Ah the open road: it gives you the freedom to go wherever you like, visit cool places off the beaten track and (ahem) sing along to total garbage on your radio. If you’re looking for a holiday with a difference, why not head to the closest car hire, get your seat belts fastened and burn rubber on these five epic European road trips.
1. Malaga to Tangier
First up, we’ve got a road trip that’s ideal if you’re flying to Malaga. It’s actually possible to hire a rental car, drive to Gibraltar then hop a ferry to Tangier in Morocco. It’s a long trip, so if you’re up for this incredible adventure be sure to make plenty of time (and bring plenty of tunes!) Be sure to check out our guide to driving in Spain for info on road rules and speed limits!
Malaga to Benalmadena (32 minutes)
Before you leave Malaga be sure to visit Alcazaba castle, it’s a must-see highlight on this road trip. From there, if you drive the MA-20 road south you’re going to see some truly stunning coastal sights, such as the massive Guadalmar beach.
If you want to cover this leg of the trip over a few days, you can take turn off the MA-20 onto the AP-7, then enjoy a day or two stop off at Benalmadena to experience the legendary 24 Hour Square and its huge range of bars and clubs.
Having a designated driver comes in handy, because you can drink here 24 hours a day every day of the year. Gives you a headache just thinking about it, eh? Once you’re rested and sober the next day, you can keep going south on the AP-7 towards Gibraltar.
Benalmadena to Gibraltar (1 hour, 38 minutes)
Following the AP-7 south along the coast, you’ll eventually hit the glitzy city of Marbella, where you can find more beaches buzzing with partying locals and tourists.
If you decide to stop you can walk The Golden Mile, which takes you from the western side of town to Puerto Banus. Along the way you’ll find lavish celebrity homes, world-class restaurants and (if you can stomach it) more bars.
From Marbella, if you continue south on the AP-7 for about an hour you’ll reach Gibraltar, where you can hop the ferry to Morocco.
Gibraltar to Tangier (3 hours, 2 minutes)
While you’re in Gibraltar you can visit the Upper Rock Nature Reserve where you can tour some WWII tunnels, and explore the iconic Rock of Gibraltar. You’re also spoiled for choice when it comes to food and drink, so be sure to recharge before taking the ferry.
Speaking of which, the ferry to Morocco takes about an hour and a half, with crossings taking place every day of the week. Once you land at the Tangier Med port, you can take the the N16 road West along the Strait of Gibraltar and you’ll reach the city of Tangier.
Once there you can explore the maze-like streets of the Medina, a bustling warren of old alleyways and streets that hide souq markets, interesting shops and places to grab a bite. You’ve also got the Grand Mosque, the Kasbah Museum and more, right on your doorstep. Just make sure to brush up on your haggling skills before hitting the markets.
2. Palma to Majorca
The Balearic island of Majorca isn’t huge, but it is ideal for a road trip holiday. Just make sure you bring a designated driver, because this one’s a barn-burner. Your best bet is to fly into Palma then hire a car at the airport. Stock up on sun tan lotion, get your shades on and let’s go!
Palma to Magaluf (30 minutes)
Before you set off from Palma, you might want to check out our guide to driving in Spain. It’ll help you brush up on the basics and differences to UK driving.
From Palma, head west on the Ma-20, then south on the Ma-1 after passing Genova, and take it until the left turn off at Camí Cala Figuera. Head south until you hear the throbbing dance basslines and you’re in Magaluf.
Magaluf really is fun if you don’t mind crowds of like-minded partygoers. From lazing on packed beaches and going wild at nightclubs, to exploring the city by bike and eating away your hangover in gourmet style, you don’t have to look far things to do.
Magaluf to Sóller (42 minutes)
Magaluf is part of the Calvia district and is a close neighbour to Santa Ponza, which you’ll find just a 15-minute drive west. It’s also full of places to drink, dance and dine, so it’s worth a stop off.
For a nice change of pace we’re heading north, back up the Ma-20. Drive past Palma until you hit the Ma-11 and keep going and eventually you’ll reach the old town of Sóller. If you plan to be there on a Saturday, you can check out the bustling town market, which is a haven of local goods and souvenirs.
You can also hike the glorious, sun baked Serra de Tramuntana mountain range, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, before winding down with dinner and locally made wines in town. Lovely stuff!
Sóller to Alcúdia (1 hour, 35 minutes)
Now we’re heading into the mountains to the north-east town of Alcúdia. Take the Ma-10 north from Sóller and get ready for some twisty, turny roads as you pass Puig Major, which is the highest point in all of Majorca.
One you get to Alcúdia, you might want to unwind in the lush cove beach of Coll Baix. It’s tricky to get to, so if you don’t fancy climbing down rocks, you might want to try visiting Aucanada Beach and its lighthouse instead. If you’re into jet skis and boating, you really will be spoiled for choice all around Alcúdia.
Back in town, you can take your pick of markets and restaurants while basking in the sunny glow and slower pace of this traditional seaside town. When you’re ready, it’s off to our final stop: Manacor.
Alcúdia to Manacor (1 hour)
Just like Sóller, if you aim to be in Manacor on Monday, you’ll get to enjoy the busy local markets for more trinkets and souvenirs. To get there take the Ma-12 south, turn right before Can Picafort, and keep going south on the Ma-3410 and its joining roads until you reach Manacor.
Manacor is the second largest city on Majorca, and it’s steeped in rich history. Be sure to check out the 14th Century Torre de Ses Puntes tower, and the Església de Sant Vicenç Ferrer church, which opened its doors in 1617.
There’s lots to do in Manacor, and it’s a great final stop on your trip to shift down a gear. When you’re ready to get your flight home, take the Ma-15 west, straight to Palma. Check out our Palma guide to plan some things to do before you fly.
3. Faro to Porto
This is a great road trip to try if you enjoy history and culture, or if you just want to see some of the most magnificent sea vistas and nature spots in all of Europe. Our journey begins by flying into Faro airport in Portugal. Get your rental car hired, buckle up and get ready to taste that glorious sea air.
Faro to Beja (1 hour, 33 minutes)
Our Faro travel guide is a good place to start if you want to spend a few days here. It’s definitely worth checking out the old town district of Cidade Velha, and the Sé de Faro cathedral.
When you’re ready hope in your car and take the A22 road north-west, then turn right onto the E1. Keep going north and you’ll end up in the town of Beja. Said to have been established by Julius Caesar in 48 BCE, it’s worth checking out the castle and Roman villas for their architecture alone.
Beja to Lisbon (2 hours)
Next up is Portugal’s capital city of Lisbon, which you can get to by driving the IP8 road west from Beja, then by turning north onto the A2 until you reach the city of Almada. It’s well worth stopping here to see the Cristo Rei, a looming statue of Jesus that is only a bit smaller than Rio’s Christ the Redeemer
When you’ve had your fill of Almada, you can cross the Tagus Estuary north into Lisbon, where you’ll find Gothic architecture in abundance. Top of the list is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Torre de Belém, a grand tower overlooking the harbour.
Continuing the historical theme, you won’t want to pass up seeing the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora, the Águas Livres aqueduct and the São Jorge Castle. You can also hop a tram through town and drink in the buzzing atmosphere as you wine and dine the night away.
Lisbon to Peniche (1 hour, 16 minutes)
Nestled on the Atlantic Ocean, the seaside city of Peniche can be reached by driving north on the A8 from Lisbon, then taking a left west along the IP6. Its main beach is a surfer’s paradise, and if you want to escape the city life you can explore the Ilhas Berlengas nature reserve.
There’s also two historic forts waiting to be explored, starting with the Fort of Peniche. You can also take a boat out to Berlenga island to visit Forte de São João Baptista, which was built to protect the coast from North-African pirates around 1651.
Peniche to Porto (2 hours, 30 minutes)
Last but by no means least, we’re off to Porto. Take the A8 north from Peniche until it becomes the A17, and keep going as it turns into the A29 and you’ll reach Porto.
Our Porto travel guide is a great place to start when exploring this hub of history and fun. It’s worth checking out the Ribeira district, which is on Porto’s south side. There you’ll find winding streets, stunning architecture and some of city’s best places to eat and unwind.
One you’re refreshed, you can make the drive back down to Faro, or get a flight home from Porto.
4. Alicante to Ibiza
Fancy a ‘large one?’ This road trip takes you up the eastern coast of Spain from Alicante to the party hub of Ibiza. You can start by flying into Alicante, but befoe you set of it’s well worth checking out this lovely city first.
Alicante to Dénia (1 hour, 10 minutes)
Our Alicante travel guide can get you started if it’s your first time there, and we’d recommend checking out Santa Barbara Castle and the city’s old town before setting off in your hire car.
The ferry crossing to Ibiza is found in a port town called Dénia, which you can find by taking the AP-7 road east, past the coastal resort of Benidorm. You could even stop there if you fancy immersing yourself in a world of sunny sitcom fantasy. It’s got beaches, nightlife and banter galore.
Eventually the AP-7 road hits the E-15, which takes you north into Dénia. It’s home to another grand castle, deep sea diving, breezy restaurants and much more. There’s plenty to do as you wait for your ferry to Ibiza.
Dénia to San Antonio (3 hours, 30 minutes)
The ferry from Dénia takes you to San Antonio Bay, where the party begins. As you’d expect it’s rammed full of nightclubs, bars and beaches, although you probably don’t want to overdo it on your first day in Ibiza. OK, well maybe you do, but hey, who are we to judge?
If you really want to take advantage of the sparkling waters, you’ll find no shortage of watersports and diving spots. When you’re ready to head off, you want to take the E-30 then PM-803 roads to San Jose, known by locals as Sant Josep de sa Talaia.
San Antonio to San Jose (20 minutes)
San Jose is is home to Ibiza’s highest point and flows at a slower pace than the island’s party hubs. If you need some headspace you’ll be happy to know that the town doesn’t get many tourists, and is home to a slew of incredible restaurants.
To add to San Jose’s chill factor, it actually has the lion’s share of Ibiza’s beaches, so take your pick! You might also see pink signs dotted around this sun-soaked haven, which take you to historic points of interest. Follow them to check out the pirate tower at Cala Conta and other sights.
San Jose to Ibiza town (30 minutes)
Now we’re off to Ibiza’s old town, which you can find by driving east from San Jose, along the PM-803 road. Don’t let the name fool you though: it may be the old town, but you’re no more than a quick taxi ride from the island’s most infamous clubs.
Known locally Dalt Vila, the town is home to a stunning cathedral that gives you amazing views of the coast. You can also wander the town’s many cobblestone streets, which are full of interesting shops and places to grab a bite before hitting the bar. Once you’ve run out of energy, you can get a flight from Ibiza home or drive back down the coast to Allicante.
Lastly, if you want a road trip that’s a little closer to home, this route is well worth a shot if you’re flying into London Heathrow. Instead of hopping in your rental car and gunning it east to the actual city of London, you can drive west and visit the delightful town of Windsor.
Windsor is nestled on the infamous River Thames, is the official residence of the royal family, and is packed full of amazing things to do. Best of all, if you take the M4 motorway from Heathrow it only takes between 15 to 45 minutes to get there by car, depending on traffic.
Here’s some things to check out in and around Windsor:
Heathrow to Windsor (17 minutes)
This is the biggie, as Windsor Castle is where the Queen likes to spend some of her weekends. You probably won’t catch a glimpse of her with her feet up watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix while eating a massive bowl of crisps, but you’ll get see British history at its finest.
You can tour the castle’s lavish halls, which are filled with art and trinkets that are centuries old, watch the legendary changing of the guard and more. One is quite impressed!
Everything is awesome! Legoland Windsor is a blocky paradise that will make your kids overload with joy. If you’ve got your hire car for a while you could easily spend a day here, exploring all the themed areas. There’s the very British knights zone, the swashbuckling Pirate Shores, and Duplo Valley for the really wee ones. Admit it: even as an adult you’re intrigued. We won’t tell anyone.
Just a 13-minute drive north of Legoland, you’ll find the iconic Eton College, which was founded in 1440. The college has educated 19 British Prime Ministers but sadly no young wizards, so while it might not be Hogwarts, Eton has spawned a lot of historical figures. You can take a tour to check out the stunning grounds, the in-house art gallery and more.
Windsor to Stonehenge (1 hour, 45 minutes)
Immortalised by hair metal band Spinal Tap, the columns of Stonehenge need little introduction. The ancient landmark is in Wiltshire, which you’ll find by driving south west from Windsor for an hour and 45 minutes. Just follow the signs onto the A303 and you’re on your way.
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