We're partial to a travel daydream, and lately we've been particularly taken with the idea of a retro road trip through Europe, motoring through picture perfect countryside, delving into the nooks and crannies of culture-filled cities and sampling the continent's best food and wine as we go. The problem? We can't decide exactly which delightful destination we want to see first, so in the spirit of not compromising (and travel less, travel better) we've concocted the ultimate European road trip, taking in the best of France, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and Italy all in one epic journey. Now all you have to do is agree that sabbatical with the boss, or use your holiday in arrears to slip gracefully through the gears.
Armed with all of the essential road trip equipment (read: Simpkins travel sweets for full retro effect) jump in the car and make your way down to Folkestone to catch the quick 35-minute Eurotunnel car train to Calais, France. From here we highly recommend following our Bordeaux and the French Basque Country road trip itinerary, packed with plenty of adventure (surfing), indulgence (wine tasting) and relaxation (boating). Passing through some truly beautiful landscapes - including Le Landes Natural Park - and the bustling city of Bayonne en route to world-famous wine region Bordeaux, this leg is an excellent way to start your ultimate European road trip.
Seeing as you're on the border, it would seem remiss not to hop across to experience all that the Spanish Basque Country has to offer. Our Northern Spain and Portugal Road Trip extends the gastronomic adventure with a stop off in gourmet heaven San Sebastian before taking you west towards the dramatic peaks of the Picos de Europa National Park - where you can trek off all of that delicious food and wine you've been enjoying thus far - and the famous pilgrimage city Santiago de Compostela, before hooking around to go south across the Portuguese border.
Take a couple of days to explore picture perfect Porto and visit the nearby Douro Valley to sample wines and ports galore, then embark on our luxury Portuguese road trip, which takes you from Porto in the north right down to Faro on the south coast of the country. Stop offs include hip capital Lisbon and the picturesque coastal Algarve region for healthy doses of both culture and hedonism before you begin your journey back into Spain.
Andalucia is a treasure trove of historic sites and amazing architecture and our Southern Portugal and Andalucia road trip highlights some of our favourite spots in the region, including vibrant Seville, the Costa de la Luz (a great riding spot) and the ancient city of Cadiz. We can add on any number of trips and experiences while you're here, whether it's birding in Donana National Park (Spain's largest), olive oil tasting in Andalusian hills, or visiting the coast for blissful beach days.
Spain to France
Assuming you've had your fill of Andalucia (is that possible? Discuss) it's probably time to head north again on your ultimate European road trip. It's a decent drive from the south coast of Spain to the French border (around 12 hours) but along the way you have two Spanish favourites - Valencia and Barcelona. We can organise for you to stop off as much as you like en route to the chic South of France.
The South of France
Known for its picturesque lavender landscapes, charming farmhouses and pretty seaside towns, you can truly enjoy the sweet life in Provence with cultural experiences, sailing and wine tasting. Follow our Provence road trip itinerary to see the best of the region before you don your deck shoes for a trip to the French Riviera. Following the coast from Marseille to Cannes, our Beaches, Boats and Charming Villages in France French Riviera Road Trip itinerary showcases the best that this glamorous destination has to offer. Think wide-brimmed sun hats, generous glasses of the palest pink French rose, sea views and sunsets.
The Rhone and Alps, France
After soaking up as much coastal beauty as possible, you have the delights of the famous (and famously under-rated) wine-producing Beaujolais region to look forward to. Head north from Cannes towards Macon, Annecy and Lyon and spend your days exploring curious old towns and visiting yet more wineries before you head over to the Alps and Chamonix on the French/Swiss/Italian border for fondue and active fun in the original alpiniste hub.
While for some this might be seen as the obvious spot to close to loop and head back to Dover, if you've got the time, then the adventure is far from over. From Chamonix, either drive to the lakeside city of Geneva and then on to Lausanne and then capital Zurich, or forego the cities for more Alpine escapades and head straight to the famous Swiss ski resorts of Zermatt and St Moritz en route to northern Italy. Throughout the year, these are dreamy destinations for outdoors adventures and scenic views. We created a dedicated train itinerary to take in the landscapes, but you can use your own four wheels to explore the scenery on your ultimate European road trip.
Crossing over into Italy - now the fifth country on this epic driving holiday - gives you a whole new perspective entirely. Lakes Como, Garda and Maggiore are popular with the celebrity jet set and for good reason. Staying in a lakeside villa on any of these Italian Lakes and you'll have the extremely difficult daily decision to make of whether to explore the nearby Dolomite mountains on a hike, visit a pretty-as-a-picture Italian town or take to the water on a private charter. Whatever your choose, we recommend a hearty plate of pasta accompanied with an exceptional Italian wine to help you choose where to stop off on your journey south. Will you venture to Venice, Tuscany and Rome? Explore the Amalfi Coast before you peruse Puglia to the south and make your way to historic Sicily? The boot of Italy is your oyster. And when you're done, we can plan your trip home to the UK, or even recommend a few more countries to tick off on this ultimate European road trip.