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    Best fly-drive holidays

    By Cathy Winston

    The lure of the open road, every corner hiding a new discovery, is enough to tempt anyone to grab a suitcase and book a trip. And the freedom to go where you want when you want, is one of the highlights of a self-drive holiday, with the flexibility to explore as the fancy takes you.

    But fly-drive holidays needn’t mean venturing out into the great unknown with no plans at all, or spending long long hours behind the wheel of a car.

    With a string of itineraries to pick out the highlights of your destination, carefully chosen hotels and all the practicalities of car rental taken care of, more companies than ever are creating great fly-drive and self-drive trips. And if you still want the freedom to see where the road takes you, we’ve got some great suggestions for that too.

    Walks on your doorstepcobo-beachExplore in styleGalway - Connemara Fly-drive

    Self-drive holidays in the UK

    Staying within the UK is an easy first step. And you can still have a hugely memorable trip, without any worries about foreign traffic regulations, .

    McKinlay Kidd has some very creative itineraries, including one-way routes through the Outer Hebrides, starting with a beach landing at Barra. Or team another couple of islands together, exploring the beautiful landscapes, the history and the whiskey (though you’ll want a designated driver along for the ride or taxi standing by for that bit). With a personalised itinerary, you’ll have maps, recommendations of places to see, ideas for viewpoints to stop at, and even suggestions of where to eat en route.

    Make the trip even more special, by choosing a Ferrari Spider to arrive at a Scottish castle, as well as an Aston Martin, Jaguar E-Type and Austin Healey, among a range of British sports cars to transport you from A to B in real style. You can even drive Scotland’s North Coast 500 in a luxury electric Tesla Model S.

    Or board the ferry to the Channel Islands to explore Guernsey or Jersey. Both are small enough that you can pootle around the quiet roads, stopping wherever the fancy takes you to eat and explore, and still have time to spare on a long weekend, it’s one of the most relaxing self-drive holidays you could pick.

    Cudillero, AsturiasLuxury villasPuglia beachesOff roading during the Northern Lights

    Driving holidays in Europe

    Crossing the channel to explore northern Europe is another easy way to test out self-drive holidays. Don’t forget to check all the local legal requirements, including the specific kit you need in your car, before you travel.

    But for a few more unusual itineraries, there are trips to take you to the adventurous north in Scandinavia as well as heading off the beaten track in eastern Europe, or some sun-filled escapes in the southern countries.

    Fly to the sun in Italy before cruising along the Amalfi coast or the winding roads of Sicily with tailored holidays from Expert To Italy. Or treat yourself to an ultra-glamorous slice of the dolce vita on a tour of Tuscany’s wineries, travelling by Ferrari and private helicopter, with Scott Dunn. Long Travel also has a great selection of self-drive trips in Southern Italy, Sicily and Sardinia.

    If you’d rather head west to Spain and Portugal, you’ll be hard pushed to choose just one trip to cover the world-class cities, fabulous coast, mountains, traditional villages and historic sites. The experts at Caminos specialise in the less well-known areas, with trips staying at independent hotels along the way.

    You could explore the beautiful Alentejo region of Portugal. It’s the largest region of the country but the least populated and reckoned by many to resemble the Algarve 40 years ago. Pick from a selection of itineraries,

    Exsus has a huge list of options to tempt with plenty of luxury touches and some more unusual destinations too: discover northern Greece away from the beaches, or travel from Zagreb to Dubrovnik via Split to see some of the highlights of Croatia. If you’d rather venture north, they also have drives through the stunning fjords of Norway

    Nordic Experience has its own great Norwegian trip ideas, including a separate itinerary in the fjords including free days and suggestions so you can pick and choose your own favourites from their recommendations. Or voyage next door to Sweden, to explore little-known Gotland with its Unesco World Heritage walled town, Visby, as well as pristine beaches.

    For more adventure behind the wheel, hop into a 4×4 for a jaunt around Iceland’s ‘ring road’ with Regent Holidays following highway one as it  make a dramatic loop around the country. Or discover the Faroe Islands and the Azores, wild landscapes and volcanoes on the very edge of Europe.

    Fly-drive in North America

    The USA is the spiritual home of the road trip, from its iconic Route 66 to Highway 1 along California’s Pacific Coast. Popular destinations include New England and California, but other lesser-known routes to check out include VirginiaNew York State and America’s Civil War route.

    American Sky has dozens of trips, from the elegance of New England to the charm of the South, Big Sky country to the bright lights of Las Vegas, not to mention trips themed around music, national parks and beach. I also recommend Audley Travel for USA fly drive.

    Another great option in America is to rent a motorhome – it’s a great way to discover the country’s wilderness spots and enjoy the freedom of the open road.

    It’s not only the USA that has those wide open spaces, great cities and fabulous scenery of course; Canada has plenty of temptations of its own, from the Rockies to its astonishingly blue lakes, the cities of Vancouver, Toronto and Montréal (for starters) and Niagara Falls. Pick a coast or a highlight and Canadian Sky’s self-drive trips will have a route that covers it, including motorhome itineraries as well. We also particularly recommend self-drive holidays in the Province of Québec.

    Check out my colleagues Donna Dailey and Mike Gerrard who have written a comprehensive guide to fly drive holidays in America.

    WinelandsAstonishing vistasDamaraland

    Other long-haul self-drives

    If you’ve never considered driving in Africa, Asia, Australasia or South America, it’s actually a great way to explore more of the country than being limited to public transport or sticking with an escorted group.

    Unless you’ve notched up quite a few self-drive trips, it’s well worth having the support of the travel experts in creating an itinerary, advising you and lending any necessary back-up here.

    South Africa and Namibia both have good road networks and less traffic than a lot of European destinations, ideal for a safari with a twist.

    The specialists at Mahlatini recommend this two-week self drive holiday in South Africa’s Western Cape, which begins in Cape Town and includes a tour of the Winelands and the Garden Route and a safari at safari at Amakhala Bukala Game Lodge.

    Namibia is great if you like the thought of striking out across the country with your own rooftop tent to discover wildlife, vineyards, desert and more (there are plenty of options for more comfortable accommodation). Check out this two-week Best of Namibia self-drive itinerary.

    For more volcanoes and wildlife with a difference, Costa Rica has its own unique attractions; it’s hard to beat driving to rainforests and coast. Sunvil has two different routes, depending whether you’re fascinated by flora and fauna or searching for wildlife and beach.

    And while Cuba’s vintage American cars are one highlight of a visit to Havana, getting behind the wheel in something more modern is a great way to explore beyond the capital or the resorts. Check out Western & Oriental’s Classic Cuba self-drive tour while Journey Latin America has suggested itineraries and tailor-made trips to the country too as well as more far-flung adventure in Uruguay and Patagonia.

    You can now even take a self-drive holiday in Colombia.

    If you’ve time to spare, a road trip across New Zealand’s islands or traversing some small part of Australia’s immense distances is an unforgettable way to see either country – and from the left-hand side of the road too. With rugged landscapes between the cities and beach, not to mention the unforgiving Outback, it’s worth being prepared before you set off. Try renting a motorhome in New Zealand, and see these fly-drive holidays in Australia.

    Don’t try to do Australia all at once. It’s best to pick one region and do it more thoroughly. The experts at Trailfinders recommend a two-week Legendary Pacific Coast drive from Sydney to Brisbane via the Hunter Valley and Byron Bay. Or try Western Shores & Whale Sharks, a 10-night road trip in Western Australia.

    If you’d rather not spend your entire trip driving, InsideJapan Tours mixes train travel and walking with the chance to drive as you get further from the main tourist centres – there’s no navigating Tokyo, you’ll be very glad to hear.

    Last updated: 30 October 2017

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