While not as adventurous as Africa, as alluring as Asia or as seductive as South America, the best overlanding in Europe still offers plenty of exciting challenges. So we have put together the top 7 European driving holidays – road trips that offer something unique and inspiring.
As the second smallest continent, with the second highest population density, you’d be forgiven for thinking exploring Europe is all about city hopping. But with 10.2 million km² (3.9 million sq mi) to explore, mountain ranges such as the Alps, Pyrenees and Caucasus and climates ranging from Arctic to Mediterranean there is huge variety.
There are almost infinite routes to drive across and around Europe. So while we believe the best routes for overlanding in Europe below offer plenty of variety we know they are not exhaustive. So please let us know your favourite European road trips in the comments at the bottom.
The North Cape (Nordkapp) in Norway is in the Arctic and is the most northerly point of mainland Europe. Begin there with the chance of seeing the Northern Lights and drive south more than 5,540 km to Tarifa in Spain, the continents most southerly point. There are many routes you could take, for example, via Finland and the Baltic states or through Sweden and then an almost straight line across Europe.
But following the stunning Norwegian coastline through Fjordland would make a very scenic start. You could then cross into Sweden and take the bridge to Denmark and on into Germany. For a scenic route head to the Alps in southern Germany and from there drive through the mountains of Switzerland and France. Before crossing the Pyrenees into Spain.
The western most point of Europe is Cabo da Roca in Portugal which is not far from Tarifa, so you could continue your N to S journey with a W to E adventure. The most eastern point is tough to define. But based on the watershed of the Ural Mountains it is an un-named 575m peak in the Priuralsky District of northern Russia. A monument has been erected so it must be true.
The distance the crow flies is around 5,500m which is twice as far as the N to S journey. Google maps won’t even plot the route, but expect to drive at least 10,000km. You could drive through Portugal, northern Spain and the Pyrenees into France. From there northern Italy and the Dolomites (stop for a hike or bike ride), into Austria, Slovakia, Poland and Belarus before entering Russia.
If you love cars, driving and motorsport then perhaps a Formula 1 road trip would be a good idea. With back to back races in France and Hungary in July 2022 you could take in two grand prix and all the qualifying etc in a 10 day trip. You’ll have five days to chase the F1 race from France across the continent to the Hungarian Gran Prix via the route of your choice.
You can’t exactly drive to Iceland from Europe. But if you want an off-road adventure without huge distances then it provides some of the best overlanding in Europe. Much of the country is wild and there are beautiful views around every corner. Plus there are many outdoor activities in Iceland to try.
So hire a 4wd vehicle in Iceland and start exploring. There is plenty to see if you stick to the roads but the gravel highland tracks that open in the summer will take you into Iceland’s mountainous interior. There are interesting lava and ash desserts and the further north you go the less people you’ll encounter.
How about driving a £200 car from the UK to Prague all in the name of charity? Crumball Rally offers quite a few different ‘races’ that involve driving an old banger long distances in Europe. The goal is just to reach the end and have fun along the way – European driving holidays don’t get much better than this.
Mission Impossible takes place over a long weekend passing through France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria and Germany. It ends in the lovely city of Prague where much of the first MI film was set. There is stunning scenery along the way, and you will drive the Stelvio Pass which is regarded as one of the best driving roads on the planet.
Georgia has few significant tourist developments to spoil its untamed wilderness making it perfect for overlanding. The country is very welcoming and has some of the world’s oldest vineyards, great wine and a diverse and interesting cuisine. At 5,642 metres (18,510 ft) it is also home to Mount Elbrus, Europe’s highest point.
Georgia is sandwiched between the Lesser and Greater Caucasus which are considered to be the dividing line between Europe, Asia and the Middle East. There are stunning views, medieval forts, and Ushguli, the highest village in the continent, to enjoy. Easily one of the best European driving holidays.
No we don’t mean fly that would be cheating. We mean make it up as you go along. Some of the best overlanding in Europe is experienced by not planning it too much. Just decide what you want to do next and set off, you’ll have many adventures along the way if you don’t plan too far ahead.
Want to watch a football match at the infamous Nou Camp? Then head to Barcelona. Fancy doing one of the best bungy jumps in Europe? Jump off a dam James Bond style in Switzerland. Hankering for the best pizza on the planet? Drive to Naples in southern Italy. Hear about a crazy festival in Croatia? So hop on the car ferry to Albania and overland through the old Yugoslavia.
Of course you’ll need to do some planning to actually drive around the continent, but the point is not to plan the entire trip. Decide whether you fancy mountain air, beach parties, cities full of culture or an escape to wilderness on a day by day basis. Some of the best adventure holidays are unplanned and overlanding is the perfect time to let go of a schedule.
We hope you found this guide to the best overlanding in Europe inspirational. If we’ve missed anything from the top 7 European driving holidays let us know in the comments. We know going it alone is not for everyone, so check out our Europe overlanding holidays if you’d prefer to join an organised tour.