Some people just love to drive. Not like in a “going to the store” kind of way, but with a deep rooted love of the road that takes them places. These people dream about the stretch of road that challenges their skills as a driver and every now and then rewards with incredible views. If you like turning the wheel, and feeling the road moving underneath you, these roads may be just what you need on your next vacation in Europe. If the German Autobahn had a polar opposite and an evil twin, these two European roads might just be them.
The highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps, Stelvio Pass boasts a monumental sixty hairpin turns. Resting close to the Swiss border, the Italian road has a fantastic history. The road was built before the invention of motorized cars by the Austrian Empire over a 5 year span from 1820-1825. The main peak to overtake is a mountain that rests right on the border called Piz da las Trais Linguas or, Peak of the Three Languages. It was viewed as the spot where German, Italian and Romansch languages all mixed, hence the name.
Garibaldi Hut, which is located at the summit is a popular place to stop for a break as travelers make their way through the windy mountain pass. The road’s primary function was to connect Valtellina with Vinschgau and Meran, all now located in present day Italy. Now the road has become a Mecca for sight seers and driving enthusiasts. The road has been featured on Top Gear (the real one) as one of the world’s best driving roads, and if anyone would know, it would be those guys. See the video at the end for more on the Stelvio Pass.
Trollstigen, or “Troll’s Ladder” in Norwegian, is a mountain road in Norway that was opened in 1936 after 8 years of construction. It connects the towns of Andalsnes and Valldal and must be closed for half the year due to the challenging nature of the terrain. It boasts a 9% incline and eleven hairpin turns. Vehicles over 12 meters are not allowed to drive on it, as they physically can’t fit around the tight turns. Thankfully, they can take the long way around. There is a tourist museum at the top, and a lovely viewing platform that hangs over the top of the waterfall that runs next to the road.
One of the best things about mountain passes, is that you can find them all over Europe. They don’t all need to be challenging either! With so many options to choose from, you are always to pick the road that’s just right for you. When you’re in the mood for scenic driving, you may be more interested in the Amalfi Coast, in Italy, or the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland. What are some of your favorite drives in Europe?