The best motorcycle roads in Europe
It’s such a large landmass, and there’s so much to choose from, so we’ve scanned north, south, east and west in an effort to find the best motorcycle routes in Europe. You may have your own favourites, or you may never have ventured too much further than your own hometown, but if you haven’t ticked this ‘fantastic four’ off your adventure list then read on and see if we can tempt you.
The Amalfi Coast Road – Naples to Salerno, Italy
This route is up there with the very best biking roads in Europe because it’s a ride with everything from urban cruising, country touring, underground highways and cliff-edge adrenaline, with exquisite natural surroundings wherever you turn. It’s a journey that can comfortably be made in one day and in terms of riding styles it splits up nicely into unequal-length thirds; Naples to Pompeii, Pompeii to Sorrento, and Sorrento to Salerno.
Naples to Pompeii: Use this short leg to get your eye in. It’s a largely urban strip that points you down a fairly straight south-east route to Pompeii, and there are two roads to choose from; the faster A3/E35 and the slower SS18 (be aware that the former involves tolls, while the latter is lined by shops and pedestrians). Either way the jaw-dropping looming presence of mainland Europe’s most infamous volcano, Vesuvius, is an ever-present (and hopefully) silent companion.
Pompeii to Sorrento: After the hectic experience of busy Italian traffic, head on to the SS145 road that eventually finds the Gulf of Naples coastline and either negotiate the old coast road and all its glorious seaside sights or open up a little through the modern multi-tunnel system that snakes gently through much of the Sorrento peninsula to the tourist hotspot of Piano di Sorrento. Of course, Sorrento ‘proper’ is the real jewel in the crown around here, so take a break and enjoy the bustling town, the stunning harbour scenery, and the super-tasty ice cream.
Sorrento to Salerno: Get ready. Stay on the SS145 and follow it as it banks up and pulls round through little streets and tight turns, gradually settling on an eastwards direction towards the SS163 road to Salerno. Finally this is where all your motorcycle experience so far will be tested to the extreme; this twisting, winding cliff-hugging coast road meanders along past the world-renowned resorts of Positano, Praiano, Amalfi and eventually on to Salerno, but not before testing your nerve with cliff-side hairpins, surprise random car parking, and worst of all... inconsiderate road users with no apparent fear of heights whatsoever.
As testing as it is, this is a route that would grace anyone’s bucket list. If you’re occasionally startled by a 55-seater coach chock-full of tourists careering round a blind hairpin towards you without a care in the world, then at least rest assured that the amazing coastal scenery is likely to form the vast majority of your lifelong memories.
Bergen to Geiranger, Norway
One of the most stunning motorcycle routes in Europe of them all isn’t actually on the mainland, it’s in Scandinavia. Accessible from around May to September only, the E39 road is a stunning 200-mile route that hopscotches around southern Norway’s rugged terrain and occasionally across the fjords themselves, most memorably over the engineering genius of the mile-long Nordhordland Bridge that you encounter soon after you leave Bergen. Beyond the bridge you’ll get to test all aspects of your riding, from long shallow curves, narrow tree-lined straights, tight bends cut through mountain passes, and several tunnels cut through the mountains themselves.
The scenery is always weather-beaten but all the more glorious for it, and there’s a real trailblazing feeling of getting away from it all; somehow in spite of the typically advanced Norwegian infrastructure around you, you can’t help but feel like some sort of pioneer discovering a new world. The last leg, from Hellesylt, is your reward; a leisurely 90-minute ferry ride to Geiranger through picture-perfect double-sided mountain scenery... the perfect Norwegian finish to your day-long ride.
Bar (Montenegro) to Sarajevo in (Bosnia)
Motorcycling in Europe promises many and various surroundings, and for a route that’s just short of 200 miles long, there’s a lot of different scenery and riding styles packed in ahead of you on this amazing route. A cross-border ride that starts by the sea at Bar in Montenegro and finishes much higher at Sarajevo in Bosnia at the foot of the Dinaric Alps, your journey begins casually enough with a lovely short coast road before sweeping away inland and off up through the rural majesty of the Skadarsko Jezero National Park where long expanses of verdant countryside are peppered with signature villas, cypress trees and olive groves. The roads here are good; smooth tarmac that occasionally stretches wider into dual carriageways as you gradually climb higher into hills that never seem to get any closer; an optical illusion (caused by the fact you’re always climbing and therefore always seeing new hills) that makes it easy to settle in and enjoy the ride rather than putting all your concentration efforts into a destination. Onwards and upwards, your surroundings progressively merge from lush green to barren rock and back again, and sporadically a sapphire-blue lake or a new mountain top will peek into view.
Perhaps the photo opportunity highlight of the Montenegro leg is the Mratinje Dam; nestled in among the mountains, you cross the Piva canyon atop the massive dam itself with the blue-green reservoir to your left and a stomach churning drop that falls away spectacularly to your right. As you approach the border with Bosnia, the road becomes narrower and twistier, and it’s evidently where engineers occasionally felt it easier to drill through the mountains rather than circumnavigate them. After crossing the border into Bosnia where the rivers Tara and Drina meet, you set off down the winding tree-lined M18 road which itself is roughly tracking the river Drina and enjoy the feeling of natural solitude as you glide through the long turns and straights. There aren’t too many hairpins on this leg, but don’t totally relax as the odd bend here and there will still occasionally surprise you. Cross the Drina at Brod, then leave the river behind and set off for a tighter testing twisty mountain road that will eventually lead you straight to Sarajevo. You’ve just had an exceptional all-day ride, so treat yourself to a well-earned lemonade and flick through your photos with pride.
The Grossglockner: Alpine meeting with glacier
Those with a nervous disposition look away now. When compiling a selection of best motorcycle trips in Europe, it’s impossible to leave out this one. The Grossglockner is the highest mountain in Austria, a country that is of course full of very high mountains, and the Grossglockner High Alpine Road is an always-stunning but occasionally petrifying road that snakes much of the way round and up it. It actually becomes a private road part-way up (so you have to pay a toll of roughly £20 per motorcycle), it’s open only in the summer months for fairly obvious reasons, and the 200-mile return route traverses a circular path in an anticlockwise direction from Fusch to Heiligenblut in the high altitude heart of the Austrian Alps.
Anyone who has seen their fair share of music videos or movies will recognise this road and its mountainous backdrop, green meadows, long sweeping curves, tight hairpins, blood-curdling drops, and a generally very well-maintained tarmac route that often yields to the natural contours and sometimes slices right through them. There are many lay-bys to encourage the stopping off and admiring of views that include the vast Pasterze Glacier, and there’s a few guesthouses and restaurants to help refresh you while you’re doing so. Don’t forget decent sunglasses to help with the glare, and wear an extra layer; this is high altitude riding so even when the sun is shining it’s going to be a bit fresh to say the least.