Geographic obstacles across Europe, like mountains, moors, rivers and fjords forced early travelers, merchants and invading armies to get creative when crossing the continent. If any sort of commerce and interaction between the regions was going to happen, the first explorers needed to plot a course through some of the most treacherous topography in the world. Hundreds of years later, the successful passageways — the safest ones — were eventually paved, threading tarmac over and between 15,000-foot peaks and around hundreds of square miles of dense forest thanks to the first road engineers. Those winding throughways are now some of the best driving roads in Europe.
Transfagarasan Highway, Romania
Officially opened in 1974, the Transfagarasan Highway in Romania was built so the military could have quick and easy access over the Southern Carpathian mountain range. Topping out at 6,699 ft, the Transfagarasan sweeps through steep canyons, thick forests and even winds past the castle of Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s character Dracula. The portion of the highway lending itself to the best driving is from Poenari Citadel, north 57 miles to Cartisoara — it’s full of switchbacks, tunnels and cliffside sweepers.
Drive Distance: 57 Miles
Best Car for the Drive: Audi RS3
D2566, From Sopsel to Lucéram, France
The roadway D2566, more famously known as Route de Turini, has featured as one of the more torturous stages of the Tour de France. Though the run north from Sospel to Col de Turini and back down to Lucéram can be considered one of the best driving roads in the world, there are countless other stretches of road in the area that’ll provide more than enough thrills. An entire list of great driving roads can easily consist of those crisscrossing the French Alps — it’s no wonder this is where the World Rally Championship tends to kick off each season.
Drive Distance: 28 Miles
Best Bike for the Ride: Ducati Supersport
Grossglockner High Alpine Road, Austria
Austria’s footprint is made up of nothing but the Alps, from its higher peaks or rolling foothills, so finding a road traversing the mountain range or navigating a valley below isn’t difficult. But of all of Austria’s mountain passes, the Grossglockner High Alpine Road is easily the best. Named after the country’s highest peak, Grossglockner, the High Alpine Road opened on August 3, 1935, and celebrated with the Grossglockner car and motorcycle race the next day. And if a road at 7,772 ft is good enough for motorsport, it should do just fine for a Sunday drive.
Drive Distance: 50 Miles
Best Car for the Drive: Porsche 911 Carrera T
Stelvio Pass, Italy
Start in Bormio Terme and end in Trafoi and you’ll find the most breathtaking stretch of 57 miles Italy has to offer. There are more switchbacks and hairpins than you can count and at just over 9,000 feet it’ll make your head spin. Stelvio Pass was also famously coined as ‘the best driving road in the world’ by Jeremy Clarkson and Co, back in the tenth season of Top Gear. As a bonus option, halfway up the road at the 27-mile mark you can pop over into Switzerland and head down another otherworldly stretch of 27 miles on the Umbrailpass to Santa Maria.
Drive Distance: 20 Miles
Best Car for the Drive: Lancia Delta Integrale
Bernina Pass, Switzerland
While you’re in the Swiss-Italian area, head an hour south from Bormio and you’ll find the Bernina Pass starting in Santuario della Beata Vergine di Tirano, Italy. It’s one of the shorter roads on this list but it showcases views of Switzerland that postcards wish they could capture. And if the Swiss road does prove to be too short for you, once you get to Saint Moritz, head north on 27, connect to 28 and then head back up the Umbrail pass and loop back around on the Stelvio Pass. It’ll undoubtedly be the most unforgettable 127 miles you’ll ever lay wheels on.
Drive Distance: 34 Miles
Best Car for the Drive: BMW M5
Ullapool to Durness, Scotland
This list could easily be nothing but roads going back and forth over the Alps, but it’s not difficult to find high-quality roads seemingly built for enthusiasts all over the continent. Up in the northern reaches of Scotland, the drive from Ullapool to Durness traverses some of Scotlands most iconic coastline. The A893, A835 and A837 roadways ungulate in and out of Scottish moors and zig-zag along the rugged coastline with twists and turns only the highlands can provide.
Drive Distance: 67.5 Miles
Best Car for the Drive: Aston Martin Superleggera
Moving even further north, Norway can’t be discounted from a list of great driving roads either. If plotting a course through the Alps and around swampy moors is your idea of the way to make a great road, then snaking between Norwegian fjords is a solid bet too. The Trollstigen, or Troll’s Path, is one of the country’s national attractions surrounded by incredible views of legendary Norwegian topography. Just keep in mind, this is Norway — the road won’t be open year-round.
Drive Distance: 31 Miles
Best Car for the Drive: Audi RS5