Here are our top ten most dramatic European alpine roads. We have selected these because they give the best combination of both good riding and spectacular scenery. We have ridden many such roads over the years and these are the ones we liked the most.
Top Ten Dramatic Alpine Roads in Europe
In the very northernmost part of Slovenia, road 206 runs broadly south west from Kranjska Gora through the Triglavski Narodni Park. This is a mountainous area with the road following the contours of the rugged nature of the mountains. The road is narrow, with certain parts cobbled, but it is certainly good enough to ride and enjoy. The views from the road are excellent. Another great nearby road is number 902 within the park. It is a dead-end toll road with spectacular scenery. 902 is to the east of Cave del Predil, across the border in northern Italy.
Built as part of the local logging industry between 1861 and 1898, the road at Combe Laval is stunning. The most spectacular section of the road is cut into the cliff that forms one side of a deep canyon and runs through a series of short tunnels cut into the rock. The drop to the side of the road is sheer and it is a very long way down, so this road is not for those afraid of heights. The rest of us though have a great time on this very exciting road. The most dramatic section is the D76 to the southeast of Saint-Jean-En-Royans as far as Chamaloc.
At 2,764 metres /9,068 ft the Col de l’Iseran is the highest paved pass in the Alps. It is located very close to the border with Italy. The pass is part of the Route des Grandes Alpes. On the northern side are the popular ski resorts of Tignes and Val-d’Isère. The pass is only accessible by road during the summer months. There are very few facilities on the pass road, but it is easily accessible from Val-d’Isère, which is just 10 miles away. Beware of the many cyclists that use the road.
There are many parts to St Gotthard Pass, but our favourite is the old road, called Tremola, to the south of Lago della Piazza. This is a twisting, cobbled road that snakes its way northwards, up through a series of tight hairpin bends to the lake at the top of the road. Due to its rough and bumpy surface the road has to be ridden slowly, but the excitement level is high. The best view of the road is from the later built highway 2 which runs to the west of the old road (from where the photo below was taken).
This road has it all. On the northern side of the pass, the road is in Switzerland and it climbs through a series of hairpin bends in quick succession.The photograph below shows that Swiss section of the road. Immediately to the south, the road crosses into Italy and becomes the SS36. This Italian road goes past Lake Montespluga and onto a section of the pass that is as dramatic as it is twisty, before reaching the town of Chiavenna.
The Sella group is a plateau-shaped rock massif in the Dolomites Mountains of northern Italy. There are four roads surrounding this rock formation that are a joy to ride. Starting at Canazei and working clockwise, the four roads are the SS48 / SS242, which includes Sella Pass, the SS243, which includes Gardena Pass, the SS244, which includes Campolongo Pass and the SS48, which includes Pordoi Pass. The road is fantastic, the bends amazing and the scenery magnificent. What a series of roads!
This is a stunning road set amongst very dramatic scenery. Grossglockner Pass is a toll road that rises up to 8,215 ft in the Alps. Near the top of the pass is a spur road up to the Edelweisspitze viewpoint. The road to the viewpoint has tight hairpin bends and is part cobbled, but it is worth the ride up as the view from the top is one of the best in the Alps. Another spur road takes riders to the longest glacier in the eastern Alps, the Pasterze. Like most pass roads in the Alps, Grossglockner Pass is closed in winter.
Although four separate roads, these connect to form a 75 mile loop road high up in the Swiss Alps. Running south west out of Andermatt is road 19 which features both the Rhone Glacier and Furka Pass [7,969 ft]. Just beyond Furka you turn northward on road 6 and immediately ride up Grimsel Pass [7,100 ft]. At Innertkirchen, turn eastward on road 11 and ride Susten Pass [7,427 ft], before turning south on road 2 back to Andermatt. These are three of the best pass roads in the Alps and feature some wonderful views and terrific riding.
What list of the world’s best roads would be complete without Stelvio Pass? It is dramatic, stunning and with 75 hairpins bends, which are somewhat challenging. Split into two ramps, the west side of the pass road is wider, with easy hairpins and less steep. The east side is more difficult with tighter bends on a significantly narrower road. The second highest paved road in the Alps, Stelvio is closed by significant snowfall every winter. Sometimes the road doesn’t re-open until May or even June, so check if it is open before you set out. The road has become very busy in recent years and the best time to ride it is early morning on a weekday.
Almost everyone has heard of Stelvio Pass in Italy, but very few know about, or have ridden Gavia Pass, which is very near to Stelvio. The SS300 runs south from Bormio to Ponte di Legno for about 26 miles and has just about everything a biker can ask for in a road. It is high at 8,701 feet, it has some fast sweeping bends as well as some tight hairpins. It has a glacier and it has magnificent views. It has a narrow, tight section as well as a few long straights. But the best reason we rank it as number 1 is it has very little traffic as most riders / drivers are drawn towards nearby Stelvio Pass, leaving Gavia relatively quiet. Although the road surface is not great, it is one of the most exciting roads we have ridden that continues to put a smile on our faces every time we ride it. It is Tour1’s favourite road.
The table below shows which of our tours include which of the above-mentioned top ten alpine roads….