Most Scenic Drives to See Autumn Leaves in Europe

October 18, 2023 in Destinations, England, France, Germany, Portugal, Scotland, Wales & United Kingdom

When you think of autumn, your mind likely wanders to falling leaves and a canopy of red and orange leaves carpeting the ground. So a road trip in autumn needs to capture this image, and we’ve rounded up the most scenic drives that do exactly that!

While you reap the benefits of travelling in autumn — including less crowded destinations, cheaper costs and unparalleled nature — we’ll ensure that you also get the perfect autumn backdrop. There are many incredible places to visit in the UK in autumn, but this time we’ve aimed to pick routes spanning across Europe. From Wales to Romania, there’s something for everyone on this list of autumn road trips in Europe.
Scenic autumn drives Europe best places for autumn foliage europePhoto by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Anglesey, Wales

We recently created a complete road trip itinerary for Anglesey, and there seems no better time to embark on this journey than in autumn! Anglesey is filled with rolling green hills, tranquil forests and crystal clear waters. It feels like a complete world away from the UK and the bustle of daily life, and yet it’s easy to reach via the A55.

This is one of the best scenic autumn drives in Europe for those looking to have windswept strolls along the water, as Anglesey is home to numerous blue-flag beaches. Of course, this will have to be followed up with a hot chocolate or warm cup of tea in a cosy Welsh cafe. Don’t forget the Welsh cakes! 

Things to do:

  • Get a bird’s eye view of Anglesey — or rather a giant’s eye view — at Anglesey Model Village and Cafe! Home to miniature models of the entirety of the island, there is no better way to learn about the past and present of Anglesey. It’s located in an Area of Outstanding Beauty, so you can head out for a stroll afterwards or grab a bite to eat in the cafe.
  • You can’t leave Anglesey until you’ve visited the South Stack Lighthouse. Located on a cliff, this lighthouse offers an unparalleled view of the Irish Sea, and perhaps even a glimpse of the Emerald Isle itself. But this isn’t for the faint of heart, as you’ll have to conquer over 400 steps to reach the top.
  • One of our favourite things to do here is visit the Puffin Island. This dedicated bird sanctuary is located on a little island, less than an hour from the bustling town of Beaumaris. There are many boat tours that can take you up close, and you’ll likely spot some grey seals on the way as well.

Scenic autumn drives Europe best places for autumn foliage europe

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

N222, Portugal

The N222 is considered by many to be one of the most scenic roads in Portugal, or even all of southern Europe. This was determined by experts due to the optimum number of bends, allowing for the perfect balance of acceleration, cruising and braking. You’ll have to decide this for yourself once you’ve tried it. 

This route follows the majestic Douro River, starting in the charming town of Peso da Regua and finishing in Pinhao. It’s a circular route that will allow you to explore the best of the region, and can easily be combined with a visit to the nearby city of Porto.

Things to do:

  • Pinhão is widely recognised as the heart of port wine production, known as the Cima Corgo. There are many great quintas (gardens, or farms) offering port tasting in this region. We’d recommend trying Quina da Foz or Quinta das Carvalhas. Be sure to get an extra bottle to bring back home, as it’s never too early to start Christmas gift shopping!
  • If you’re looking to stretch your legs for an afternoon, we have two great options for you. For something lighter, simply take the riverside walk along the western banks of the Douro. For a real challenge, hike uphill to the Torguiano de São Cristovão viewpoint, which is roughly one mile from the town centre.
  • It wouldn’t be right to simply walk and drive around the Douro River without going directly on it. You’ll find many options for boat cruises in the area, which are usually one or two hours long.

Scenic autumn drives Europe best places for autumn foliage europe

Provence, France

When you think of Provence, it’s likely that your mind wanders to the endless lavender fields painting this region a stunning lilac. But alongside the lavender, Provence is also filled with foliage that will provide a perfect autumnal backdrop. 

Dust off your French and head to the south of France for one of the best places to spot autumn foliage. Drive along the landscapes that inspired countless masterpieces by Vincent Van Gogh. A perk of this road trip is that you’ll get to enjoy slightly warmer weather than back in the UK, almost like your summer is extending into October and November! So a light sweater will do for this Provence road trip.

Things to do:

  • No trip to Provence is complete without a visit to the Gorges du Verdon. This is one of France’s most visited river gorges, and it’s easy to see why. The Gorges du Verdon is the longest river canyon in Europe, and you can easily spend an afternoon on the water or stroll alongside it.
  • Grab your hiking boots and head to the Massif du Calanques. This stunning national park is situated between Marseille and Cassis, and consists of numerous coastal inlets surrounded by towering limestone cliffs. There are dozens of walking trails available, with lovely little fjords where you can access the water.
  • Spend an afternoon in the lovely town of Avignon. This medieval town is known primarily for its architectural beauty and historical importance. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 and served as the European cultural capital in 2000. Make sure to visit the Rue des Teinturiers, a picturesque cobblestone street that is known to be the most beautiful street in Avignon.

Scenic autumn drives Europe best places for autumn foliage europe

Transfagarasan, Romania

You’ll quickly recognise photos of the Transfagarasan, a winding mountain road that crosses the southern section of the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. You might even remember it from an episode of Top Gear, in which it was described by Jeremy Clarkson as “the most beautiful road in the world”. 

The Transfagarasan Road is considered to be one of the most incredible roads you’ll ever drive and is over 93 miles in length. If you’re picking this route from our list of autumn road trips in Europe, you’ll need to hurry, as this route is only open from July to November.

Things to do:

  • Plan a stop at the Balea Lake. It’ll be hard to miss, as this glacial lake stretches over almost 400 yards. You can’t swim due to how chilly the water is, but you can explore the local area or embark on one of the many biking trails. You’ll likely spot some wildlife nearby, with even bears frequenting the region!
  • Visit the stunning Curtea de Argeș Monastery, which is dedicated to the Dormition of the Mother of God. The architecture of this Romanian Orthodox cathedral is a sight to behold, and it’s also famous for the spooky legend surrounding it. Supposedly one of the construction workers named Manole saw all his work destroyed during the night and had to sacrifice his wife by burying her alive inside the walls, in order to complete the church. Seems like a bit of a rash decision, but at least the monastery is complete now!
  • Check out the Stone Ravens Monastery, known locally as the Corbii de Piatra. It’s located in the village of Corbi, which can be traced back to 1456. It is a rupestrian settlement, meaning that it was built directly into the rock. You can see numerous altars of worship within, as well as paintings created centuries ago. You can also explore the outside of the monastery and surrounding nature.

Scenic autumn drives Europe best places for autumn foliage europe

Snow Roads Scenic Route, Scotland

There is no place more reminiscent of autumn than Scotland — honestly, try to name a place! Within Scotland, one of the best places to see autumn foliage is the Cairngorms National Park. That’s why we simply had to add the Snow Roads Scenic Route to this list, as it’s the best itinerary to explore this national park.

This 90-mile road trip starts in the charming market town of Blairgowrie and ends in the traditional Highland town of Grantown-on-Spey. You’ll spend a lot of the route driving through thick forests, allowing you to be surrounded by the stunning crimsons and golds of autumn. This road trip can easily be done in three days, but we recommend taking five days to really soak it all in.

Things to do:

  • People across the UK flock to the Cairngorms for hiking, so it would be a shame not to challenge yourself to some hill walking while here. For a short and easy hike, embark on the Falls of Bruar route, which takes you between two waterfalls over one and a half miles. This can easily be done with kids or a dog tagging along. For a real challenge, tackle the four trails of Muir of Dinnet, which total eight miles.
  • The Cairngorms are one of the few places in the UK where you can see the Northern Lights! Aim to pitch north of the Cairngorm Mountain parking lot, away from trees and mountains for the best chance of spotting the aurora borealis. Or you can visit one of the many dark-sky events hosted at the Glenlivet Estate.
  • You can warm up from the chilly autumn air at one of the many whisky distilleries in the region. Many offer tastings and tours, and you could even bring a bottle home for friends or family!

Scenic autumn drives Europe best places for autumn foliage europe

Romantic Road, Germany

The perfect choice of scenic autumn drives in Europe for couples! Don’t worry, this is just the name of the road trip, and it’s just as enjoyable for families, friends or solo travellers. This is a translation of the name, as it’s actually called the Romantische Strasse in German. 

This road trip takes you across 250 miles of southern Germany, and is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful routes in the country. It’s filled with lush meadows, winding rivers and rolling hills. Given that a lot of the route takes you through forests, it’s one of the best places for enjoying autumn foliage, and you’ll quickly feel like you’ve been transported into the pages of ‘Sleeping Beauty’, only without any evil witches or spindles!

Things to do:

  • Speaking of ‘Sleeping Beauty’, you can visit the castle that inspired Walt Disney to create the Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland. Built for King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Neuschwanstein Castle unfortunately wasn’t completed before his death. You can also visit the nearby Linderhof Palace and Park in Ettal, which was also commissioned by King Ludwig II.
  • Spend an afternoon in the charming town of Dinkelsbüh. Aim to be there on a Wednesday or Saturday so you can enjoy the market and get souvenirs to bring home. For a panoramic view of the town, climb to the top of St. George’s Kirche.
  • Make sure to stop at the colourful town of Landsberg am Lech. One of the highlights of this town is an impressive 15th-century basilica, the Stadtpfarrkirche Maria Himmelfahrt. The only thing that rivals the architecture is the stunning interior, so be sure to explore both inside and outside the basilica.

Scenic autumn drives Europe best places for autumn foliage europe

New Forest, England

A list of the best places for autumn foliage wouldn’t be complete without one of the most beloved forests in the UK. The New Forest is often referred to as the ‘Eden of southern England’, and you’ll quickly agree with this esteemed title. 

Tucked down in the south-west of England, the New Forest offers a perfect combination of woodland, farmland and coastland. Visitors often come with the main goal of catching a glimpse of the famous inhabitants: the wild ponies trotting about! 

Things to do:

  • Speaking of the ponies, why not spend an afternoon riding horses around the forest? You definitely can’t ride the wild ponies — no, really, don’t try! — but you can book a ride at one of the many riding centres in the New Forest. This will also allow you to explore more of the forest without tiring too quickly.
  • Soon it’ll be too cold for hill walking, so stretch your legs while you still can. If you’re travelling with little ones, do the one-mile route around the Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary, timing it for the daily deer feed. For experienced hikers, challenge yourself to the Avon Valley Path, which takes you across 34 miles from Salisbury to Christchurch.
  • If you’re tired after horseriding and hiking, you can head to the New Forest Lavender Farm. Here you can stroll through endless fields of lavender, or simply head to the delightful tea room. The entire menu is comprised of available produce and local ingredients.

Scenic autumn drives Europe best places for autumn foliage europe
Whether you’re looking to stay close to home or travel as far as Romania or Portugal, there’s something for everyone on this list of autumn road trips. We truly feel like there is no better time to travel than autumn, and it’s a shame so many people limit themselves to holidaying in only summer. 

If you have the flexibility and means to travel in autumn, we urge you to do so. It’s incredible to witness the changing nature in this season, and get out and about once more before it gets a little too cold. 

If you need a van for your trip, you can hire a motorhome on Goboony, we have plenty of campervans that make the perfect home on wheels for your holiday.