Europe gives us some of the world’s most beautiful and diverse landscapes and a winter road trip is the perfect way to experience them. We’ll guide you through an itinerary for what we’ve found to be the best winter road trips in Europe, giving you unique and adventurous ways to explore Europe during the winter months.
From snow-capped mountains to the Northern Lights to charming villages, Europe has something to offer every type of traveler and a winter road trip is the perfect way to experience them all.
Why Choose Europe for Winter Road Trips?
Europe is a winter wonderland with a wide range of destinations that offer unique experiences for beginner travelers to the most experienced.
Whether you want to ski in the Alps, explore Christmas markets in Germany, or soak in thermal baths in Iceland (yes, you can do that!), Europe has it all, and we’ll take you through some of our favorites.
It’s also a perfect time of year to experience local culture and heritage and sample delicious winter cuisine. If you follow us, you know the food experiences are some of our favorites!
Best Itinerary Alternatives
Some of the top winter road trip destinations in Europe include the Swiss Alps, the Scottish Highlands, the Black Forest in Germany, and the Northern Lights in Norway. Each of these destinations offers stunning natural beauty as well as unique cultural experiences.
Planning your winter road trip can be overwhelming, but we’ve put together some of our best itineraries for you, and with a bit of research and preparation, you can create an unforgettable adventure.
If you’re a fun and experienced traveler who loves a natural winter wonderland or visiting Europe for the first time, Europe should be at the top of your list for winter road trips!
Winter is the best time to explore Europe by road. The crowds are thinner, the air is crisp, and the scenery is breathtaking. Plus, you can take advantage of low car rental prices and hotel rates. A little bit of savings is always a plus!
Real Winter Wonderland
If you’re from a warmer climate, experiencing a real winter wonderland can be a magical experience. Europe’s winter landscapes are postcard-perfect, with snow-covered mountains, frozen lakes, and frosty forests, and then add on the Northern Lights in countries like Norway and Finland, it makes the perfect destination.
If you’re looking for more unique things to do on your visit, check out our article, Unique Things to do in Europe in the Winter for a full rundown.
Top Winter Road Trip Destinations
If you’re looking for the best winter road trips in Europe, we’ve got them for you. Here are some of the top winter road trip destinations that are perfect for your next adventure.
Northern Lights Tour
If you want an incredible winter experience, head to the Arctic Circle for a Northern Lights tour. You’ll have the chance to witness the aurora borealis, one of the most stunning natural wonders in the world. There are plenty of tour companies that offer Northern Lights tours, so you can easily find one that suits your needs and budget.
Our favorite Northern Lights tour has been the Northern Horizon tour in Tromso, Norway. If this is a bucket list item, this tour has it all and is well worth it. This is a small group tour that includes transportation, warm hot chocolate, and cookies. You also get to cook over a bonfire!
Canary Islands Escape
If you’re looking for a warm-weather escape, the Canary Islands are the perfect place for a winter road trip. With beautiful beaches and plenty of sunshine, you’ll feel like you’re on a tropical island. There are also plenty of great places to explore on the islands, so you won’t be bored.
We recommend renting a car in Tenerife to get you started. The Canary Islands offers sand dunes, mountains, pine woods, beaches, and flowers for diverse beauty and experiences. You’ll be able to explore on your own time and discover some off-the-beaten-path locations. The main highway between Las Palmas and Maspalomas is easy to drive. Here are a few less-known locations we recommend adding to your route:
- Barranco de las Vacas
- Bollullo Beach
- La Orotava
- Piscinas Naturales Aguas Verdes (the natural pools are incredible)
If you love traveling Europe and enjoy the sun, we have put together a list of the 9 most Glorious European Winter Sun Destinations. You can read about them here.
Sierra Nevada Adventure
If you’re up for a challenge, head to the Sierra Nevada mountains for a cross-country skiing adventure. Sierra Nevada is Spanish for “snowy mountains”, so you know you’re in the right place for a winter destination!
The mountain road is perfect for a winter road trip, and the winter temperatures make it ideal for skiing. You’ll also have the chance to explore the beautiful natural wonders of the Sierra Nevada.
Ring Road, Iceland
The Ring Road in Iceland is one of the best European road trips you can take in the winter. This 800-mile road trip takes you around the entire country, where you’ll witness some of the most incredible natural beauty in the world. From waterfalls to glaciers, the Ring Road has it all.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
Lake Bled is a perfect place for a day trip or a weekend getaway. The natural beauty of the lake and surrounding mountains is breathtaking, and the medieval town of Bled is full of history and charm. It’s an incredible place to explore and take in the natural beauty of Slovenia.
If you add Lake Bled to your itinerary, consider taking a guided tour to make the most of your stay. From trekking through caves to touring Bled Castle, there is a lot to see and do in this charming town.
San Gimignano, Italy
San Gimignano is a medieval town in Tuscany, Italy, that’s full of history and charm. The town is known for its medieval architecture and rich history, and it’s the perfect place to explore on a winter road trip. With easy access to other great European cities, San Gimignano is a great stop on your next road trip.
While in San Gimignano, an absolute must is a pasta-making class. These take place in a local home where you’ll learn their recipes and it even includes wine. These sell out far in advance, so book early. The refund policy is generous. You have until 72 hours before the class to cancel if you change your trip, so it’s wise to claim your spot early.
If you’d like more time in Florence, follow our Fall Fun in Florence guide. Most all the activities and locations will be just as wonderful in the winter months!
Whether you’re looking for the best places to explore or the best road trips to take, these winter road trip destinations are perfect for your next adventure.
Exploring Local Culture and Heritage
When embarking on a winter road trip in Europe, one of the best ways to experience the local culture and rich history of the region is by visiting the various tourist destinations. From the festive Christmas markets to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Europe has a lot to offer in terms of cultural and historical experiences. Here are some of the top places to visit:
European Christmas Markets
One of the highlights of a winter road trip in Europe is visiting the many Christmas markets. These markets are a great way to experience the festive season and get a taste of the local culture. You can browse the stalls for unique gifts and souvenirs, sample local cuisine, and enjoy the Christmas lights and decorations. Some of the best Christmas markets in Europe include the ones in Vienna, Prague, and Berlin.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Europe is home to many UNESCO World Heritage Sites, recognized for their cultural and historical significance. These sites offer a glimpse into the region’s rich history and are a must-visit for anyone taking the trek to Europe no matter what time of year.
Historic Cities and Towns
Europe is also home to many historic cities and towns, which offer a unique glimpse into the region’s rich history and culture. These cities and towns are filled with stunning architecture, museums, and other cultural attractions. Some of Europe’s top historic cities and towns include Prague in the Czech Republic, Krakow in Poland, and Salzburg in Austria.
Exploring the local culture and heritage is an essential part of any winter road trip in Europe. From the festive Christmas markets to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and historic cities and towns, Europe has a lot to offer in terms of cultural and historical experiences. So, pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable adventure!
Planning Your Winter Road Trip
When planning your winter road trip in Europe, there are a few things to remember to ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey. Here are some of our best tips to help you plan:
Timing Your Trip
The best time to take a winter road trip in Europe is from December to February. This is the peak season for winter holidays and the festive season, which means there are plenty of winter activities and events to enjoy. New Year’s Eve is also a popular time to visit Europe, especially for fireworks displays and celebrations.
When planning your trip, keep in mind that the weather can vary greatly depending on where you are in Europe. The north coast and mountainous regions tend to have colder temperatures and more snow, while southern Europe may have milder winter temperatures and warm weather.
When traveling in winter conditions, safety should be a top priority. Here are some safety measures to keep in mind:
- Check the weather forecast and road conditions before setting out.
- Drive slowly and cautiously on snowy or icy roads.
- Keep a safe distance from other vehicles and avoid sudden movements.
- If renting a vehicle, try to get one with 4-wheel drive and check the tires before you take off.
- Always have a charged phone and emergency supplies in case of a breakdown or accident.
You shouldn’t let the extra safety measures deter you from a winter trip, following these tips, you can have a fun and safe winter road trip in Europe!
When packing for your winter road trip, it’s important to pack warm clothing and gear. This includes layers, waterproof jackets and pants, hats, gloves, and boots. You may also want to bring winter sports gear if you plan on skiing or snowboarding.
In addition to warm clothing, it’s important to pack essentials such as a first aid kit, snacks, water, and a map or GPS device.
To make the most of your winter road trip in Europe, consider the following travel tips:
- Plan your route in advance and make sure to check road conditions and closures.
- Take advantage of cable cars and mountain roads for stunning views.
- Avoid peak season to experience fewer crowds and easier access to attractions.
- Research winter sports activities and events in advance to ensure availability.
- Be prepared for shorter daylight hours and plan your driving accordingly.
From the bustling Christmas markets in Germany to the stunning natural beauty of Norway, there’s no shortage of incredible destinations to explore for your best winter road trip in Europe!
Now that you know where to go, it’s time to start planning. If you want to experience the magic of Christmas markets, plan your trip for December. You can read Best Places to Visit in Europe in December for even more ideas. If you’re more interested in winter sports, aim for January or February.
Before you set off, make sure you’re prepared. Check the weather forecast and road conditions, and ensure your vehicle has winter tires and other essential equipment. And don’t forget to pack warm clothing, snacks, and plenty of entertainment for the journey.
Whether you’re a seasoned road tripper or a first-time explorer, there’s never been a better time to embark on a winter adventure in Europe. Get ready to experience the beauty and excitement of Europe in the winter!
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some of the best winter road trip destinations in Europe?
Europe is home to some of the most stunning winter destinations in the world. Some of Europe’s best winter road trip destinations include the Swiss Alps, the Norwegian Fjords, the Scottish Highlands, the Austrian Alps, and the French Alps. These destinations offer breathtaking natural scenery, winter sports, and charming towns to explore.
What are some must-see sights on a winter road trip in Europe?
Winter road trips in Europe offer a wide range of must-see sights. Some of the most popular sights include the Northern Lights in Norway, the Christmas markets in Germany, the castles in Scotland, the ski resorts in the Alps, and the thermal baths in Iceland. These sights offer a unique and unforgettable winter experience.
How can I plan a budget-friendly winter road trip in Europe?
Planning a budget-friendly winter road trip in Europe requires some research and preparation. Some tips for planning a budget-friendly winter road trip in Europe include traveling during the shoulder season, staying in hostels or budget accommodations, cooking meals when possible, and using public transportation whenever possible. You can also save money by booking activities and attractions in advance.
What are some unique winter experiences to have on a road trip in Europe?
Winter road trips in Europe offer a variety of unique experiences. Some of the most popular experiences include skiing and snowboarding in the Alps, dog sledding in Lapland, ice skating in Amsterdam, and visiting the ice hotels in Sweden. You can also try traditional winter activities like snowshoeing, ice fishing, and sleigh rides.
What are some of the best scenic routes for a winter road trip in Europe?
Europe is home to some of the most scenic routes in the world, especially during the winter months. Some of the best scenic European winter road routes include the Trollstigen Road in Norway, the Grossglockner High Alpine Road in Austria, the Black Forest High Road in Germany, and the Great Glen Way in Scotland. These routes offer stunning views of snow-capped mountains, frozen lakes, and charming villages.