A recent survey of holiday car rental customers concluded that not only did a high percentage of respondents agree that hiring a car positively enhanced their holiday experience but also that a significant number took pleasure from being able to take the latest car models out for a spin.
Drivers across Europe are blessed with access to some of the world’s most scenic and spectacular roads, and whether they follow a rugged coastal route, climb and twist among mountain ranges or wind through a mesmerising landscape of forests and lakes these drives are not so much part of the holiday experience as an unforgettable experience in themselves.
With major rental companies such as Alamo Car Hire based in cities and at airports throughout Europe, obtaining a decent holiday hire car and becoming reacquainted with the simple pleasure of a good drive couldn’t be easier and, as our selection of Europe’s most breath-taking roads proves, sometimes the journey can be every bit as exciting as the destination.
The Col de la Bonette, France
Rising through the wooded slopes of the Mercantour National Park in the southernmost French Alps close to the border with Italy, the Col de la Bonette links the village of Jausiers in the north with the pretty town of Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée in the south. A route frequently featured in the Tour de France, the Col features stunning mountain scenery, forested slopes and panoramic views culminating in a loop road around the peak of the Cime de la Bonette mountain; at an elevation just over 2,800 metres above sea level, this is the highest stretch of paved road in Europe.
The Amalfi Drive, Italy
Following the route of an ancient Roman road, the Amalfi drive begins in the gorgeous and historic city of Salerno in south western Italy. Carved into the sheer cliffs of the Salerno peninsula the road follows the Amalfi Coast, hugging the towering rock face in a series of s-bends that are as exciting as they are testing. The views of the rugged coastline and to the open Tyrrhenian Sea below amply reward those keen to test their driving skills on this joyous stretch of road which ends at the dramatically beautiful Cliffside town of Amalfi itself.
The Atlantic Road, Norway
At first consideration it’s hard to imagine how an eight-kilometre stretch of road could be regarded as ‘the world’s best road trip’ by the UK’s Guardian newspaper. Don’t worry: the Atlantic Road, part of a longer national tourist route, really is breath-taking. This snaking and undulating carriageway cleverly connects an archipelago of small, rocky islands via landfills and some remarkably-designed bridges which rise above the tempestuous and dramatic Norwegian Sea. Such is the outstanding beauty of the mountains and fjords that define this coastal region that the Atlantic Road incorporates four dedicated viewpoints allowing drivers to stop and admire the unforgettable landscape.
The Stelvio Pass, Italy
Located in the South Tyrol close to Italy’s border with Switzerland, the Stelvio pass has attained legendary status and has featured in countless television programmes and commercials. The best way to appreciate the forty-eight dramatic hairpin bends that steadily climb ladder-like to an elevation of 2757 metres is to approach the Stelvio Pass from the north-west. This gives the additional benefit of a scenic drive through the forests and open spaces of the Stelvio National Park before the pass itself is revealed in all of its awe-inspiring magnificence.
The Road to Applecross, Scotland
Welcome to Bealach na Bà (‘the Pass of the Cattle), otherwise known as the Road to Applecross; eighteen kilometres of one of the steepest and most spectacular roads in Britain. In an area of north-west Scotland renowned for its tranquillity and natural beauty, the road climbs, gently at first, from sea level to an elevation of 625 metres in just three miles, thanks to one-in-five gradients and a series of switchbacks that emerge on a mountain ridge likened to the Pyrenees. The ascent is worth it; unless cloud is low the Road to Applecross rewards adventurous drivers with panoramic views of the Outer Hebrides islands and, to the south, the Kintail Mountains before gradually descending into the charming coastal village of Applecross itself.