Europe's Top 10 Drives

Got a rental car? Here are the ten best scenic drives in Europe.

Amalfi Drive, Italy

Posh resort towns with world-class hotels, lovely fishing villages with cheap fish restaurants, free limoncello liqueur tastings, traditional papermaking, and some of the best ancient Greek (yes, Greek) temples in the world. All that and a mind-bendingly twisty, cliff-hugging, death-defying, white-knuckle roadway that's hung half-way up a cliff above the crashing waves of the impossibly beautiful coastline known as the Amalfi Coast. Full Story

Romantic Road, Germany

Medieval towns still encircled by their turreted walls, villages with churches hiding elaborately carved wooden altarpieces from the Middle Ages, Bavarian beer halls and Franconian wine festivals, princely palaces and elaborate baroque churches, pastries to die for and the largest ceiling fresco in the world—and that wall of white-fringed rock approaching in the distance as you drive? Those are the Alps, my friends. Full Story

Rhine River Valley, Germany

Get your castle groove on with the most fortified stretch of river in all of Europe, where petty princelings slung arrows and insults at each other across the rushing waters of the Rhine between fairy tale castles often no more than a few hundred meters apart, and greedy counts slung chains from their castles across the river to collect tolls from passing boats.

This stretch of one of Europe's mightiest rivers, from Cologne to Mainz, is positively barnacled with stony towers, battlemented walls, and castles-turned-hotels, and steeped in famous legends. The dulcet tones from the clifftop lair of the Siren-like Lorelei once lured riverboats to their doom against the rocks, and an evil dwarf hoarding gold and a magic ring in a riverside cave gave rise not only to Wagner's operatic Ring cycle, but was also reinterpreted and added to by an Oxford don named J.R.R. Tolkein to create the core of his Hobbit/Lord of the Rings epic.

Loire Valley, France

Cat...castle—in French, chat...château. The Loire is France's castle row.

Chiantigiana, Italy

The main wine road winding through the bustling market towns nestled between the Chianti's closely gathered hills that are laced with terraces of grape vines and picked out by medieval castle towers. Full Story

Ring of Kerry, Ireland

Ancient Celtic ring forts, brightly colored fishing villages, offshore islands, cozy B&Bs, friendly folk who still speak Gaelic, welcoming pubs where the Guinness flows as freely as the craic (conversation) and traditional Irish music, and those postcard green fields sloping down into the waters of the North Atlantic, stitched with a lacework of low stone walls and dotted with sheep. Full Story

Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos, Spain

Whitewashed villages, flamenco bars, bullfights, prehistoric cave paintings, world-class wines... Andalusia's "Road of the White Villages" is one European road trip that manages to distill the essence of a region, and yet is not nearly so well-known (read: clogged with tour buses) as some of the more famous drives on this list.

The French Riviera, France

Yes, the Riviera of Provence and the Côte d'Azur is a land of resort towns oozing with celebrities, casinos out of a James Bond flick, winding coastal roads dotted with luxury villas, and beaches ranked with orderly rows of colorful umbrellas where the beautiful people go to holiday and the women tan topless.

But the Riviera also still has fishing villages where old fishermen mend their nets in the shade of medieval churches in the afternoon. And even at the beaches devoted to elegant hedonism and Coppertone, you're never far from a chance to get in some culture: art galleries devoted to Picasso, Matisse, and Chagall, ancient Roman ruins, Provençal vineyards, gritty port cities, papal palaces, and medieval hilltowns.

The Great Dolomite Road, Italy

The Alps aren't the only mountains in Europe. In the extreme north of Italy, the Alps give way to a series of ancient coral reefs that have since been raised thousands of feet above sea level and weathered into distinctively craggy peaks. This is a land where the locals speak vestigial German dialects from the Middle Ages and wooden villages tucked into high mountain meadows throw festivals of horseback riding prowess.

The Cotswolds, England

Village pubs, cheddar cheese, and a landscape softened into smooth green contours by millennia of smallcroft farming.

Tours Under $995 G Adventures

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in April 2011.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.