Ask Lonely Planet: Flying around Europe on wheels

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Start your road trip in the walled city of Dubrovnik, Croatia. Photo / Thinkstock
Start your road trip in the walled city of Dubrovnik, Croatia. Photo / Thinkstock

I'm planning a road trip around coastal Europe. I intend to start in Croatia and head west, driving along the coast along the south of Europe, then up the west coast around Spain, Portugal and France, finishing in Copenhagen. Could I do it in three weeks without rushing? When is a good time of year to go?

- Natasha

Lonely Planet's Sarah Bennett & Lee Slater write:

Driving is a fantastic way to explore the continent, allowing you to stop or detour whenever you feel the urge. September and October are arguably the best months to travel, when it's still hot enough to hit the beach but there are fewer crowds.

The Automobile Association's online route planner reveals that you will be spending a lot of time sniffing car fumes.

If you start at Dubrovnik and head to Venice, across the top of Italy to the French Riviera, then take in Barcelona, southern Spain, Lisbon and Bilbao before heading back into France and up to Copenhagen, you'll be covering more than 7500km. Assuming you drive no more than six hours a day, that's about 13 days spent behind the wheel. An alternative option is to pick the stretches of coast you want to see and fly between them. Another is to shorten your route.

Major car rental agencies are generally more expensive, but guarantee reliable service. They are also likely to allow you to drop your car off at different locations.

Useful websites are Ideamerge.com and traveljungle.co.uk.

Lonely Planet's Mediterranean Europe covers most of the countries you want to visit.

BOAT TO VENICE

I am planning to accompany my husband to Cyprus in November. We have never been to Venice and it's on our bucket list. How feasible would it be to travel there from Cyprus using Greek ferries? We would like to take an afternoon train from Venice to Paris, then take the Eurostar to London. How much time should we allow to see Venice?

- Caroline Locke

Unless you're embarking on a cruise, your only seafaring routes from Cyprus are passenger ferry services to the Turkish mainland.

But if you combine a couple of modes of transport, you can still arrive in Venice by boat. Our suggestion is to fly from Cyprus to Athens, then pick a route from there.

One option is to make your way to Patra (three hours by bus) or to Corfu (an hour by air). From either place you can board a boat to Venice. Aneka Lines Italia has a midnight sailing from Patra that will see you cruising into Venice about 32 hours later. The Corfu service takes about 28 hours.

Two days in Venice is enough for a decent introduction, but four days will allow you to be blown away. Not-to-be-missed attractions include the Basilica di San Marco, the vaporetto (small passenger ferry) along the Grand Canal, and soaking up the abundant culture - particularly in the city's galleries. View Titian's radiant reds at I Frari and Scuola Grande di San Rocco or, if futurism and abstract expressionism colour your world, head to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

A concert at La Pieta, Teatro La Fenice or Interpreti Veneziani will round things off nicely.

By train, it'll take you at least 14 hours to get to Paris. The Trenitalia and Deutsche Bahn websites are useful for checking timetables.

- NZ Herald

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