Best Driving Roads in Switzerland
Switzerland is often referred to as the country that hates cars. Between the hefty speeding tickets and the unnecessarily aggressive border control, you can easily understand why. But how could pouring tarmac over the Swiss Alps be anything else but a recipe for car heaven?
Whether you’re in a Ferrari or a Golf, a proper driving road is always good fun. When it’s that right mix of tight hairpins, long turns and straights nothing is better. Add that to the kind of jaw-dropping scenery that Swiss mountain passes are known for, and it becomes clear that this country can deliver driving thrills in spades.
We are all hardcore petrolheads at Torque and we spend an inordinate amount of time in our cars. So we went about making a list of our favourite Swiss roads to prove that Switzerland doesn’t hate cars but embraces them.
Here’s what we came up with.
Grand St Bernard Pass
The St Bernard Pass links Switzerland with the Aosta Valley in Italy. The way up from the Swiss side is surrounded by steep mountains. The road is wide and there are many places to pass. Continue climbing and you will reach the Grand St Bernard tunnel – skip it. Instead, turn right and head further up the mountain. The road narrows and you are met with tight hairpins and steeper slopes.
When you reach the peak, a beautiful lake opens up. There is also a little village with a hotel and a restaurant. Just around the corner from the village lies a playground of sweeping bends and switchbacks. As the road gently winds itself down into Italy, you can really punch it. The incline is not steep and has great sight lines, so you can avoid killing the mad biker who missed the apex. The final section of the pass consists of high speed straights with intermittent hairpins.
All in all, this is a great driving road. The scenery is absolutely breath-taking and because most people take the tunnel, there is less traffic for the important bits.
Starting around Andermatt and crossing the border into the Canton of Valais, the Furka Pass scares the hell out of me. The road heading up is the width of a bike lane with steep grades and massive drops. All of which could lead you to a traumatic and violent death. To make things worse, the road is fitted with small concrete posts along the side of the road instead of normal guardrails. How these are supposed to help is beyond me.
The weather at Furka can sneak up on you really fast. The pass is closed during the winter seasons, but you should always check the forecast before heading out there. Due to its altitude, it’s prone to weather systems that come out of nowhere. Thick mist and rainstorms can appear within minutes on what was, seemingly, a nice day.
If you are willing to see past these minor flaws, you could be treated to some of the best driving of your life. After the terrifying ascent, the road widens as it carves a line into the mountainside. The tarmac is smooth and the visibility through the curves and hairpins is excellent. The road is challenging but rewards you tenfold every time you get it right. The hairpin section next to the Glacier du Rhône is a must for any driving enthusiast.
If all the cards fall right and you’re feeling brave, this 31km piece of road can be the best driving day of your life. Furka is a bit finicky but is definitely worth the extra effort. The pass also gets extra credit for being featured in the classic Bond film, Goldfinger.
The base of the Furka Pass is the start of the Grimsel Pass. Just like Furka, it has concrete posts in many places. But the road is much flatter and the drops aren’t as steep, so you won’t fall very far once your car has been cut in half by one of the posts.
The initial ascent is a series of tight hairpins with high elevation grades. However, when you reach the top and cross into the Canton of Bern the road levels out. Suddenly, you’re treated to pure driving joy as the road descends through a valley of forests, lakes and dams. After some great switchbacks the road widens and there are many places to pass. While there are some blind corners, Grimsel generally has very good visibility lines.
Overall, the road is less difficult than most Swiss mountain passes. It is usually a lot less congested as well (caravans and slow tourists are a serious annoyance on all Swiss mountain passes).
Arriving in Innertkirchen after the Grimsel pass, you can hang a right onto the Susten Pass. Susten is often cited as the best driving road in Switzerland, and with good reason. The variety that this mountain pass offers up is nothing short of perfection. The road starts off with long winding curves through lush green scenery. A couple of tighter bends are mixed here and there to keep you on your toes.
As you leave the valley and start climbing up the mountain, the road becomes more technical. You are met with a sudden elevation change and tight hairpins. Most hairpin sections are just 180 degree turns with short straights in between. The climb towards the Susten peak, however, combines everything you could possibly want from a road. Throw in short tunnel-bridge combinations and a ridiculous forward view of snowy mountain peaks. It’s driving nirvana.
Most of the Susten Pass is wide, perfectly paved, with banked turns. It feels intuitive. As if the road is telling you when to hit the gas pedal, when to brake and when you can cut to clip the apex. At the bottom of the Susten pass is the town of Wassen. Around 10km south of Wassen lies Hospenthal, which is the beginning of the Furka Pass. Herein lies the real beauty of these three mountain passes – you can drive them all one after the other. On a good day you can easily get in two laps.