We have over the course of the previous nineteen Issues of TURAS magazine, been on a variety of adventures across Europe and Eurasia and beyond. There are so many amazing off-road tracks and driving adventures available to us to experience within Europe or within reach of Europe. We thought we would take the opportunity for this our 20th issue to review 20 amazing touring destinations from amongst those places that we have travelled in these pages over the past few years.
Georgia is a popular tourist destination for good reason. The country has an extraordinary combination of breathtaking landscapes, friendly people and wonderful and fascinating culture. The combination of Western standards with a typically Eastern approach to life is evident here. And every region in Georgia has its own unique aspects that are worth experiencing. With lots of amazing and challenging mountain tracks, high peaks, numerous mineral springs and beautiful valleys make an incredible impression on visitors . There are many historical towns and villages, and it is a most interestingl country to experience. Learn more and join the team from Land4Travel.com on a recent expedition across Georgia.
Images: One Life Adventure
The Spanish Pyrenees are the least visited part of the dramatic Pyrenean Mountains, guarding the border between France and Spain. The whole region is immensely beautiful – thickly forested foothills, secret plunging valleys and soaring snow capped mountains make for some of the best mountain driving in Europe. Home to Western Europe’s last bears and wolves, it is a forgotten area of Spain – villages still speak their own dialects, an ancient mixture of Spanish and Catalan. The Spanish Pyrenees are part of the following provinces, from east to west: Girona, Barcelona, Lleida (all in Catalonia), Huesca (in Aragon), Navarra (in Navarre) and Gipuzkoa (in the Basque Country).The French Pyrenees are part of the following départements, from east to west: Pyrénées-Orientales (North Catalonia and Fenolheda), Aude, Ariège, Haute-Garonne, Hautes-Pyrénées, and Pyrénées-Atlantiques (the latter two of which include the Pyrenees National Park).In Issue four of TURAS Magazine we joined Paul and Anne Blackburn of OneLife Adventure on a tour of the Spanish Pyrenees.
Images: Compass Adventures
As a country, Norway has so much to offer when it comes to diverse landscapes. Much of the country is dominated by mountainous terrain, with a great variety of natural features caused by glaciers during the last ice age. Rob from Compass adventures takes us on a 17-day adventure in this Icy domain.
Images: Higher Adventure and Toby Roney
Occupying the northern third of Great Britain, Scotland packs some of the most stunning scenery in all of the UK into its borders. From the rolling hills of the Borders, to the vast open landscapes of Caithness (the ‘flow country’) to the coastal landscapes and Highland scenery of Argyll & The Isles, Scotlands fifteen regions – each with a distinct character - offer dramatic contrasts of landscape, wildlife and culture.
And with 12 National Tourist Routes, the epic North Coast 500, plus dozens of other scenic alternatives, a self-drive tour will take you to the country’s most awe-inspiring landscapes. There’s good reason Scotland’s been an icon of overland travel for generations.
Images: Offroad Unlimited EU
Greece is a beautiful country with amazing islands and beaches, and also with a deep and fascinating history and culture. However there is even more to Greece for you to discover , a hidden Greece. The Ipiros region is rugged and mountainous. It is largely made up of mountainous ridges, part of the Dinaric Alps.
The region’s highest spot is on Mount Smolikas, at an altitude of 2.637 metres above sea level. In the east, the Pindus Mountains that form the spine of mainland Greece separate Epirus from Macedonia and Thessaly. Most of Epirus lies on the windward side of the Pindus. The winds from the Ionian Sea offer the region more rainfall than any other part of Greece.
There is is no such a thing as a standard tour says Nikos of Offroad Unlimited. “No matter how many times we have driven the same tracks,we always come across something new – which mother Nature has generously provided for us”.
The Alps are the highest and most extensive mountain range system in Europe,running for 1,200 kilometres (750 miles) through Switzerland, France,Monaco, Italy, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, and Slovenia. With over 20 years of experience exploring this region, the guys at Alpine Rovers have put together a selection of tracks and sites in this mountainous landscape to explore in your 4WD. The guided tour will take you to amazing heights where you will see historical buildings that include forgotten forts and World War II bunkers.This 4WD adventure will also give you the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of visionary adventurers, brave mountaineers and the great Hannibal and Napoleon who crossed through these passes on foot and horseback.
Images: Dream Overland
Most people may not be aware that Portugal is one of the oldest countries in Europe, with nearly nine centuries of history and traditions resulting from a legacy left by the various cultures who inhabited these lands over the centuries. Some of these cultures include the Phoenicians, the Arabs, the Greeks and Carthaginians, the Romans and the northern Europeans.Portugal is also a 4WD Tourer’s paradise as it contains thousands of kilometers of dirt tracks. Not only is Portugal one of the best countries in Europe to explore a huge network of dirt tracks it is also a top destination for foodies, the Portuguese cuisine is delicious, diverse and very rich in its ingredients.
Images: Marcus Taylor
Romania is the twelfth largest country in Europe and is bordered by Bulgaria, Hungary, Moldova, Serbia and the Ukraine. Its unique terrain is evenly divided between mountains, hills and plains so plenty of diversity when it comes to tackling 4WD tracks and wild camping. Recent government laws in Romania now limit access to some of its huge forests but despite this there is still plenty to see in this vast and interesting landscape.
If you are planning a visit to Romania and are unsure of which routes to take you can always engage a professional 4WD guide who often have access to most areas and have the local knowledge of where to go. In issue four of the magazine we caught up with British expat Marcus Newby Taylor who recently set up Transylvania Off Road Tours, an off road touring and rescue company that takes you into the heart of this unique and historic landscape.
Images: Geko Expeditions
What destinations come to mind when you think of travelling to the North? Scandinavia, Karelia, Lapland? And even more to the northeast? The Russian Kola Peninsula, located between the White Sea and the Barents Sea. And in Kola, you find the largest city north of the polar circle: Murmansk. Accessible from Europe, Murmansk and the Russian Kola Peninsula is a challenging but exhilarating touring destination.
Having an experienced guide here is a necessity and the ‘Arctic Tour’ a unique 4×4 expedition organized by the Swiss organization GekoExpeditions is a fantastic way to experience this unique region. (Geko are also known for their guided overland expeditions in Iceland, crossing the Namib desert, and other exotic destinations such as Madagascar, Algeria and Mongolia).
In Poland every region has something interesting to offer. Podlasie – Tatar villages and Bialowieza Primeval Forest, Masuria – great lakes, kilometers of gravel roads and german bunker remains, West Pomeranian – a region where the soviet army had their base, where nuclear weapons were stored and located there today – the biggest army range in Europe. Bieszczady is the wildest and the least populated region of Poland. It is a region with a turbulent history and to this day you can find ruined villages and obliterated traces of human presence being reabsorbed by nature. Bieszczady was, and in a way is still a polish “wild west” (even though its in the east). To the south there is Cracow – which was previously the polish capital,which has two interesting salt mines – Wieliczka and Bochnia and also the tallest polish mountains –the Tatra Mountain Range. Join the team at Land4Travel on a tour of Poland.
Recently we traveled through the north of France and had the opportunity to explore some the regions greenlanes predominantly in the Somme region. A place where 100 years ago the first World war officially ended. Anyone who is in this part of the world should try and visit and see first hand this area and try and experience what so many young men endured during the Great War.Driving the 4WD tracks through this region is a very humbling experience as you pass graveyard after graveyard with distinctive white and dark grey crosses that dominate the landscape. Many of the inscriptions carved on the crosses read ‘’a Soldier of the Great War Known Unto God’’ .You cannot help but imagine what it was like for the young men on both sides of the trenches who arrived here from all over the world between 1916 -1918.
When it comes to green laning in the UK North Wales has to be the most scenic area that offers large numbers of green lanes and stunning views. One of the many joys of laning in Snowdonia and North Wales is the sheer number and variety of terrains and challenges. From gentle open scenic routes, to extremely tight and scratchy squeeze through byways, old roads that skirt the coast delivering stunning vistas and even ancient Roman roads like Sarn Helen, still drivable on the very surface the Romans laid; although it’s somewhat more challenging to traverse today! North Wales has something for everyone to enjoy, whatever your vehicle or off tarmac driving experience may be. Join Lauren Eaton of GLASS UK in exploring Wales
On the western fringes of Europe, Ireland has some beautiful wild and remote scenery and rugged tracks that can be enjoyable to explore in your 4WD. There is a lot to see in Ireland and one trip may not be enough, from the Wild Atlantic way a The 2,500 km driving route that passes through nine counties and three provinces, stretching from County Donegal’s Inishowen Peninsula in Ulster to Kinsale, County Cork, in Munster, on the Celtic Sea coast there are so many places you can stop and explore, it is a journey you will want to repeat if you only have a few weeks at a time to experience it.
Images: Alek Veljkovic
A 4WD and campers paradise, Albania is located in the south-western part of the Balkans, bordered by the Adriatic and Ionian Sea. With a population of close to 3 million inhabitants Albania has a deep cultural history having been part of Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire until its first declaration of independence in 1912.Albania is divided into three regions that include the Coastal, North-eastern and South/Eastern part of the country. In the North Eastern part of Albania the inland region to the north of the Shkumbin River, borders Montenegro, Kosovo and Macedonia where as in the south eastern part the inland region to the south of the Shkumbin River borders Macedonia and Greece, this region includes the great border lakes, Lake Ohrid and Lake Prespa.The Coastal Region borders both the Adriatic Sea and Ionian Sea.
Images: Alek Veljkovic
According to Alek Veljkovic of Rustika Travel “our Balkan mountains, forests,river valleys and expansive areas of uninhabited wilderness offer some of the best and unrestricted 4WD access in all of Europe”. Particularly in Serbia where they have access to relatively unrestricted off road driving that allows participants on tours to experience what it must have been like to be an explorer as they enjoy the freedom of hundreds of kilometers of ever changing wilderness in the South East of Europe. In the Balkans you will experience camping in some spectacular places deep in the wilds and at various altitudes, from forests to open grassland to the top of mountain ranges and along river beds you will be spoiled for choice. Alek highlighted that they are very fortunate to have access to over 150.000 km of tracks throughout the Balkans region, with these tracks offering various levels of difficulties to 4WD enthusiasts. As regards wild camping you can pretty much camp anywhere in the Balkans ,’’it’s an oasis of freedom from an overlanders perspective’’
Images: Alek Veljkovic
Montenegro contains what is probably one of the trails with the highest average altitude in the Balkans, hovering between 1500 and 1900 metres. You will only descend at the very end of the track as it approaches Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro. Most of the very attractive wild camp spots are situated around the altitude of 1700 m (so prepare for cold nights, even in mid-summer!). The track starts at the small town of Zabljak, situated at an altitude of 1450 m in the Durmitor national park in the north of Montenegro, and plunges into Sinjajevina, a huge highland plateau which is probably the largest mountainous highland area of its kind in Europe (about 80 km in diameter).
Kyrgyzstan is one of the most beautiful and picturesque countries in Central Asia. 94% of its area is mountains, which is why it is often called the Switzerland of Asia. Surrounded by high snow-capped peaks, the mountain valleys are full of flowers.
Strong Russian influence is still visible here, but the local tradition is still very much cultivated. While traveling around Kyrgyzstan, you can still meet hunters, hunting with eagles, spend the night in a yurt, try koumiss or learn the technique of weaving felt carpets.
In the opinion of Tomek Maj of Land4Travel.com, Kyrgyzstan is an ideal country for off-road fun – mainly because it is cheap, and secondly, it is the safest and most predictable country out of all the Central Asian States. You can drive a 4×4 anywhere in Kyrgyzstan and as long as you do not destroy the terrain, no one will pay any attention to you. Most of the mountain roads are gravel roads, often buried by stones and are in themselves challenging for drivers. Similarly to the rivers in the valleys, these roads, in addition to being buried by avalanches, are also flooded during thaws.
Images:Linus Hartsuijker and Helga Kruizinga
Turkey offers a rugged and varied terrain with a huge network of 4WD tracks to explore. In the country you will also discover a rich cultural history where the Hittites, Persians and early Christian communities left behind a wealth of artefacts, ancient houses, rock churches and underground cities.
Finland is the most sparsely inhabited country in the EU. There are 187,888 lakes larger than 500 square metres in Finland. Garret Bradshaw of Landrover X Ireland says “this is a beautiful country that has the most amazing sunsets in Winter, the visit was worth it for this reason alone. The wildlife is abundant and feels very special to encounter.”
Images: Paula Beaumont
Photographer Paula Beaumont explains “Well I’m always out and about locally in Yorkshire Dales and love Swaledale area and it’s rolling green hills full of green lanes, and no phone signal. One of the things I’ve always loved to do on my wild camping trips is photography. I’m forever trying to capture some of the great views and moments from a trip for posterity.” From her base up in the picturesque Yorkshire Dales in the UK and together with her trusty 1989 Land Rover 90, ‘Norton’, she effortlessly combines her love of wild camping with a talent for taking some incredible and award-winning photographs. Learn more and see some of Paula’s amazing photography .