What makes for the ideal driving holiday destination? How about:

- beautiful open countryside
- comfortable, good value hotels and food & drink
- good roads without much heavy traffic
- lowish fuel and ancillary costs
- locals whom you can communicate with, somehow
- decent weather (now we are getting demanding!)

No single destination can give you all of these! But the pages that follow give you some ideas on those countries or areas which come close; and on where to find the most exhilarating or enjoyable drives.

And remember, so many of these places are impossible - or at best challenging - to reach in any other way than by car!

Click here for ideas on Belgium, Germany, Austria; or Spain and Portugal. Try and work some brilliant scenic drives into your itinerary. Or if time is tight, what about some short break ideas, to test the water?
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Rovinj, Istria

how's this for a sample itinerary, centred on a week's stay in Istria

Start with the obvious: decide on your destination area or areas: the car gives you the flexibility to opt for two or more target areas, and there can be real pleasure in exploring new surroundings each day.

But do aim to stay in at least one location for two, preferably three, nights. Driving is all the more enjoyable when you get a break from it from time to time.

Plot the best locations for intermediate stops - using as your rule of thumb sensible distances you are prepared to cover each day -
  • eating up the miles: 5 to 6 hours driving a day (say 5-600km / 350 miles), plus short breaks, is reasonable; but make sure you mix it up with days of …
  • pootling around: just 2-3 hours driving at most (say 250km / 150 miles max), spread across morning, afternoon or both.

The directions facility on
Google Maps is a good first source to help you work out what is feasible. Don't forget to allow for potentially much slower driving on the more attractive local byways - and allow a lot more time if your route takes you on more ferries (e.g. en route to Scandinavia)

Don't be too ambitious on your first and last days with the Channel crossing. Assuming you're pre-booked, you need to build in that extra margin of error; and planning the first day heading out needs particular care: the time difference works against you (always one hour later on the Continent), and whilst you can always plan to get back home on the final day late at night, you want to reach your first night's hotel in good time to enjoy that first dinner on the Continent.
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THE BEST MAPPING - without question! I've found that, once on the road, the navigation experience is transformed by downloading the maps.me App for iPhone and Android; fantastically fast access to offline mapping at any scale - switch from macro-level route planning to micro-level town plans in an instant.

photo right: the joy of the open road in Eastern France (N67 in haute-Meuse)
Day 1: Dover / Dunkerque and on to Verviers in eastern Belgium
Day 2: via Luxembourg (for cheap petrol) and the Mosel Valley to Hockenheim
Day 3: into the Alps and through Austria to Matrei, just after the Felbertauern Tunnel
Day 4: past Trieste and into Croatia - relax in a luxury villa in Istria for a week - good value villas with pool are easily available.

Slovenia is a little gem - get some inspiration here, or if you like lists, see this comprehensive, independent site.

Day 11: north through delightful Slovenia into Austria - try St Veit in Carinthia
Day 12: stopover in Czech Republic - Pilsen worth more than just a beer
Day 13: up through Thuringian forest to splendid Erfurt
Day 14: excellent stopover on the route back home at Zepperen, Belgium
Day 15: leisurely journey back via Dunkerque to England.
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