Routes to the sun come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it’s a switchback coastal corniche or a contour-hugging mountain ascent, our home continent offers road trips that will transport you to another place, and another time. From prehistoric caves to medieval mountain inns, these are roads that promise to take you somewhere else entirely…
- 1) The Prosecco Road
You don’t have to travel far from the beach bars of the Venetian Riviera to follow your favourite fizz upstream. Just a 30 minute drive from Venice takes you into the heart of the Veneto region – home of Prosecco. Here you can travel along the Prosecco road which runs through the Prosecco DOCG area from Valdobbiadene in the west to Conegliano in the east (‘DOCG’ denotes the very finest wines – similar to the AOC label used in France). Along its 80 mile-or-so length it meanders alongside ancient vineyards, timeworn villages and cypress-clad hills. If you plan on sipping your way along it, you can book a taxi – it’ll cost around €100 for a half day’s tour, and they’ll get you into wineries usually closed to the public too. Taxi drivers offering this service really know their Prosecco, and are more tour guide than chauffeur. Try email@example.com). Sip at 2Castelli (main pic) for a taste of how good the best can be.
Don’t miss: We love the Prosecco vending machine (no, really, it’s a thing) at Osteria senz’Oste, complete with an unmanned picnic café serving ham, bread and cheese (you pay what you can). If you’re after lunch with a view, it doesn’t get better than this(just make sure your taxi driver has an Italian ID card. You’ll need it to vend).
Nearest parc: All of our Adriatic parcs are within an hour’s drive of Conegliano
2) The Ardeche
If you hanker after nature at its most dramatic, you don’t have to travel far in France’s Ardeche region before you’re lost in a landscape of towering gorges, sandy beaches and lofty canyons. The smooth but twisty E290 offers the very best views of this – France’s most jaw-dropping natural treasures.
Start your travels at Vallon-Pont-d’Arc and head south-east to Pont St Esprit through France’s Grand Canyon. Follow the Haute Corniche for around 50km, and you’ll find yourself stopping every few minutes as another heart-stopping vista comes into view. But, please, do try to keep your eyes on the road too…
At the southernmost end of the route you’ll reach pretty Saint-Martin d’Ardèche, a medieval fishing village on the Rhône, and a real outdoor-lover’s paradise, with fantastic opportunities for canoeing alongside the riverside cafes.
Don’t miss: Highlight for us is the prehistoric cave systems of The Grotte Chauvet Pont d’Arc – the oldest decorated cave in France. Within, the paintings and engravings date back 36,000 years. A fantastic new interpretation centre tells its fascinating story.
Nearest parc: L’Ardéchois
3) Alt Empordà
Tucked into the Northeastern most corner of Spain, Alt Emporia is a region of quirky culture, craggy coves and charming, whitewashed fishing villages. And one figure looms large in this landscape: surrealist genius, Salvador Dali. Take any road-trip here and the mustachioed one is sure to loom large in your itinerary. The engaging capital, Figueres, is home to the weird and wonderful Dalí Theatre Museum, home to a great deal of the painter’s works and flights of fancy (Mae West lips sofa a highlight!). From here, you can strike out to visit Púbol castle (in Baix Emporda, the neighbouring region) and to his home in Portlligat, in Cadaqués. This delightful, quintisentially Catalan fishing post is stunning. Then enjoy the Costa Brava coast road along the Cap de Creus national park, stopping off at Empúries on the way to see the excavations which reveal a history of habitation which stretches back to the Greeks – in the 6th Century BCE, and later a major Roman trading centre. Evidently, this corner of Spain has always been hot with tourists!
Don’t miss: We love the delightful, low key seaside town of Palafrugell, with its terrific seafood restaurants and pretty beaches – all eight of them!
Nearest parc: Castell Mongri
Head inland from the rugged coast of Spain’s northernmost fringes and you’ll be heading deep into Rioja land. That, in itself, is a good enough reason for us! But this region’s great drives, deep into the Cantabria Mountains, make the trip away from the beach an even more persuasive idea. Head to what’s known as the Rioja Balcony, from where the dramatic landscape opens up in a series of valleys, hills and villages at the top of the Puerto de Herrera mountain pass. This is the road that links regional capital Vitoria with the Rioja Alavesa. Here, you’ll enjoy a superb view of the wide Ebro Valley, and the distant Sierra de la Demanda – a wild and lonely mountain range which separates the provinces of Burgos and La Rioja. The ‘Tuscany of Spain’ inland Rioja’s mix of hilltop villages, ancient woodlands and inviting bodegas is intoxicating stuff!
Don’t miss: A real stunner, the Marqués de Riscal winery in Elciego is a cathedral to the good stuff, its shimmering, curvaceous design courtesy of American architect Frank Gehry.
Nearest parc: Playa Joyel
5) Simplon Pass
Stretching about 64km (40 miles), from German-speaking Brig over the Italian border to Domodossola, the Simplon Pass hugs the contours of this handsome cleft in the Alps, and offers a ringside view of some of Switzerland’s supersized landscapes. The pass was hewn out of the rock on the orders of Napoleon, who demanded a low-altitude route for his artillery. And it’s changed little since his edict saw an army of over 5,000 men hack away at the formidable terrain (so formidable, in fact, that the road is impassable in winter). Go in summer, and you’ll be rewarded with panorama after panorama of snowy peaks, lush valleys and lonely mountain villages. Stop for refreshment at the renovated Alte Gasthof (”Old Inn”) in Simplon Village, a hostelry with a history: it was built in 1684.
Don’t miss: The soaring towers of Ganter bridge – a striking new addition to Napoleon’s work, and the longest in Switzerland – is an engineering marvel, rising 1,500 metres above sea level. You’ll want to get your camera poised ready for it!
Nearest parc: Bella Tola
6) German Alpine Road
The best of Bavaria opens up to you in a succession of widescreen views on the German Alpine Road. Think mile after mile of wildflower-splashed Alpine meadows, glittering lakes and rugged peaks. Add conveniently placed, charmingly welcoming villages and fairytale castles and you’ve got a day trip that will conjure up memories of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – sadly without the flying car (but, frankly, when the trip’s this good, the road will do just fine). You could tackle the whole 300 miles, or bite off a more manageable chunk – starting from Lindau on Lake Constance, driving past the Zugspitze – Germany’s highest mountain at 2,965 metres, and snaking eastwards towards Lake Königssee.
Don’t miss: There are many, but our highlight has to be the fantastical creations of King Ludwig’s royal castles near Füssen – sadly for him, he died aged just 41 – before Neuschwanstein, his most dramatic castle, was completed.
Nearest parc: Campingpark Gitzenweiler