My Top 10 of Everything! Mini Bucket-List Road Trips in Europe

So you’ve a week or less but don’t want to confine yourself to a city break.  Or maybe you’ve visited all the major centres and don’t know where next….Read on…..

Experience has taught me that one always comes home from a road trip knowing one could have done better! Chosen routes are not always the most logical option and something amazing has always been omitted! So the following suggestions are just vague outlines – hints at what’s out there! The only thing they have in common is that we’ve done them all(although not necessarily as a short break). Many of the options avail of non major airports – there can be great value flights into the likes of Bristol, Frankfurt Hahn, Bergamo (well – maybe not 2023 – it’s Italy’s Capital of Culture this year!) and Charleroi.


Fly to: Charleroi or Brusssels

Touring: Waterloo – Bruges – Ypres – Ghent – Antwerp

Sleep: Bruges

This is the only one on the list where you base yourself in one place for the duration of your trip. Spend a few days enjoying Bruges and then add day trips to Ghent, Ypres, etc. Of course it can all be done on public transport but the car allows for various combos and extra stops.






Fly to: Zadar/ home from Pula

Touring: Zadar – Pag – Plitvice National Park -Opatija – Pula

Sleep: Zadar – Pag -Plitvice -Opatija – Pula

If short on time then leave out Opatija and Pula and return to Zadar from Plitvice. Of course there are lots of islands to choose from but Pag is accessible by bridge. If touring in high season then get to Plitvice in the evening and stay overnight – you can then beat the bus tours the following morning.



Plitvice National Park




Fly to: Bristol

Touring: Stonehenge – Avebury – Oxford – Cotswolds

Sleep: Oxford – Cotswolds Villages

Go straight from the airport to Stonehenge (about 80 minutes) then on to Oxford (via Avebury if you’ve time). Then prioritise your time depending on your interests – you don’t have to visit EVERY college in Oxford you know! (We spent three nights in Oxford and just one in the Cotswolds – I’d have loved to get to Stratford-on-Avon but didn’t have enough time). We made this trip in October so neither Oxford nor the villages were overly busy





4. Germany (Mosel Valley)

Fly to: Frankfurt-Hahn

Touring: Trier – Mosel Valley – Koblenz

Sleep: Trier – Cochem

Distance Trier – Koblenz is just 130kms so there isn’t a lot of driving involved – allowing time for lovely leisurely walks and wine tasting!

Porta Nigra, Trier

Mosel Valley


5.Greece (Peloponnese)

Fly to: Athens

Touring: Corinth – Mycenae – Epidauros – Sparta -Mystras – Olympia

Sleep: Nafplio – Pylos – Olympia

It’s little over one hour’s drive from Athens airport to the Corinth Canal. There are SO many ancient sites here but there are also some gorgeous beaches so this makes for a great culture/leisure combo….

Voidokilia Beach





Fly to: Shannon

Touring: Ring of Kerry – Ring of Beara – Slea Head

Sleep – Killarney – Dingle

These 3 peninsulas (or peninsulae??) are stunning. There’ll be a lot of driving but the towns are great for nightlife after a day on the road.

Ring of Kerry

Ring of Beara

Slea Head


7.Italy (North)

Fly to: Bergamo (Round Trip or home from Verona)

Touring: Bergamo – Parma – Bologna – Ravenna – Ferrara

Sleep: Bergamo – Parma – Bologna – Ravenna

Just what town in Italy is NOT gorgeous! We love Bergamo and have visited a few times, always en route elsewhere. If you love mosaics then you’ll love Ravenna. We spent just one night in Parma – mainly to sample the ham and cheese!



8.Italy (Puglia)

Fly to: Bari

Touring: Matera (not in Puglia but near enough!!) – Alberobello – Ostuni -Otranto

Sleeping: Matera – Ostuni – Otranto

You’ll need 2 nights in Matera but don’t leave it out... Alberobello is probably my LEAST favourite place in this whole blog but you can’t really go to Puglia and bypass it!



Puglia Countryside


9.Spain (Andalusia)

Fly to: Malaga

Touring: Malaga – Grenada – Cordoba – Seville – Caminito del Rey

Sleep: Malaga – Grenada – Cordoba – Seville

It’s a lot, I know, to fit into a few days because the 4 centres are quite spread out and each one really deserves more than a flying visit. If it’s too tight then drop Malaga and plan around the other 3, allowing most time in Seville – make sure to pre book your Alhambra admission and Caminito del Rey .



Caminito del Rey



10. Spain (Costa Brava)

Fly to: Barcelona (Round Trip or home from Girona)

Touring: Coastal Villages – Cadaqués – Figueres – Girona

Sleep: Calella de Palafrugell – Cadeques – Girona

We did this mini trip one late April, having camped in the region many times during the summer hols. Such a difference!!! No problem parking in those tiny villages, tables available in restaurants. Weather was warm enough to sit out during the day. There’s a bit of culture here too – the ancient site of Empúries and Dali’s wonderful museum in Figueres…




Small Stuff

Try to avoid peak season – parking can be stressful in popular tourist spots.

When booking accommodation you may have to compromise a bit – don’t expect to find a reasonably priced hotel in the historical town centre with ample parking facilities.

Familiarise yourself with national and local speed limits and make sure you know your left from your right!

If spending just one day in a town or city, make sure the main sights are actually open on the day.

If not booking a return flight then check any excess fees on the car rental for returning it to a different location. The savings you make on cheap flights might be gobbled up in extra charges. None of the above journeys are huge so it might be worth your while to drive the few hours back to the original airport…

Hand baggage will be plenty for all the above but you’ll be able to spread stuff out once you’ve got the car so squish in an empty fold up bag when packing.

All the above trips can be easily extended to fill 2 weeks. You can tackle the route at a more leisurely pace, lingering to explore more of the city streets (1),(7),(9) or enjoy the beaches(2),(5),(8),(10) and wineries(4),(5),(8),(9). Or you can add more destinations to the itinerary – keep going on up along Ireland’s west coast (6), or head to Verona and the Italian Lakes(7)

Before you go…….

I’ve written about many of the above destinations so have a look here….

4 Nights in Belgium


Zadar to Pula

Plitvice National Park

Stonehenge, Oxford, Cotswolds

Mosel Valley

4 nights Peloponnese



Ring of Beara

Slea Head

Ring of Kerry


A Four Night Road Trip from Bergamo



Costa Brava


Caminito del Rey



30 thoughts on “My Top 10 of Everything! Mini Bucket-List Road Trips in Europe

  1. LOL!! Not doing any 4 day trips from Western Canada to those sites but great options for longer. Really want to hit Spain after our next Europe trip (bike and barge on the Danube).

    1. You could bundle a few together Bernie! – That upcoming trip sounds lovely – we’ve only hit the Danube in spots over the years. You’ll love Spain – great for every sort of holiday – including biking – pals of ours have gone on cycling packages in the Costa Brava area for this past few years and rave about it… XXXMarie

    1. Bergamo is a great hub for northern Italy… we’ve rented a car from the airport a few times and also got the bus to Milan. But the town itself is lovely for a night or two – there’s a gorgeous bistro we found some years back – we try and make it on the first night – then we know we’re definitely on our hols!!

    1. I love having a car – but must admit it’s not for everyone. Tom doesn’t mind driving whereas I’ve never driven abroad! For some, it’s a lot of hassle but I love the freedom it offers…

  2. Wow. A lot of food for thought here. It was nice to be reminded of Zadar & Pag Island in Croatia. I couldn’t agree more… those were phenomenal places to visit. I am currently living in Spain for the year, and am bookmarking your two different suggestions for Spain. With any luck we’ll be able to hit both. I will certainly refer to your posts for guidance. Great work here.

    1. Spain would be a wonderful base for a year – so much to see in that country alone. We also drove one time along the northern coast from San Sebastian to the Picos de Europa – my main recollection is the cider! And another loop – included Burgos, Salamanca, Avila, Toledo…And you’ll have to do a bit of the Camino while you’re there… I don’t think your year will be long enough!!😅 😂

      1. Burgos, Salamanca, Avila, and Toledo are wonderfully exciting places to visit, as is Spain on the whole. We thoroughly enjoyed travelling around in between housesits. Thanks for taking me down memory lane. Bliss. Plus, your blog would entice the non-traveller to take a peek at our world 🙂

      2. Ah memories, Suzanne – we visited all the places you mention in summer 1990. Toledo was as far south as we got – bearing in mind we’d driven from Ireland (well – from a French port of course!) and had to make our way back! We’ve been back to Spain since but never made it back to those central cities – not even Madrid. They were all gorgeous and we didn’t do any of them justice – trying to see as much as possible of course and whizzing through every place. Definitely another trip due! XXXMarie

    1. There certainly is – you’ve seen far more of Eastern Europe than we have Hannah – that’s a region we’ll have to concentrate on….

  3. Great compilation. Personally I’d advise skipping Stonehenge, unless you’re an actual Druid. Yes the history and legend attached to it is amazing but standing there looking at a bunch of rocks and taking the same photo as everyone else is a big let down. Go spend more time in the Cotswold villages 🙂

    1. I know exactly what you mean Roy – there are places like that everywhere- including here (Giant’s Causeway for one!). Having visited Stonehenge the once, I’ve no desire to return but, before that visit it was one of those landmarks I felt I’d have to see some day. I appreciated the history and mystery of the place and was very glad at the time that it wasn’t high season so wasn’t overly busy. We preferred Avebury more on the day but the international traveller will always want to see the more famous Stonehenge.

  4. You could be running a travel advice service with all of this, a blend of the useful and the inspirational! We shy away from driving in Europe but of course the England areas I know very well (personally I’d rather skip Stonehenge for Avebury than vice versa but I know a foreign visitor will feel they MUST see the former!) I would suggest the Mosel Valley could also be done by train – it’s a lovely ride 🙂 I agree about Bergamo and we loved Bologna too. As for your Ireland route, your posts will be my bible when we eventually get around to visiting, as we must!

    1. Several of the suggestions would work well on public transport really. Our driving days go way back to when we used to camp in Italy and Spain after a ferry crossing and sprint through France. That’s a royal we of course – Tom has always done all the driving. The only stresser for us at times is sorting the parking near accommodation. But we love city breaks minus car also and still enjoy travel by bus and train – that’s a treat!

  5. Everything is so close in Europe (compared to the US), it would be great to hop around to see these highlights. I have been to some of them, but some treasures are new.

    1. For us, the main consideration is actually getting to mainland Europe – Do we take our car and go by ferry or fly and rent(often the cheaper option). Once we’re there, the choice is endless. I know what you mean re US – we’ve done several road trips there which usually entail a lot of driving and then look at the map and realise how little ground we’ve actually covered!

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