Whether it’s just for a couple of days, or maybe a couple of weeks, the freedom of the open road can be a wonderfully liberating and therapeutic experience. Sweeping mountain roads, beautiful scenery and stunning coastlines are just a few hours away.
So why not dig out those driving gloves and prepare that road trip playlist. Let take care of the journey with, while we take care of the destination…
Switzerland: Lauterbrunnen Valley Waterfalls
The Lauterbrunnen Valley, one of the biggest nature conservation areas in Switzerland, offers spectacular scenery in all directions. The name itself, which literally translates to ‘many fountains’, hints at what to expect. 72 waterfalls thunder down the various secluded valleys from the towering rock faces and overhangs to the valley floor.
The most famous of these is Straubbach falls, which at almost 300 meters is one of the highest free-falling waterfalls in Europe. The Trümmelbach Falls, which channel up to 20,000 litres of water per second across ten glacier falls, is a must-see, but can only be reached in the summer months, by way of a tunnel lift.
Italy: Bellunesi Dolomites National Park
The national park, located in the province of Belluno, in northern Italy, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009. With mountain peaks reaching up to 2,565 meters and deep valleys such as the Mis, the Cordevole and the Canzoi, the flora and fauna found in this, the only national park in north-eastern Italy, is some of the richest in the whole of the Alps.
Pizzoco, one of the lower peaks in the park, offers visitors an excellent vantage point to take in views across the Dolomites and Serva peak, as well as the Val Belluna.
UK: The Lake District
The Lake District was designated a National Park in 1951 and a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2017. It covers an area of 2,362 sq km and is famous for its lakes, forests and mountains or fells.
Take a road trip around the Lakes, perhaps in a new car from Sandown Mercedes, and you’ll witness the scenery vary from dramatic and rugged, to quaint and historic. From the heights of Scafell Pike, to the depths of Wastwater, there are views to take your breath away.
Historic towns such as Keswick and Grasmere, with their famous associations with the Lakes Poets such as William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter offer visitors a warm and friendly experience, as well as a not to be missed cream tea!
France: Calanques National Park, Provence Alpes, Côte-d’azur
Designated a national park in 2012, the Calanques are a series of beautiful inlets, naturally carved in the limestone cliffs which span a 20 mile stretch between the city of Marseille and the rustic fishing town of Cassis.
Due to the high fire risks in the dry environment and soil-less ecosystem, the national park is closed to cars between 1st June and 30th September, but visitors on foot are welcome.
If you want to make the most of the Calanques but aren’t keen on the trek down (you’ll need sturdy shoes), then take advantage of boat or kayak hire in Cassis, and view the natural spectacle from the crystal waters of the Mediterranean.
Austria: Lünersee and the Rätikon Alps
The Rätikon is a mountain range which makes up a portion of the central Eastern Alps, bordering Vorarlberg, Liechtenstein and Graubünden. The highest peak, Schesaplana, with an elevation of 2,964m, offers visitors, climbers and hikers breathtaking panoramic views.
At the foot of Schesaplana, 1.970m above sea level, lies Lünersee, one of the largest natural mountain lakes in the eastern Alps. This expansive body of water not only creates the most impressive backdrop for those road trip photographs, but also offers perfect conditions for a few hours of the most tranquil and relaxed fishing you could possibly wish for.
Italy: Lake Garda
Located at the edge of the Dolomites, between Venice and Milan, Lake Garda was formed by glaciers at the end of the last ice age. This, the largest lake in Italy, offers visitors a wide variety of terrain – mountains and sheer cliff faces dominate the north shores, while the southern shores are scattered with sandy beaches, lakeside promenades and cafes, giving way to low-level rolling hills.
The lake itself provides a wealth of watersports to satisfy the most active of appetites, and the year-round temperate climate coupled with glorious surroundings will sate the hunger of those craving sheer relaxation.
Slovenia: Lake Bled
Located in the Julian Alps of the Upper Carniolan region, Lake Bled is a most remarkable sight. This vast body of water – at its largest points it measures 2,120m long and 1,380m wide – has everything to capture the imagination.
The beautiful bluish-green waters lap at the shores of a small island which is home to a 17th-century pilgrimage church, complete with a 52m tall tower and a Baroque stairway of 99 steps which sweep up to the stone building. Cast your eyes towards the mountain backdrop and perched on top of the rocky cliff 100m above the lake is medieval Bled Castle, which dates back to the early 11th century.
Croatia: Plitvice Lakes National Park
Granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1979, Plitvice Lakes National Park comprises 16 lakes, linked by a series of waterfalls which cover a distance of 8 km. The park covers a total area of 300 sq km, with 18 km of wooden footbridges and pathways which thread their way around the lakes, over waterfalls and through forests filled with wildlife. The park is also home to the tallest waterfall in Croatia, Velika Slap, at 78 meters tall. To help visitors see as much of the park as possible, there are free buses and boats which run regularly between the upper and lower lakes, from April until October. Relax and enjoy the scenery, while spotting the wild boar, wolves and bears as well as rare bird species and colourful clouds of butterflies, all set to the natural rhythm of the thundering waterfalls.
The crystal clear waters of the Königssee have led to it being known as the cleanest lake in Germany. Since 1909 only electric-powered passenger boats, row and pedal boats have been permitted.
This, Germany’s third deepest lake was formed by glaciers and is surrounded by the mountains of the Berchtesgaden Alps. The sheer rock walls around parts of the lake create an extraordinarily clear echo – a feature which can be experienced as part of the many boat tours available.
On the Hirschau peninsula along the western shore of the lake is St. Bartholomä church. It can only be reached by boat or by a mountain hike but, however you get there, relax and have a drink at the nearby inn, and take some time to absorb the beautiful surroundings.
One of the largest urban areas north of the Arctic Circle, Tromsø experiences warmer temperatures than most settlements of the same latitude due to the effect of the Gulf Stream, but can still see plenty of snow and ice during the winter months.
Some of the most spectacular views can be seen from the cable car which ascends Mount Storsteinen, 421m above the city. From the forested island of Tromsøya to Kvaløya in the distance, the Arctic Cathedral and Tromsø’s old secondary school, there is plenty to take in from this fantastic vantage point.
The different seasons offer visitors a variety of experiences, from whale watching to dog sledding, the midnight sun to the northern lights. No matter when you visit, Tromsø promises to deliver in abundance.