Embarking on a road trip grants you a great deal of freedom on holiday, from being able to access off-the-beaten-path places to adjusting your itinerary as you go. To help you plan an adventure behind the wheel, we’ve found some of the most breathtaking mountain roads in Europe, where you can glide around twists and turns to discover fabulous views.
Tip: Be sure to check for road closures before planning your trip. Most mountain passes are closed during the winter and opening dates are dependent on weather conditions.
Route Napoleon, France
A bridge over the Lac de Sainte-Croix in south-eastern France, along the Route Napoleon
Scents of lavender and pine waft through the air as you head north on the Route Napoleon from Grasse, away from the crowds of the French Riviera and into the Alps. It’s the same road that the French statesman took in 1815 on his return from exile on the Italian island of Elba. On your way to Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey village, take in a last glimpse of the coast as it disappears behind tight hairpins bends, before the sinuous road gives way to long, sweeping mountainside curves. It’s worth taking a small detour when you arrive in Castellane, heading west to see the Verdon Gorge, where the turquoise river cuts through the mountains creating a canyon that’s 700 metres deep. Get a peaceful night’s sleep at La Fabrique in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie before getting back on the road again.
Grossglockner High Alpine Road, Austria
This Austrian Alpine road has 36 hairpin bends and rises 2,504 metres above sea level
This glorious Alpine road officially opened to the public in 1935, primarily to allow people to access Austria’s flower-filled meadows and the snow-clad summit of the Grossglockner mountain (the country’s highest peak). And it remains a fine example of road engineering – stretching over 48km and rising 2,504 metres above sea level. Offering the highest viewpoint in Austria, the road provides endless photo opportunities, so check its opening times and set off early to get a great shot. After a day out in the mountains you can stay at Fürthermoar Gut, a renovated farmhouse with spa access for guests that’s just a short drive from the northern side of the pass.
The Transfagarasan Pass, Romania
Top Gear declared the Transfagarasan Pass the best driving road in the world
The Transfagarasan Pass is a beautiful sequence of corners and straight stretches reminiscent of great race tracks, so much so that it was declared the best driving road in the world on British TV series, Top Gear. As you ascend through Romania's Carpathian mountains take a quick peck at the breathtaking landscapes that come into view. This road is popular with road trip enthusiasts, so get an early start by sleeping close by at the welcoming Casa Matteo.
The winding mountain road to Cap de Formentor is oh-so-worth the early morning starts
Majorca is one of Spain's Balearic Islands. It’s known for its beach resorts but its roads are some of the best in the world. Set out from Port de Pollença towards Cap de Formentor and enjoy the view of the sun rising over the ocean, tinting the mountainside pink as you climb the road’s tight corners towards the northernmost tip of the island. Once here, relax at the secluded Agroturismo Son Alzines, a mountainside accommodation near the road to Sa Calobra.
The Old Military Road, Scotland
Drive past lochs, mountains and plains of heather in the Cairngorms National Park
There are several old military roads in Scotland and while not all of them are made for modern driving, the one that weaves through the Cairngorms National Park is now tarmacked. Your journey starts in the town of Blairgowrie and takes you into the moorlands, past Balmoral Castle, the Queen’s Scottish summer hideaway. Here, you can take the smaller B976 route and soon come out onto the well-known A939 section. As you power up some steep climbs, you’ll see grazing sheep and rugged Highland cattle. Get a good rest at the stately Lys-Na-Greyne before hitting the road again the next day, this time towards another scenic Scottish road trip, the Malt Whisky Trail.