Beautiful drives across the continent
Nowadays we are so used to finding the quickest route to our destination that we often forget what we might be missing out on. Whether it is a quaint café along a winding road in France, or a stunning, secluded beach on the outskirts of Spain, we're completely unaware of the amazing experiences we're skipping as we race to our dream location.
So, when the time to plan your next trip arises, make sure you resist the temptation to take the quickest route your GPS recommends, and see what happens. You never know, the journey itself might be just as memorable as the rest of your trip. Here are just a few scenic drives to get you inspired.
Normandy beaches, France
If you love to be by the sea, then be sure to enjoy a beautiful detour through the seaside resort of Deauville, where you'll be met with white, sandy beaches and waves of turquoise sea. If you decide to drive west from Deauville along the rugged coastline, then you'll be making the very same journey as thousands of troops, who arrived ashore on D-Day in 1944. If you're a bit of a history buff, or wish to learn more about the Normandy landings, then it is well worth extending your journey by exploring the museums in nearby Caen.
The artificial harbour at Arromanches
As you continue to drive along the Normandy coastline, be sure to keep an eye out for a number of fascinating sights, including the Mulberry harbours at Arromanches, which were pulled across the English Channel and used in the invasion of France. If all of this historical exploration has got you thirsty, pay a visit to the St-Mére-Eglise for a quick drink at Auberge le John Steele, a restaurant that was named after an unfortunate American paratrooper who famously became caught on the church spire whilst descending.
Cinco Villas, Spain
As you reach the Spanish city of Zaragoza, be sure to stock up on local delicacies, such as a selection of cured meats and fresh apricots from the city's Central Market, before setting off northwest to explore Aragon's Five Villages. The Five Villages, or Cinco Villas, are a collection of former Moorish towns that were conquered by the Spanish around nine hundred years ago; each of them home to a number of fascinating and beautiful attractions, which are perfect for a curious traveller such as yourself.
The first of the five towns you'll come across is Tauste, where you're likely to spot the sand-coloured tower of the 12th century church of Santa María. If you decide to stop over at this quaint town, be sure to gaze out from its hilltop and spot the abundance of birds that fly through the sky above. All species of birds claim the skies above Tauste as their home, from breathtaking hawks and eagles, to the common gull.
If you want to stay over at one of the towns, Ejae de los Caballeros is your best bet for a good time. A number of fun, cultural festivals run throughout the year here, including a collection of concerts and parties during the last weekend of August in honour of Our Lady the Virgin of Oliva. If you're feeling peckish, or in need of fuelling up before another journey in the morning, head to El Bolaso, a wonderful restaurant with a beautiful terrace to sit and enjoy delicious plates of Spanish delicacies.
Sádaba's medieval castle
As you hop into your car again, drive just a little further north to the historical town of Sádaba, the third of the Cinco Villas you'll encounter. As you journey past the emerald fields full of colourful, wild flowers, you're bound to spy the town's medieval castle; a looming figure made up of seven towers set against the wondrous Sádaba landscape. A short detour east from Sádaba brings you to Uncastillo, an idyllic town with streets so well-preserved that each one will leave you feeling as if you've gone back in time. As you make your way through, be sure to stop by San Martín, a church that has now been converted into a fascinating museum, exhibiting pieces of religious art and talks on medieval building methods.
As you reach the final part of your Cinco Villa tour, Sos del Rey Católico, you'll be met with narrow streets, lush green trees and the historical Sada Palace – the birthplace of King Ferdinand II. Spend a day in the sun wandering around this illustrious town, taking in the views of the spectacular hills. Alternatively, if you want to take shelter from the Mediterranean heat, pay a visit to the crypt of the Virgen del Perdón, which is home to a selection of beautiful, gothic paintings.
Sos del Rey Católico
German Alpine Road, Germany
The German Alpine Road, or Deutsche Alpenstrasse, is the perfect journey for those of you looking for a little adventure before your holiday. A tour of this exquisite 270-mile long stretch of road along the Austrian border usually takes between three to five days to complete, starting from lake town of Lindau and ending at the mesmerising town of Berchtesgaden, in the Bavarian Alps.
As you continue to journey along the German Alpine Road you'll pass 25 enchanting castles, lots of abbeys, and 21 serene, turquoise mountain lakes, one of which is the Walchensee. Walchensee is Germany's deepest alpine lake, and a great place to make a detour on a beautiful summer day. Whether you just want to take a dip into the cool, clear water, or want to have fun racing on kayaks and try out windsurfing along the lake's waves, you'll be spoilt for choice as to what to do.
After you've dried off and set off on the road again, keep your eyes peeled for the beautiful Neuschwanstein Castle, the fairy tale palace that inspired Disney's famous, glittering castle logo. The castle offers 30-minute guided tours for those of you looking to enjoy a closer look, and there are also a couple restaurants within the castle's grounds if you're in need of a bite to eat.
As the journey along the German Alpine Road takes so long to complete, it’s a good idea to find a place to relax and enjoy a good night’s sleep. There are plenty of humble chalets, and high-end spas and hotels to choose from along the way. We recommend planning at least one of your stops at the
Hotel Blaue Gams; a wonderful chalet-themed hotel that is situated right at the heart of rolling green fields, dark wooded forests and lush mountains.
Getting there and around
Wherever you're planning to drive to, the perfect start to your scenic journey is a fast and competitively priced trip from the UK with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. With a crossing time of just 35 minutes, and up to four trains an hour crossing the Channel, it's an ideal way to get your family, car and luggage to France in record time. From our terminal at Calais you can explore the picturesque Pas-de-Calais region, delve deeper into France or cross over into Belgium, Germany or Switzerland in just a couple of hours - there's no better starting point for your drive through Europe.
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