There’s nothing quite like hitting the road and driving in search of Europe’s special spots, and there are some knockout places to choose from. Head for the steaming geysers and volcanoes of Iceland or the gorgeous ocean views of the Dalmatian Coast. Pamper yourself on a luxurious trip around the French and Italian Riviera or scale the heights with a drive through Swiss mountains. Go back in time with a journey to key places in the continent’s history, from capital cities once at the heart of the Habsburg Empire to Baltic states flourishing after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Indulge in a food-focused trawl through the Sicilian countryside.

Road trips offer the flexibility to go where you wish, and they cater for every type of traveller too — from the fiercely independent to those who prefer to avoid any of the heavy lifting. We’ve pulled together a range of options, including self-drive itineraries, escorted tours by private car or small minibus, and coach trips. These are the best European road trips.

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1. Ancient Macedonia: Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Greece

Board the bus and head back in time to seek out the lost empire of Alexander the Great. This 15-day trip begins and ends in Sofia, driving a loop through Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Greece on a 1,000-mile journey into the history of ancient Macedonia. You’ll visit royal tombs at the Unesco-listed Vergina, once the court of Macedonian kings, and the birthplace of Alexander the Great himself at Pella on the Macedonian plain. If the past is gripping, the present looks pretty good too, with drives like the scenic route along the Black Drim river valley to Lake Ohrid delivering fabulous nature through the window. You’ll visit ancient monasteries and forts, traditional villages and rich national parks, and enjoy spectacular mountain and coastal views as you go.

Make it happen

Explore! organises this tour (group size 6-16) between April and October, from £2,125pp. Price includes accommodation in comfortable hostels and a monastery, guide, local transport and some meals, but not international flights.

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2. Discovering Iceland

For a drive through a landscape as otherworldly as you’ll find, head to Iceland for a week-long foray to explore the highlights and less-visited spots. This is a round trip from Reykjavik, taking in erupting geysers, crystal-clear lagoons, rugged coastline along the Eastfjords, the epic Skogafoss and Dettifoss waterfalls, and an icy behemoth in the form of Vatnajokull glacier, the largest in Europe. You’ll travel up to 250 miles in a day as you get to the heart of things, from deep fjords to villages at the ends of mountain roads. And the drive’s quite a ride, on winding routes that are sometimes little more than gravel tracks. This is an adventure when your local guide and driver really earn their corn!

Make it happen

Intrepid Travel offers an eight-day tour (group size 1-12) from £2,325pp. This includes local transport and guide/driver, accommodation in hotels, guesthouses and farm stays, and some meals, but not flights. The trip runs between April and October, but note that on occasion the guide might need to alter the itinerary because of extreme weather.

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3. The Dalmatian Coast, Croatia

The unveiling of a new bridge has opened up a coastal road trip in Croatia that’s sure to become a European classic. The recent construction of the elegant Peljesac Bridge — spanning the water to the unspoilt Peljesac peninsula — means you can now drive from Split to Dubrovnik without having to navigate border crossings in and out of Bosnia. Put your foot down and you could drive the route in three hours, but that’s not the way to do it. Instead, take your time — take a week! — and make the most not only of the wonderful cities at either end, but with stops at the town of Omis (with its pirate history), excursions into the Cetina Valley for kayaking and zip-lining, a zigzagging drive up Biokovo Mountain, and oyster and wine-tasting sessions on the Peljesac peninsula itself. You’ll pass hilltop churches, families selling homemade jam at the roadside, and sea views as good as they get.

Make it happen

Several car-hire companies have offices at both Split and Dubrovnik airports, so you can arrange for pick-up at one and drop-off at the other. Alternatively, to avoid any additional charge for different collection/drop-off locations — and if flights are cheaper for a return from the same airport — the total distance is short enough that you can return to your arrival point at the end of the trip.

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4. Imperial Europe: Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Austria

We’ll take that city break and raise you this. This ten-day European tour by coach wraps up some of the continent’s grandest and most historic centres in a circular sweep of 930 miles through five countries. All the classics are here — Prague, Bratislava, Budapest, Vienna and Salzburg — but rather than fly there you’ll get the chance to savour the necklace of breathtaking landscapes that links these pearls together. Drive through the lush countryside of historical Moravia, skirt the mighty Danube, and pass castles and vineyards with the impressive Wachau Valley looming behind. Admire the Benedictine Melk Abbey sitting precariously on its rocky ledge and head up Obersalzburg Mountain to the Eagle’s Nest, a retreat originally built for the Nazis that provides mountain views you’ll never forget.

Make it happen

Trafalgar offers a ten-day coach tour (group size approximately 45) beginning and ending in Munich from £1,825pp. Price includes hotel accommodation, some meals, luxury coach travel, and sightseeing excursions, but not international flights. Tours depart every Friday throughout the year.

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5. A Taste of Sicily

Here’s a holiday that allows you to sample top-quality Italian food and wine and hit the road in Sicily without drawing straws to decide your nominated driver. Take a gastronomic road trip by private bus — driver supplied! — and wrap yourself around views and cuisine as lip-smackingly good as each other. You’ll travel down from Palermo and follow the southern coast around to Syracuse, a journey of 285 miles that features meandering mountain roads, fragrant orchards and rolling vineyards. Browse Palermo’s atmospheric, souk-like market, admire the Baroque architecture of Modica, and awake your inner Godfather as you pass the hilltop villages of Corleone — classic “Mafia country”. Along the way, you’ll try delicacies that range from cannoli and arancini to the dreamiest chocolate — washing it all down with glasses of wine at local vineyards.

Make it happen

Explore! hosts this tour (group size 6-16) between April and October from £1,829pp. Price includes accommodation in a family-run agriturismo and comfortable hotels, guide, local transport and some meals, but not international flights.

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6. Exploring the Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the Baltic capitals have become short-break favourites — people fly in and out on budget flights for long weekends. But the countryside beyond is crying out for attention too. A two-week tour by private bus allows you to steep yourself in the region’s history and beauty, carrying you on a road trip from north to south across 870 miles. You’ll spend time in the glorious capitals of Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn, of course, but the road also carries you on a fairytale journey to medieval fortresses, weather-worn windmills, the sweeping sand dunes of Curonian Spit National Park, and the coves and juniper groves of Saaremaa Island. This is an unusual, offbeat road trip — and one that rewards those who dare to be different and take the plunge.

Make it happen

Explore! offers this tour (group size 6-16) between May and October from £2,050pp. Price includes hotel accommodation, guide, local transport and some meals, but not international flights.

7. Grand Tour of Romania, Serbia and Bulgaria

This two-week road trip sees you travel up into Transylvania’s looming Carpathian Mountains, still home to wolves and bears, swoop along the Danube River Valley, trace a section of the Black Sea Coast, and — if you visit in May — drive through mile upon mile of fields blooming with Damask roses in Bulgaria’s Rose Valley. Your tour, in a small private bus, will begin and end in Bucharest, looping anti-clockwise on an epic 1,800-mile journey that stops at Dracula’s castle, delves into Belgrade’s Roman, Ottoman and communist past, visits the wonderful, Unesco-listed Rila Monastery, and a whole lot more.

Make it happen

Explore! runs this tour (group size 6-16) between April and September from £1,900pp. Price includes guesthouse and hotel accommodation, some meals, local guide and transport, but not international flights.

8. Ultimate French and Italian Riviera road trip

Here’s a road trip that’s oozing with glamour: a 12-night, four-wheel strut around the French and Italian Riviera. As you’d expect, this is a holiday where no expense is spared. You’ll stay at world-class hotels throughout as you move between Cannes, Monaco, Portofino and Lake Como. You can try perfume-making in Grasse, book a sunset cruise in Portofino, and trawl Nice’s characterful market. The scenery needs no introduction — from the pastel-coloured fishing villages perched on cliffs of the Cinque Terre to the picture-perfect shores of the Italian Lakes, this is an area of the world that puts the romance into any drive.

Make it happen

Scott Dunn offers a self-drive tour of the French and Italian Riviera, including flights, hotels, meals, on-the-ground guides and a range of exclusive experiences from £9,300pp.

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9. Switzerland Grand Tour by Electric Car

Take a road trip through four different language regions, across five mountain passes, past 22 lakes and 12 Unesco world heritage sites on a circular route through Switzerland. You’ll be flanked by some of Europe’s purest landscapes, with clear water and alpine loveliness all around — and you’ll be playing your part to keep it pure by travelling in an electric car. Switzerland is a leader in providing the infrastructure for green travel, and there are 200 charging stations along your route. Zurich is your start and end point on a nine-day tour that features the 8th-century monastery at St Gallen, the colourful mountain settlement of Zermatt, and a mountain drive that ranks right up there with any in the world — the switchbacking, steep-climbing, adrenaline-pumping Fluela Pass leading to St Moritz. This is a Swiss holiday that serves a whole lot of romance and adventure alongside its chocolate and fondue.

Make it happen

Wexas offers a tailormade self-drive trip through Switzerland from £3,440pp. This includes international flights, train transfer from the airport, electric car rental, and hotel accommodation (including breakfast). Available from May to October.

10. Wild Atlantic Way EV road trip, Ireland

You don’t have to go far to find a special road trip — make for the Wild Atlantic Way, that iconic route along the dramatic, unforgiving and tempestuously beautiful west coast of Ireland. This tour has been designed to allow you to do it as sustainably as possible, with overnight stops at places with charging facilities for your electric vehicle. There’s electricity in the landscape too, the route zipping away from Dublin to Co Donegal at the northwestern tip of the island, taking you to romantic lighthouses and remote beaches. You can get out of the car for an e-bike pedal along the Connemara coast and a paddle around the West Cork shoreline. Film buffs will enjoy a visit to Achill Island, its scenery the star of the show in Oscar-nominated The Banshees of Inisherin. This is a soul-stirring driving trip — with the lightest of tyre prints.

Make it happen

McKinlay Kidd offers a ten-night, circular self-drive road trip (March to November) along the Wild Atlantic Way by electric vehicle from £2,795pp. Price includes accommodation, breakfasts (but not other meals) and local activities. Flights excluded.

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