Stelvio pass was on our bucket list since very long time. So we planned this 1500km road trip in Switzerland and part of northern Italy. Most of the passes open between late May to October. We drove in the month of June which is the perfect time when the passes clear yet there’s some snow around which makes it more scenic. We covered 5 out of the top 10 passes of europe. These passes offer unparalleled views of the Swiss Alps. We drove BMW 1 series ( the driving experience & booking etc will be coming soon on the blog).
1. Stelvio pass : It has been called the World’s greatest road by Jeremy Clarkson (top gear). There are 48 hairpin bends, ‘spaghetti of tarmac’. It’s an absolute delight for the corner junkies. We drove from Val mustair to Stelvio pass via Umbrail pass, then drove down to Stelvio and again climbed up to Stelvio pass. From Stelvio pass, we went to Bormio and stayed at Hotel Bagni Vecchi (famous for Roman Baths).
Topgear guys drove from Santa Maria town to Stelvio and finally to Bormio, this way you climb up the stelvio pass. Going uphill is more challenging and better. However, the acute turns, large number of cyclists , motorbikes all ensure you never ever quite get to good speeds.
At the summit, the scene is vibrant and colourful with hundreds of cyclists / bikers with their awesome machines, shops selling souvenirs, hot dogs from the street vendors and restaurant. All of it makes for great place to spend couple of hours…..
The drive from Stelvio to Bormio is even better. Driving to Stelvio pass is every motorist’s dream and it sure did not disappoint but yes, maybe a bit overrated. I believe Furka pass is more challenging and treacherous & exciting.
Tips -Avoid weekends as it is crowded, early morning on the weekdays would be the ideal time to avoid traffic.
-Drive slow. With large number of bikers / cyclists doing the pass, it will be difficult for you to get to good speeds .
-Check the webcam to know the status of the passes, this holds true for all mountain passes and tourists sites in Switzerland. Weather can be finicky.
-Low slung sedans / sports car would be just perfect to hit the corners hard.
-Do enjoy the hotdog at the summit 🙂
2. Umbrail pass : This is the highest paved road in Switzerland which leads to the stelvio pass. It is on Swiss-italian border. At 2500m this pass is quite underrated. At the summit of Umbrail pass you can see flags of 3 nations where Austrian, Italian & swiss armies had barracks in World war l.
3. Fluela pass : The road leading to fluela pass from Davos to Zuoz with long tunnels, tight hairpin bends and the summit at 2380m at Fluela pass is the best drive in Switzerland. The road is difficult but it is an excellent pass with very few villages allowing you to settle down into a great driving rhythm. Incidentally we reached the summit of fleula pass at 9 pm around sunset after driving around 300 km in the Alps. Temperature was 3 degree, the view was breathtaking and it felt so surreal. We had dinner at Gasthaus Zum Tschuggen before reaching Fluela pass. Rosti, a traditional dish of the region is highly recommended at this restaurant.
4. Gotthard pass : It is situated in central Switzerland connecting Zurich and Lugano. Though at 2109m, not as high as other passes, still the unsecured driveway with numerous twists and turns with smooth wide roads were enjoyable inspite of bad weather.
5. Grimsel Pass : Just after the furka pass , lies the Grimsel pass in the Bernese oberland standing tall at 2164 m. It offers great view of the Meiringen territory. Don’t forget to take photo with statue of biker with his girlfriend ,so cool…
6. Furka pass : Saving the best for the last, the iconic FURKA pass made famous by the James Bond movie “Goldfinger”. It is One of the snowiest part of the country, it is truly a driver’s paradise. The road is treacherous and not for the faint hearted, the numerous hairpin bends, switchbacks, sudden change in gradient ask questions to even the best drivers. It makes the Stelvio pass look like a cakewalk. Pitstop at Hotel Belvedere(Gletsch) on the hairpin bend is mandatory when you do the Furka pass. The Furka pass is the most scenic pass in Switzerland with panoramic views of snowcapped mountains, waterfalls, colourful flowers and greenery all around.
The roadtrip in the Switzerland and northern Italy was truly memorable with the Alpine passes being icing on the top!!!