the rose extract used to make perfumes comes from here).
>> Find airfare to Sofia
3 – Loire Valley, France
One of the loveliest (yet not spectacular) drives in France is along Loire Valley, between Amboise and Blois (on either side of the river). You can continue all the way to Chenonceau.
4 – The Dordogne, France
The scenic drive starts in Sarlat-la-Canéda, a charming medieval town. You’ll be driving along Vézère River, a tributary of the Dordogne. Follow D704 towards Montignac and then the winding D706 towards San-Lyon-sur-Vézère. You’ll be passing through incredible France countryside and along the way there are farms where you can stop and taste the authentic French cuisine.
>> Read about canoeing down the Dordogne River
5 – Crete Island (Chania to Palaeohora) , Greece
The scenic drive starts in the city of Chania and goes past Samaria. You’ll be driving on a mountain road dotted with charming Greek villages and old churches. After 4 hours you’ll reach the beautiful pink beaches of Crete.
6 – Ioannina to Meteora, Greece
One of the most beautiful drives in mainland Greece is between Ioannina and Meteora. The road climbs into the mountains, over a high pass (which is closed usually during winter) and then going slowly down into the region of Thessaly, where the stunning monasteries are located.
7 – Amalfi Coast, Italy
If the idea of a scenic drive is something close to a heart attack, then Amalfi Coast is exactly what you need. The cliff on one side, the Mediterranean on the other and a road full of curves! Lovely drive but not for those used to driving on straight highways. You’ll be passing expensive resorts, colorful villages and Greek ruins. Don’t forget to stop for a cheap fish dish in one of the picturesque villages.
8 – Moyenne Corniche: Monaco
If you need to get from Monaco to Nice, avoid the boring autoroute and choose one of the scenic routes: Basse, Moyenne (pictured) or Grande Corniche. Moyenne Corniche follows the mountains above the coast, offering some of the best views of the Riviera. You are also passing by old towns and very interesting buildings.
9 – Transfagarasan, Romania
Initially built as a military road, Transfagarasan (or DN7C) is the highest and most beautiful paved road in Romania. It runs in the tallest section of the Carpathians, between Moldoveanu – the highest peak- and Negoiu – second highest, connecting Transylvania to Wallachia (Muntenia). It climbs to over 2000 meters altitude and the most spectacular part is to the north. Transfagarasan has more viaducts and tunnels than any other road in Romania. The road also offers access to Balea Lake and Balea Waterfall. On the southern part of the road, Poienari Fortress (the residence of Vlad Dracul) is the most important landmark.
The road is usually closed during winter and spring (late October to early June) due to snow. Even during summer the average speed is 40 km per hour due to the topography.
Plan more road trips on your travels:
- New Ideas for Summer Road Trips
- Great American Road Trips for a Long Weekend
- Why You Should Go on a Road Trip Now
- Tips for Driving on the “Wrong” Side of the Road
Photo credits: 1 – JohnBurke on Flickr; 2- countries in colors on Flickr ; 3 – sethbc on Flickr; 4 – PhillipC on Flickr ; 5 – humadi140670 on Flickr ; 6 – timknows on Flickr ; 7- Sacred Destinations on Flickr ; 8 – Sacred Destinations on Flickr ; 9 – : Coco_ro on Flickr