Top Driving Roads pt.I:
France, Spain & Portugal
• D948 Beauvoir-Sur-Mer - Noirmoutier-en-l'Île, France 21km (13 miles)
This road is absolutely number one on our list, although it's not always there to drive on. When visiting the Île-de-Noirmoutier avoid taking the more popular bridge route- take the D948 tidal road instead. This cobblestone causeway is only driveable at low tide due to the fact it sits on the sea bed, and is covered by water at high tide. However it is particularly beautiful to drive at sunset, and you'll pass dozens of locals who've parked their cars on the sea bed and gone off in search of mussels. Don't worry about the tide coming in- there's an info board with tide times for when it's safe to cross, plus a barrier that comes down when the sea comes in. This is truly an unmissable driving experience.
During our trip we've driven along some pretty incredible roads (and some pretty scary ones too) so we thought we'd share with you our favourites and present an ongoing list of our top driving roads around Europe. Part 1 features the best roads in France, Spain and Portugal.
• N274 Peniche - Cascais, Portugal 105km (65 miles)
The N274 is surely a surfer's roadtrip paradise. Beginning at the popular surfing city of Peniche and ending 105km down the coast at Cascais, you will be inexorably drawn towards the perfect barrel waves as the road weaves in and out of the coastline. The route curves away from the sea at Lapa da Serra, only to zigzag through the incredible Sintra-Cascais natural park and rejoin the ocean just below Cabo da Roca, the most Western point of the European continent. Here the road hugs the windy Sintra coastline passing many sights and beaches until it comes to an end in the ritzy seaside town that is Cascais.
• NA-4000, Spain
The NA-400 itself is officially only 19km long, but if you pick up the route at the start of the GI-3420 where you leave civilisation and return to it at the border town of Irún it's a round 45km trip, owing to the road's remote location. The GI-3420 turns into the NA-4000 at the Basque / Navarre border, and there begins one of the most beautiful drives through the mountains you'll ever take. The road itself is narrow, well-paved, and astonishingly quiet, leaving you to roll down the window and enjoy the drive. After passing the stunning Embalse de Endara via its wide dam, the road starts to twist and turn, climbing to an altitude of over 700m, occasionally littered with wild goats and sheep. Then we recommend you take the N-121-A back towards Irún as it's another beautiful stretch of mountain road which tightly follows the French / Spanish border along the river Bidasoa.
• N379-1 Azeitão - Nr. Sétubal, Portugal 21km (13 miles)
At 21km long the N379-1 showcases the best of the Arrábida Natural Park, and is possibly one of the most stunning coastal roads in the country. Take either the upper or the lower N379-1; the upper road offers spectacular views either side of the mountain with the sprawling metropolis of Lisbon's suburbs on your left and views over the bay across Sétubal on your right; it's even possible to see as far South as Sines 50km away on a clear day. Meanwhile the lower road gives you a close up view of the crystal blue waters and white sands of Arrábida's beaches allowing you the opportunity to stop and feel the sand beneath your feet.
• Estrada Atlântica Pedrogão - Farol Penedo da Saudade in S. Pedro de Moel, Portugal 21km (13 miles)
Although the Estrada Atlântica officially begins at Praia Da Vieira, the Estrada Florestal joins up seamlessly with it, meaning the start of this 21km stretch of road actually lies in Pedrogão. And what a road it is- the tarmac stretches into a pinpoint dot on the horizon as you pass by sandy pine forests, tiny windswept coves and dozens of ocean view car parks perfect to park up in for the night. The road sadly comes to an end as the Farol Penedo da Saudade comes into view and the road starts to curve away from the coast.
• N339 Covilha - Seia, Portugal 48km (30 miles)
This unforgiving mountain road begins in the pretty town of Covilha, a mass of skyscrapers and cobbled streets towering over the entire Cova da Beira region. Covilha is known as the door to the Serra da Estrela, and as soon as you exit its complicated urban maze the road begins to climb.
It twists and turns, folding back on itself over and over, the tarmac draped over the mountains like a pile of chaotic spaghetti. Before long you're in the clouds, then soon after you find yourself above the clouds driving past beautiful lakes and if you're lucky the odd patch of snow. After 21km of hairpin bends and breathtaking views you arrive at Torre, the highest point in Portugal, before the road slowly starts to wind back down to Earth.
• CO-4 Santuario de Covadonga - Lagos de Covadonga, Spain 12km (7 miles)
This 12km long stretch of road is unfortunately a dead end, starting at the Santuario de Covadonga and ending at the lakes of the same name, and it's so unfortunate because you just never want it to end. While the road is steep and unforgiving, climbing over 870m in just a short space of time, the views only get more breathtaking with each hairpin bend.
Once at the top you're greeted by the transparent lake waters and panoramic vistas from above the clouds over the mountain tops of the Picos De Europa.
• IC27 Vila Real de Santo António - nr. Beja, Portugal 100km (62 miles)
The IC27 begins just outside of Vila Real de Santo António, the most South-Eastern corner of Portugal bordering Spain, but the trip really starts at Odeliete where the highway hugs the shores of lakes Albufeira de Beliche and Albufeira de Odeleite.
As you leave the coast with the sea in your rearview mirror, the road really starts to get beautiful as you enter the Vale do Guidiana Natural Park, passing more lakes and rivers and weaving through rolling brown hills littered wih olive trees. Make sure to stop off at Mértola, the heart of the park, to see its castle and its river beaches, before continuing North.
Even as you leave the park the natural beauty does not lessen in any way, and continues right up until the urban centre of Beja.
• N-634 Zarautz - Deba, Spain 34km (21 miles)
Starting at Zarautz and ending at Deba, this is an unforgettable drive- 34km of road just isn't enough. As you pass Geteria the road hugs the coastline, weaving in and out just metres above the waves below, passing through tunnels carved out of mountains and through white-walled archways with windows cut out so you don't miss a second of the view. Make sure you stop at Itxaspe to enjoy the viewpoint over the mountainous coast and the deep blue Atlantic sea below, before following the road on to its end in the pretty seaside town of Deba. Pick up the GI-638 here and follow it further West past the steep winding steets of Mutriku, and you'll end up in the beautifully Spanish town of Ondarroa with its narrow cobble streets and ornate tiled walls.
• CA-1 Poncebos bridge - Sotres, Spain 11km (7 miles)
Starting at Poncebos bridge and ending at Sotres, the highest town in the Picos De Europa, the CA-1 climbs 850m in just 11km making it one of the steepest roads in the natural park, and also one of the most fun. Sometimes your tires tread just inches away from the side of a mountain, rocks crumbling away beneath you or from above you as you weave in and out of tight corners carved into the sides of mountains. Just don't look down.
What's your favourite road to drive on and why? Let us know in the comments!