Spain offers probably the best driving conditions in Europe: great weather and scenery; good value overnight stays with excellent food and drink; superb, often empty roads; and just about the cheapest petrol to boot.

Portugal makes for a great add-on: that much less familiar, maybe more 'exotic', with some stunning little-known National Parks.

Iberia is vast: below are just a few suggestions for rewarding stopovers, whether you're just heading to the coast or planning a tour of this wonderful part of Europe.

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Have fun plotting your route across Spain: away from the major cities, the roads are a pleasure to drive - so little traffic, and generally in excellent condition; and even now they're still building new motorways. The great majority - and almost all the new ones - are toll-free - just try to avoid those prefixed 'AP', mainly in the North-East and around Madrid.

But there are some splendid drives, even in highly accessible Catalonia: try the wonderful, lightly trafficked, Eix Diagonal road, a succession of bridges and tunnels in the foothills of the Pyrenees (above right) - particularly the recently completed section from Olot to Vic.
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Photo: Serra de Estrela National Park

It's not just a little further taking your own car all the way to Portugal: the roads are in a poorer condition that Spain, the language is that much more unfathomable when you hear it spoken, the wines a little less familiar. But as a touring Brit, well away from the Algarve or the attractive Douro region, you'll be pretty much on your own.

The Serra Estrela National Park, in central Portugal close to the border with the Extremadura in Spain, is stunningly beautiful: marvellous, easy walking through gorgeous, heather covered rockscapes.
The new free-flow tolling system introduced in 2012 on many key stretches of motorway (
autoestradas) remains, at best, challenging for foreign-registered vehicles. There are no tollbooths, so the only way to avoid committing a criminal offence is to ensure you have paid upfront for your journey, or follow some rather complex procedures to pay after the event. Check the official website for details - or more usefully, advice put on the web by frustrated expats on the Algarve may be more useful.
Four special destinations in Spain
1: Molina de Aragon, Castille-La Mancha: this unexpected gem of a fortress suddenly appears as you approach the sleepy town, between Zaragoza and Madrid. The mountain scenery as you head south from here towards Cuenca is truly splendid.
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4: Garrovillas, Extremadura
A delightfully unspoilt small town in the middle of nowhere (OK, 40km NW of Caceres). The Puente de Alconetar hotel, a converted palace, has a beautiful location directly on the vast main square - right
3: Llerena, Extremadura: in the midst of the baking plains of SW Spain is this attractive, easy going market town with a glorious Plaza Mayor - and in the Hospederia Mirador de Llerena has one of the best value small luxury hotels in Europe
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2: Cuenca, Castille-La Mancha
undoubtedly on the tourist map already, but what a spectacular setting - empty, rocky landscapes for miles around; a fascinating historic city with a great atmosphere.
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