Vanlife Travel: Our Top 5 Places to Travel in Europe
In the past 6 years of full-time van life, we’ve pretty much driven across most of Europe. From Scandinavia in the north to the Sahara in Morocco and most of the countries in-between.
Europe is an amazing place to travel with a van. Each country is unique, with its own culture, history and language, though many speak English. We’ve had some amazing adventures and met fantastic people along the way.
We’ve come up with a list of our top 5 countries to travel in Europe in a van. Take a look and see if you agree-?
5.) The Merry Cemetery in Sapanta, Romania
We spent more than 4 months in Romania, in 2014. We explored the seaside, drove through the Transylvania mountains and met some local entrepreneurs and historians. Romania offers a rich range of experiences.
The city life in Bucuresti and Cluj; the ‘rural experience’ in a small village in the Hungarian area (where Armando milked his first cow); and the haunting art deco casino in Costanta.
But one of our favorite Romanian moments was the Merry Cemetery, where a local artisan carries on the tradition of celebrating life in Sapanta:
4.) The Monasteries at Meteora, Greece
We’d only been living in our van for a few months when we made our way to Meteora, Greece. We spent maybe 4 months in Greece, on its beautiful beaches, in its mountains with Olympus rising stately in the horizon and immersing ourselves in the history of Athens and Thessaloniki.
Yet it was the modest elegance of the monasteries in Meteora that captured our attention most. Imagine high, craggy rock formations like towers with intricate buildings balancing on top, overlooking the valley.
The view from the top is incredible; it was one of our most spiritual experiences we’ve had in our European van travel. Just heavenly.
3.) Sicily, Italy
We first went to Sicily in 2013. We thought we’d only visit a month or so, but we wound up spending 4 months. We went back in December (again for a short time) and just recently returned after nearly 4 months.
Why is Sicily such a draw, and such a great place to visit in a van? It’s… homey. It offers a little of everything – sun, sea, mountains, Greek/Arabic/Italian history and even modern land art. It really is an island unto itself, which compelled us to start writing a travel guide for Sicily, just for vans.
I suppose it also helps that Armando is half Sicilian, grin, but truly it’s worth visiting.
2.) The Valley of the Painted Rocks, Morocco
Technically, Morocco isn’t a part of Europe, but of Africa. The small jaunt from Portugal makes it really easy to visit Morocco in a van and it was an opportunity for us to see something really different.
We spent 3 months last year during the winter season. It’s a diverse landscape. In the north, it can be lush and in the south it’s the Sahara. It attracts surfers from around the world and the chaos of Marrakech markets are unbelievable. Yes, there really are snake charmers.
But it was the complete quiet and serenity of the Painted Rocks we loved most. Perfect for wild camping in a van, virtually empty the peaceful quality was unforgettable.
We don’t have just one favorite moment in Portugal. It was similar to Sicily, in a way, where we just connected immediately with the atmosphere and culture of the country.
We drove along the seaside for 4 months in 2015, where Armando was adopted by a seasoned local surfer and started surfing. Parking is easy, especially in the low season, and it’s affordable. The winter season is also super temperate which makes it an ideal locale for travel in a van.
It’s also one of the few countries that we loved the energy of the larger cities, especially Lisbon and Porto.
Of course, we have loads of memories from other places we’ve visited in our last 5 years of full-time van living in Europe. So many good people and strong connections we met along the way that are still a part of our lives now.
Some of them are ‘adopted,’ where they took us into their homes and lives. When we revisit places, we always revisit those connections.
It is through them and their personal experiences that we’ve been able to have a deeper travel experience in Europe. And we are very thankful.
What about you? Have you traveled Europe in a van? What are your favorite European must-see gems? What’s on your Europe by van bucket list? Let us know in the comments below!