Last year we published a list of our top driving roads across France, Spain and Portugal.
Well now we're back with another list of our favourite road trips of all time, this time in Eastern Europe! From the dramatic coastline of Greece to the winding mountain valleys of Albania to the most famous and dangerous road in Romania, these are the roads that are too good to miss out on!
DN7C Transfăgărășan 115km
Cârțișoara - Curtea de Argeș, Romania
The Transfăgărășan is a road that needs no introduction. It is infamous for its severe switchback turns and the hundreds of soldiers that died during its construction for the crazed communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, a name which has left a lasting impression on Romania to this day. It was also featured on Top Gear once, wherein Jeremy Clarkson proclaimed it “the best road in the world”.
As you pass wooden chalets and weave between the river the road begins to climb, and the mountains loom enticingly in front of you. The views are mysteriously withheld from you by the forest of trees as you continue to climb in anticipation.
You catch a glimpse of a heart-stopping drop beside you but you press on. As the network of bridges and tunnels reveals itself in full, you can see why this road is called Ceaușescu's Folly: It’s impossible, inexplicable, as near to a vertical climb up a mountain as you can get in a vehicle, climbing 1200m in just 25km. The peak beholds Bâlea Lake, encircled by a sort of shanty shack town selling local wines and honey. Then you pass through a solid mile of mountain, the longest darkest section of mountain road and the longest road tunnel in Romania, Bâlea Tunnel, at 884 m, which brings you out onto the descent, an equally as unfathomable snake of tarmac draped across the sheer edge of the Făgăraș mountains, which surround you and cradle you on your slow decline back to earth.
But the drive doesn't end there. You weave in and out of the enormous Lacul Vidraru's shores, snatching glimpses of her deep blue waters in between the trees, until her dreamy surface is revealed at Vidraru Dam, and you can see all the way back to the snow-capped mountains you just came from.
SH8 Llogara Pass 55km
Himarë - Orikum, Albania
With the horrendous state of Albania’s roads being a somewhat infamous talking point about the country, we just had to include this slice of heavenly well-paved road that runs along the Albanian Riviera. Llogara Pass is arguably the most famous stretch of road in Albania, even being featured on Top Gear during a police chase, and there’s a very good reason for this.
As you depart the seaside resort of Himarë the road begins to wind with fleeting glimpses of both sea and mountain surrounding you. As you pass through the last of the cute, crumbling little hilltop towns that dot the coastline, Llogara Pass reveals itself to you in full: a sheer zigzag line of road snaking its way up a mountain rising 1,027m straight out of the sea like the stuff of myths and legends.
You climb, ever in anticipation, with the contrast of snowy mountains towering on one side of you and the deep blue Ionian Sea on the other. At the top there’s the opportunity to stop off at a panoramic viewing point so you can take in the sheer beauty of Mount Çika and the Albanian Riviera before descending on the other side through the Llogara National Park. This descent will leave you breathless and leave your brakes smoking too, all the way back to the seaside town of Orikum.
This road is featured in episode 2 of Rusty Roadtrips- hit the link to check it out!
Epar.Od. Iteas-Distomou 34km
Antikyra - Itea, Greece
Take a drive through one of Greece's wildest and most remote peninsulas, a barren land where sheer mountain meets infinite sea. A wide and open road carved out of red mountain rock hugs the landscape’s curves, bringing you tantalisingly closer then further again from the ocean.
The Bay of Antikiras disappears from sight in the rearview mirror, and with it the contours of the Greek mainland do too. You pass a lot of nothing and the occasional Greek village for a while, until a 180 degree corner reveals the Bay of Iteas, and a city which from above appears to be floating on the sea.
The road continues, darting in and out of cliffs, lowering you gently down to sea level amongst breathtakingly huge mountains, dusty brown and littered with olive trees, until its end in the sea-swept town of Itea.
P1 Kotor Serpentine 16km
Žanjev Do - Trojica, Montenegro
While it may be only 16km long, the Kotor Serpentine will be the most intense 16km of your life. An unrelenting road, narrow enough only for one car at a time with the occasional passing place, with impossibly sharp corners and impossibly curvy roads.
In 16 hairpin turns you will drop an astounding 600m down the side of a mountain, all the while in awe of the incredible natural harbour that is Kotor Bay. Take the road at sunset and enjoy the red and purple hues of the Adriatic Sea, and the softly twinkling lights of Kotor city below.
You can watch this awesome road being driven over on our Youtube channel in episode 8 of Rusty Roadtrips- just hit the link!
Route 35 Beklemeto Pass 53km
Troyan - Karnare , Bulgaria
If you want to take in the best of the Central Balkans National Park and you only have an hour to do so, take the road across Beklemeto Pass. This crazy zigzagging road beholds some of the best views and some of the most extreme mountain driving you could ask for.
The route beings in Troyan, upon leaving which you’ll pass by quintessentially Bulgarian mountain houses as the road begins to wind. Nestled in among the Central Balkan mountains you continue to descend until you reach the Beklemeto Pass viewing point, offering stunning panoramas in every direction, and the nearby Arch of Freedom monument.
Then the road starts to get a little hairy, delivering a quick succession of hairpin bends that drop you from its highest point of 1,520m down to earth, all the while revealing ever more incredible views over smokey mountain valleys and the sparsely populated landscape below. This is the perfect place to watch the sunset from as it turns the mist to gold and amber and pink, before finishing the route in foothill town of Karnare.
Of course you’ll want to check out the impressive Buzludzah communist monument nearby, a great addition to either the start or end of this road trip.
Regkini - Arachova, Greece
On this high altitude road trip, you begin in the windy, narrow town of Regkini where the road begins to climb. As it ascends it snakes and hugs the curves of the mountain, passing thickets of wild thyme and windswept mountain herbs. As you swing around the final switchback turns the road peaks at 1700m and offers a glimpse across the wild landscape you’ve just come from all the way to the Aegean Sea. Then the view disappears as you curve around the mountain then down, and the lush green valley and Parnassus mountain come into view.
The road continues on, alternating between brand new and narrow crumbling road. You enter the small village of Modi, and the unforgiving road continues to zig and zag down through its narrow streets, joining the main road for a short while before passing through the steep and bumpy town of Amfikleia where it turns into a steep, wild mountain pass, folding back on itself again and again, passing monasteries, surrounded by a blanket of pine and steep, landslidey cliffs.
After you pass the vast ski resort car park the road starts to deteriorate, becoming a bumpy swathe of tarmac with the edges crumbling away as you descend back toward the historical delights of the Delphi Stadium, via the tiered mountain town of Arachova. Oh and don’t forget to check out the Greek rug shop on your way out- you won’t miss it. Trust us.
Road to Blue Eye (SH75 / SH4 / SH78 / SH99) 93.4km Përmet to The Blue Eye, Albania
While the SH78 is by far the most stunning part of this route, we’ve included the entire drive we took from Përmet, a beautiful little Albanian town near the hot springs, to the Blue Eye. Despite being over half the distance as the crow flies, this route is necessary to weave around the enormous towering mountain pillars that are visible for miles around.
Beginning the route in Përmet the road becomes gradually rougher and wilder, weaving around vast pastures, dramatic mountain faces and the Viosa river. You pass over the beautifully engineered and questionably safe Ura e Dragotit bridge, and there begins a leisurely drive through the lush river valley bordered on all sides by mountains that will make you fall in love with Albania.
In the village of Jorgucat you swing a sudden right, and are immediately faced with a sheer climb up inarguably the most breathtaking and memorable part of the drive: the SH78, a narrow, scarcely-barriered, zigzagging road delivering more incredible panoramas the higher it climbs. Oh and watch out for the occasional stray sheep. Continue driving among impossibly green mountains and crumbling churches and you will soon arrive at the unfathomable depths of Albania’s famous Blue Eye.
This road was so amazing we forgot to take any photos on it, so to really get a feel for this road you can watch it being driven in episode 2 of Rusty Roadtrips- just hit the link!
E65 Kotor Bay 44km
Kotor - Herceg Novi, Montenegro
Surrounded by mountains and low hanging cloud, the bay of Kotor is as clear as glass and as still as ice. The steely grey waters reflect perfectly the stone and red tiled houses that surround it, because of its natural double harbour created by the dramatic mountainscape.
The road hugs the bay the whole way round, every curve and corner caressing the ocean's curves, dotted occasionally by boats and fishing nets and the odd island church. But don't expect to speed down here like Kotor's nearby race track; the locals are never in a hurry, whether cruising to enjoy the views or simply because that's the Montenegrin way of life. If you fancy a thrill, take a detour at Trojica to ride the Kotor Serpentine...
If you want to see more of this beautiful road and Kotor Bay, check out episode 9 of Rusty Roadtrips by clicking the link!
Epar.Od. Vonitsas 49km
Astakos - Palairos, Greece
In our opinion this road embodies the very quintessence of Greece: sheer mountains dropping into an incredibly beautiful blue sea encircled by yet more mountains and islands in every direction. The road is hewn into the crumbling red rock of the landscape, and hugs its curves sensuously and lovingly.
Leaving Astakos, the road immediately begins to wind daringly close to the ocean, and the full scape of Greek islands is revealed. You drive along, dodging rocks in the road and the occasional goat, with the views over Lefkada Island, Kalamos & Meganisi making it hard to concentrate on the road; fortunately there are plenty of pullovers for you to stop and take photos. Little tracks snake off toward the sea to hidden unknown coves with blue blue waters and white rocky sands, while ancient towering limestone peaks watch sagely over you as you drive toward the exotic end goal of Palairos.
Be aware that the road after Palairos heading in the direction of Porto Varco gradually deteriorates into nothing, and that it is not a through route to Lefkada Island. Many of the beach tracks had been destroyed due to rainfall in December 2017 making them inaccessible to most, but the beach of Bathyabálē is beautiful and remains accessible.
That's it for our list of favourite driving roads across Eastern Europe- which one is your favourite? Or do you have a different road trip you can recommend us? Drop us a comment below!