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5 inspirational driving routes
The heating is on, the chill of autumn has begun to bite and the shorter days are making their presence felt.
However, the best tonic to ease the post-summer blues is to plan your next holiday – and why not consider the ultimate in freedom and exhilaration by planning a road trip?
So, if the open road and wind in your hair are calling, here are five driving routes to inspire you…
1. Explore Tuscan treasures
With its golden-hued landscape of sunflowers and poppies, beautiful rolling vineyards and medieval hilltop hamlets, a road trip through Tuscany could fool you into thinking you were stepping into a breath-taking watercolour.
Your adventure begins in Pisa where you will pick up your hire car and, after visiting iconic sights – such as the famous Leaning Tower, cathedral and baptistery in the Piazza dei Miracoli – hit the road and head east on the SS12. From here you will drive to San Gimignano via the beautiful village of Volterra where the stunning scenery along the way will give you plenty of photo opportunities.
Upon arrival in the medieval town of San Gimignano whose centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you can get immersed in history as you explore winding streets and bustling piazzas, or you may opt for a walking tour through beautiful vineyards and saffron-producing farms. At the end of your day, treat yourself to a glass of Vernaccia di San Gimignano, the town’s specialty tipple.
Next on the itinerary is Siena, home to the famous palio horse race. This can be reached by driving through the fantastic Chianti region with its many vineyards and olive groves. Designated drivers can treat their passengers to a stop at a winery and once you reach Siena you will be able to visit the huge Piazza del Campo, beautiful cathedral and Mangia Tower for spectacular views.
Your road trip finishes in the stunning city of Florence, around 72km from Siena and reachable in less than an hour. Home to stunning Renaissance masterpieces, you can spend hours immersed in world-class art in the city’s museums and galleries.
Use the interactive map below to view the route.
2. Have an Andalucían adventure
If you are looking for a road trip adventure that will combine dramatic and diverse landscapes with historic, vibrant towns, then Andalucía in southern Spain is a must.
After picking up your car from Malaga Airport, begin your drive east along the coast to visit the spectacular Sierra Nevada National Park. To break up the journey, stop off at one of Nerja’s beaches where you will find long sandy stretches and secluded coves to relax in.
When you reach the Sierra Nevada you’ll be greeted with outstanding beauty, and the endless soaring mountains, lush pine forests and array of rare wildlife, plants and flowers will ensure an unforgettable start to your holiday. Covering more than 200,000 acres, you may prefer to explore part of the area by car and part by hiking, canoeing, horse riding or enjoying other outdoor sports.
You can also experience city life on this road trip, as the Moorish city of Granada is located in the foothills of Sierra Nevada. Highlights of a trip here include visits to the magnificent Alhambra, the old Arab quarter, the Archeological Museum and beautiful cathedral.
The final destination on your road trip is Seville which will take you around five hours to reach from Granada. Stop off on the way in the romantic white-washed city of Ronda with its ‘El Tajo’ or 300- foot gorge that separates the old town from the 16th-century ‘new’ town.
To experience more of Andalucía, you may wish to take a detour on your trip and visit the historic city of Cordoba. Here you can experience the incredible eighth-century Mosque-Cathedral which displays a mixture of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture, relax in the Arabic baths and spend an evening at a flamenco show.
Continue your journey and on reaching Seville you can enjoy highlights of the city such as the Alcazar, Plaza de Espana, Barrio Santa Cruz, and, of course, enjoy some tasty tapas in one of its 8,000 bars!
3. Discover sun-drenched Provence
Your French adventure begins when you pick your hire car up in Nice Airport, but before you hit the road, take time to explore this beautiful spot on the Cote d’Azur. Enjoy ambling along the wide promenade taking in gorgeous sea views and exploring the streets of the old town with its pretty flower markets.
The first part of your road trip is going to take you to glamorous Cannes, with a stop off along the way at Grasse, a mere 40 minutes from Nice and known as the world’s perfume capital. Visit the Fragonard Perfume Factory and Museum, the 11th-century cathedral and the Saracen Tower.
South of Grasse and just 15km away is your next destination. Home to the famous Cannes film festival, here you can admire the super yachts in the harbour, explore the old town and window shop in the designer boutiques.
After spending time in Cannes, you can make your way to your final destination of Provence, with the eastern and northern-most parts of the region the closest. You could opt to visit the spectacular Gorge du Verdon – the French version of the Grand Canyon. It’s a spectacular drive among soaring limestone mountains with the glistening azure water below – but be prepared for a white-knuckle, winding journey. Some parts lack railings on the side of the road giving way to sheer drops – so remember to slow down at bends and drive sensibly.
If you would prefer to visit one of Provence’s towns then Digne – one of the lavender regions – is another option. With its mountain setting and natural hot springs, it’s the perfect backdrop for a relaxing holiday.
4. Drive across the Sunshine State
A road trip across Florida begins when you pick up your car in Orlando. And you can’t be in the home of theme park fun without sampling the thrills and spills on offer, so spend a few days enjoying Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios and SeaWorld.
From here your road trip is going to take you to Miami which will take around four hours if you opt to travel via the Turnpike from Orlando. However, while this is the shortest route, there is not a great deal to see, so, for a more interesting trip, take the A1A coastal road which runs alongside the Atlantic for stop-offs in Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach and other coastal towns.
On arrival in Miami you will be able to enjoy cruising down famous Ocean Drive to admire the fantastic Art Deco architecture, visit the bars and restaurants of trendy South Beach and get your shopping fix in its many malls.
Only an hour away from Miami is the Everglades National Park, a tropical wilderness spread across 1.5million acres and home to exotic wildlife such as the American crocodile, alligators and Florida panther. Here you can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, canoeing, cycling, boat tours and camping.
Your road trip will finish at Key West, which you will reach by taking the fabulous overseas highway. A huge party town, here you can sun yourself on the beach by day, and when the sun goes down head to one of the many bars and restaurants for cocktails and dancing.
5. Escape to the west coast of Ireland
A road trip on the west coast of Ireland will take you through dramatic, wild and rugged scenery, over mountain roads and past peat bogs where it feels like you’ll never encounter another soul.
Begin your road trip by picking up your car at Cork Airport and start your journey by hitting the N22. Your first destination is going to be Dingle and your drive should take around three hours, with the opportunity to stop at towns such as Killarney on the way to break up the journey.
On arrival in Dingle, you can expect jaw-dropping scenery, beautiful beaches and cosy evenings in traditional pubs. The town’s Slea Head Drive is a fabulous circular route which takes in dramatic Atlantic views and treats you to some of the peninsula’s most striking scenery.
County Clare is next on the itinerary and it will take you about two and a half hours to reach it from Dingle. Driving through Clare will allow you to see the bizarre Burren landscape, and a trip to the tiny village of Doolin – known as the home of traditional Irish music - will treat you to an evening in tiny pubs where you can enjoy a soul-soaring music session of pounding bodhráns and straining fiddles. Make sure you visit the Cliffs of Moher while in Clare – on a clear day you’ll get spectacular views of the Aran Islands, Twelve Pins Mountain Range and Blasket Islands in Kerry.
Your final port of call is the vibrant city of Galway, which is reachable from Clare in around an hour. Enjoy shopping and sightseeing in the city, take a day trip out to the seaside village of Salthill or take a dramatic drive through Connemara National Park.
Finally, we can’t forget that there are some fantastic drives in Britain too, so if you’re looking for inspiration, check out Rachel Wait’s blog post ‘Great British Drives‘.
If you know of any superb drives that you’d like to share, get in touch by leaving a comment below.