Europe is filled with wonderful roads and enough iconic sights to attract any motorist. In this article we take a look at two dozen of the most popular, exciting and scenic roads across the continent, and throw in a few that will challenge even the best drivers. From twisty mountain passes to coastal roads through some of the world’s most idyllic villages, we reveal the great drives and routes that should form the basis of any motoring adventure in Europe. We’ve arranged the drives by country for ease of reference.
Officially the highest paved mountain road pass in Austria, the Grossglockner High Alpine Road is busy, thrilling and offers some of the most amazing views you can encounter while driving anywhere in the world. Sited in the Eastern Alps, the pass links the towns of Bruck with Heiligenblut, and takes motorists just above 2,500 metres at its summit.
The road was completed in 2935 after more than a decade of planning and construction. It is now a toll road, with motorists paying around 35 euros to traverse its 48 km length. With hundreds of thousands of vehicles using it throughout the year, it is best to attempt the pass quite early, which will also allow you plenty of time to stop off and enjoy the breathtaking views of the Pasterze Glacier from Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe. Continue onto the sweeping turns and twists of the Hochtor pass, the highest part of the route, and revel in the postcard views at every side.
Grossglockner is beautifully paved, a pleasure to drive, and remains one of the premier Alpine drives in all of continental Europe.
2. Hahntennjoch pass
If the Grossglockner is a drive offering the finest views in Austria, the Hahntennjoch pass offers similarly magnificent backdrops and a level of thrills that are hard to replicate on any mountain road. As with most Austrian roads, the surface is immaculate, which is a good thing given some of the near-vertical drops at the start of the major climbs. The pass stretches some 30 km from Imst to Elmen, connecting Austria’s beautiful Inn and Lech valleys with one of the greatest drives you can envisage; it’s advised to try the pass first from the Elmen side, but drivers will enjoy the challenges in both directions.
After climbing up the steep initial section from Elmen, the road sweeps back and forth with a tight series of around 10 tight bends set against a towering rock face. Just before you reach the outpost of Boden, the road then diverts onto the main pull to the top of the pass. The climb now spans around 19 km, from a tight, twisty initial section including several switchbacks before it opens out into gentler, sweeping curves which are not only great to drive but also afford amazing views.
If the ascent has sections to jangle the nerves, the descent from the top is even crazier. From an exposed summit strewn with boulders and looking quite otherworldly, the road again starts gently with nice turns but then the fun really starts: there are some two dozen tight corners, pretty much 90 degree bends, all in the space of just a couple of kilometres. The road feels as if it’s right on the very edge of the mountain, and it takes some skill and courage to attack the bends. After negotiating this section, the road then becomes much more gentle, and curves down into a beautiful forested region to complete the journey. It’s certainly a great challenge for any motorist, and best attempted at quieter times if possible.
Part of an overall 64 km stretch of road from Pians to Bludenz in the Austrian Tyrol, the Silvrettastrasse is yet another magnificent Alpine route with the immaculate levels of surfacing and maintenance that are synonymous with Austria. The starting section takes you through the heart of a national park amidst pretty pastures, before depositing you near the Kaps artificial lake.
From Kaps, the road passes through a toll booth, and onto the main 30 km stretch. It’s worth paying the 15 Euro toll to enjoy the fabulous surfaces and cracking views of this Alpine road. The road to the summit is fairly gentle, with lush open valleys and fertile plains to the sides, and sweeping corners to enjoy. The route tops out at 2,036 metres at Biehole Hohe, which features another stopping point next to a lake. From the top, the descent is more exciting, with various switchbacks and some tight twists. The valley is very scenic, with a forested area and various waterfalls, which make good stopping off points for a rest or to photograph.
As with the other Austrian passes, the Silvrettastrasse can become very busy in the summer months, with coaches and tourists in abundance – again we recommend either attacking the route out of season or getting onto the pass first thing in the morning, when you can enjoy the fabulous tarmac roads and thrilling curves before it gets too crowded.
1. La Route des Grandes Alpes (LRGA)
“The Route of the High Alps” is perfectly named, and is one of the foremost driving routes across the French Alps. Encompassing more than 450 miles between the town of Evian, on the borders of Lake Geneva, to Nice on the Cote d’Azur, LRGA takes drivers through some of the most wonderful scenery in France, and passes through no fewer than 4 national parks and an astonishing 16 mountain passes on its meandering journey.
We would recommend starting at the breathtaking Lake Geneva and making your way steadily southwards towards the many delights of the French Mediterranean coast. The road from Evian starts in the lowlands but quickly ascends through magnificent Alpine scenery, with glaciers and high peaks abounding. The route takes you to an altitude of around 7,000 feet at its height, and there’s a sense of scale and grandeur throughout, with steep slopes, pristine white snows and vast sweeping views the entire length of the journey.
There are numerous stopping off points en route, and we’d recommend splitting your journey on LRGA over at least two days. Even in the middle of summer, there’s a sense of wonder at the glacial splendour at every turn. Chamonix is a perfect stopping off point, especially for anyone with a love for winter sports. It has become very much a destination for the well-to-do, but all visitors are welcomed to this superb resort. Apres ski and a vibrant nightlife are just two of the many reasons to sample the delights of Chamonix as you pass through the Alps.
The descent down to Nice is also spectacular, with the Mediterranean opening up as you wend your way through hillsides strewn with villas and lush vegetation. The sparkling waters and breathtaking vistas of the Cote d’Azur are a welcome change from the dazzling peaks of the Alps, making LRGA a truly diverse and challenging drive, and one we’d really recommend. The reverse route, starting at Nice and making your way back across the Alps towards Geneva, is equally challenging and worth driving.
2. France – Col de la Bonnette
Containing the highest paved road in Europe, topping out at 2,807 metres, Col de la Bonnette is as famous as its French compatriots, and offers a spectacular drive. The original route actually just tops 2,700 metres, but there’s a newly-added two km loop around the Cime de la Bonette which adds the extra height. The route spans around 30 kilometres in total, from Jausiers in the north to the southern end at Saint-Etienne-de-Tinée. With average gradients of around 6.5%, and a maximum steepness of 10%, the route is challenging but not overly tricky to navigate. The road is superbly surfaced and lovely to drive, with just one or two narrow sections challenging both skill and nerve.
The lower parts of the pass offer beautiful green fields and meadows, with steep peaks rising to the sides. At its peak, the summit is rocky and fairly barren, making it somewhat other-worldly in comparison to many of the more traditional Alpine passes that adorn this article. At the top of the road there is an almost-unrivalled 360 degree panoramic view of the Mercantour National Park and surrounding mountains that makes the drive well worth it; the route has also served several times as a challenging stage in the Tour de France, and the descents are perfectly suited for all forms of transportation!
3. Les Corniches – France
Not just one, but three different driving routes through the Southern French Alps and Riviera, bundled together as Les Corniches. Each route provides a superb driving experience, with fabulous views over the Mediterranean and steep slopes to navigate, and each takes you past the fabulous city of Monte Carlo, which must be enjoyed for part of the trip.
Each of the three routes commences in neighbouring Nice and follow roughly similar routes. However the differences come in the steepness of the routes and the altitudes reached. Low Corniche offers a scenic meander through the coastal towns and fishing villages that nestle against the Mediterranean Coast; Villefranche-sur-Mer is a particularly beautiful village, and you can marvel at grand villas and quaint houses on your journey through to Monaco. The Middle Corniche route offers perhaps the best visual appeal of any of the routes, with superb views down the mountainsides to the Med and the medieval village of Eze. Finally, the Upper Corniche offers a fantastic view over Monaco and the delights of Monte Carlo, though the road itself is more treacherous and can become shrouded in fog at times. It was on this route that Princess Grace was killed, though visitors are perhaps more tempted by the sights of La Turbie and the ancient villas atop the mountain.
Each of the three routes descends through Monaco and concludes at the baroque town of Menton, close to the Italian border. We’d recommend the middle route for the best views and most exciting experience, though it can become busy during peak season.
4. Calais to Hesdin
Although it doesn’t rank among the most glamorous or dramatic routes in France, the coastal road spanning from Calais to Hesdin is a popular drive for tourists arriving by ferry from the UK. Joining the D940 in Calais, the drive encompasses several delightful stretches along the coast and also through typically lush French countryside; the Côte d’Opale coastal stretch is glorious in all seasons, with splendid views out to sea. The commune of Le Touquet has recently become a playground for the rich, with lavish villas set amidst the dunes, and is worth a quick stop.
The drive also offers a stop at the delightful town of Boulogne-sur-mer. This busy fishing port oozes charm, with a lovely central square, bustling cobbled streets and a rustic atmosphere. From Boulogne, the drive to Hesdin on the D349 takes you alongside the Canche river, with scenic vistas and quiet roads offering an easy journey through charming and picturesque countryside; it’s certainly among the prettiest routes in all of Northern France. Hesdin is famed for its weekly market, which offers great local produce such as rhubarb wine and noted local beers, and makes a good stop off point before resuming your onward journey through the country.
5. Route Gentelly
Our penultimate French pick is Route Gentelly, which offers a relatively short drive at just over 19 km, but is worth it for some tight cornering and twists along the way. The route commences in Vence, a historic market town nestled on the southern coast between Nice and Antibes in the Alpes-Maritimes region. From here, the road ascends to Col de Vence, which tops out at around 960 metres but which still offers some magnificent views of the region. The drive is especially popular among bikers, though it’s equally great for all motorists.
Having reached Col de Vence, the route proceeds to Gréolières, a village nestled in the mountainside and surrounded by cliffs; in winter months it can become shrouded in snow and makes a charming stop off point. The road then picks up the main Route, which offers a fantastic drive through landscapes and curious rock formations. With wooden fences to the sides, the twisty roads offer a fun experience, and almost postcard-like views at each turn. There are vantage points dotted along the drive, each offering lovely vistas across the green valleys to the sides. The descent takes you through the verdant forests and completes the drive in scenic splendour. Although it doesn’t match the drama and astonishing sights of some of the French high Alpine routes, Route Gentelly is still very much a drive for the enthusiast and shouldn’t be missed.
6. Col de Turini
The final French selection is one of the most notorious. Featured by the BBC’s Top Gear in its list of the world’s best roads, the Col de Turini gained fame for its part in the annual Monte Carlo Rally. It features over 30 treacherous hairpin turns, sweeping curves and a fantastic visual appeal. The road is particularly dangerous at night, thanks to the sharp falls and tight bends, and tops out at over 5,000 feet.
The road is located near Sospel in the Alpes-Maritimes region of Southern France. It is frequently subjected to road closures in the winter months; snow and ice make the pass especially dangerous, and so it’s advised to attempt the route in good daylight in the summer months! Drivers should be wary that despite the tree-lined sections, the road has very steep drops in most parts, a lack of barriers, and corners should not be attempted at speed.
1. Route 500
One of the most stunning drives in Germany is Route 500, an elevated section of the famed Schwarzwald Hochstrasse which wends its way from the start at Knibes and heads northward through the magnificent Black Forest to its conclusion at Baden Baden. Although once a preserve of bikers and those seeking a high-speed thrill, many sections are now fairly busy, so it’s a journey and drive best enjoyed early in the morning before the masses arrive.
The route passes through dozens of tiny villages, though many of these are simply dwellings and don’t offer much to see as you drive past. Initially, your route from Knibes is a fast road, offering tremendous views both to the sides and ahead; as you move into the forest, you’ll feel the landscape closing in around you, and it’s here you need to be careful of other motorists, despite the road being fairly wide throughout. As you proceed towards Hornisgrinde, the route opens up again and you’ll see some terrific views, and there are various stopping points provided; a bite to eat and a drink can accompany some lovely views.
Back on the road, you’ll begin the swift descent down into Baden Baden, and here’s where the drive is at its most challenging and, arguably, most fun – there are numerous tight turns and switchbacks which will challenge your skills and patience, though perhaps less so than the infamous turns of the Stelvio Pass. It’s relatively easy to overtake slower moving traffic, though, and if you’re on a bike, this section is particularly exhilarating.
If you really enjoy this route, it can be attempted in both directions, while there are plenty of other smaller, less-traversed drives through the forest should you wish to explore the region further.
2. Romantic Road
Germany’s most advertised route was actually dreamed up by the government in the 1950s, and is especially designed to take the motorist on a tour of everything finest about the nation. Commencing at the city of Wurzburg, the drive encompasses some 400 km of roads through some truly splendid Bavarian forests and mountains, and concludes at Fussen, close to the Southern German border. The route is designed to be driven from north to south, though obviously it has equal appeal whichever way you traverse.
There are some amazing stopping off points and sights throughout the journey, from the baroque Residenz palace at Wurzburg dating to the 18th Century, to the impossibly beautiful and Disney-like Neuschwanstein Castle, the construct and plaything of the infamous mad King Ludwig II, close to the Austrian border at the southern end. The road offers a huge array of historic towns, churches, castles and monuments galore, enough to base a holiday around in itself as opposed to just offering a leisurely and scenic drive. Indeed, the road has become one of Germany’s most popular tourist destinations, both for stop-offs and for complete itineraries.
The road itself is terrific to drive, with great surfaces, changing landscapes and a never-ending series of stopping points. The countryside is beautiful, with farmland, mountainous slopes, forests and much more interspersed along its length, ensuring that the drive never becomes dull or routine. Navigation along the Romantic Road is simple, thanks to helpful brown signposts that connect the various villages and routes. There are accompanying cycling and walking routes between the endpoints. Throughout the late spring and summer months, festivals abound throughout the entire region, from wines and beers to foods and outdoor carnivals, providing ample respite for the motorist or thirsty traveller.
1. Ring of Kerry
Ireland is a lush country, filled with sweeping vistas and charm. As with the UK, most of its driving routes are superbly signed, well-surfaced roads with plenty of visuals to accompany the easy motoring. Perhaps its most renowned driver’s route is the Ring of Kerry. Spanning some 180 km, the drive takes in all the best that the Emerald Isle has to offer, from stunning mountain scenery to seafront vistas, lakes and glorious rivers.
Based around the Iveragh Peninsula, much of the journey is one of exploration. There are historical attractions dotted throughout the route, with sights such as the Ogham Stones near Beaufort well worth a stop. Ross Castle is a particularly good spot to take a break, while the village of Sneem, noted for its colourful dwellings, is be a lovely place to take an evening or overnight rest. Other notable historic sights on the journey include the Killarney Stone Circles, representing thousands of years of mystery and heritage, while Caherciveen, the capital of the Peninsula, offers historical intrigue in abundance.
Those searching for iconic vistas and glorious views are very well catered for on this drive; the Lakes of Killarney are among Ireland’s prettiest, while the Blue Pool Nature Reserve is also splendid. Torc Waterfall is just one of many great places to stop along the circular trip, and offers natural splendour and even the sight of red deer, just 5 minutes walk from the road. The ruins of Staigue stone fort, dating from around 400 AD, are also easily accessible and offer a fascinating insight into Iron Age defences.
1. Stelvio Pass
One of Europe’s most famous, and cited, mountain roads, the Stelvio Pass in Northern Italy may perhaps be the single most iconic drive the continent has to offer. In 2008, Top Gear named it as the greatest driving road in the entire world, though that has since been the subject of much discussion. Whatever your opinion, there’s no denying the marvels that this route has in abundance. Indeed, such is the variety and challenge on offer that it offers a whole different experience depending on which side you approach from.
Most experts suggest approaching the pass from the north west side via Bormio. As the route can get crowded during peak season, it’s advised to plan your trip so as to stay overnight in one of the many lovely guesthouses or hotels that adorn this part of Italy, and make an early start on your ascent. Once out of Bormio, the route climbs steadily through a lush valley, filled with Alpine forests, with panoramas opening up on all sides. Stelvio National Park is among the prettiest in Italy, if not all of Europe, and is a great way to begin the journey. The summit tops out at 2,757 metres, or just a whisker over 9,000 feet making it the third highest mountain road pass in the Alps.
However much of the route’s fame comes from the incredible series of switchbacks that are strewn across the northern face of the journey. An astonishing 48 switchback turns await, a true test of any driver’s skill – and indeed endurance. Such are the dangers of the tight turns that the ascent from this side is preferred, the downwards route being vastly trickier to negotiate. Should you find yourself stuck behind a tourist coach or delivery wagon, this becomes a real feat of patience, as overtaking is pretty much impossible; this is another reason to get onto the Pass as early as possible and also to avoid the weekends, especially in the busy months of July and August. The turns are also marked with stones, allowing you to keep track of the rapidly rising number of switchbacks you’re negotiating!
Once past the switchbacks the route opens up across the Alps, affording dramatic panoramic views to all sides. If you find yourself in need of a real challenge, then you can always approach Stelvio from the opposite side, and we’d recommend basing any overnight in the charming locale of Trafoil. Alternatively, an option when approaching from the eastern end is to avoid Stelvio altogether by diverting onto the Umbrail Pass, which heads north into Switzerland and offers a similarly challenging, though much quieter, twisting route through the Eastern Alps.
A jaunt over the Stelvio Pass may or may not be the greatest drive in Europe, but it’s certainly one of the most famous, and should feature prominently on any planned driving tour through Italy and Switzerland.
2. Amalfi Coast
Southern Italy is one of the world’s most beautiful regions, and the Amalfi Coast perhaps its crown jewel. Touring around this magnificent landscape is one of the greatest driving pleasures we can recommend, and can form the backdrop of an ultimate motoring holiday.
The Amalfi road links around 13 separate towns, all of which offer charm, wonderful architecture and an outlook onto the Mediterranean and the Bay of Naples that’s hard to surpass for its sheer visual delight. Indeed, such is the splendour of the region that it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The route runs some 60 km from Sorrento to Salerno and passes through world famous resorts and destinations such as Amalfi, Ravello and Scala. There are many sights to see during the journey; art lovers are well served by medieval castle at Maiori and the musical heritage of Ravello, while Vietri sul Mare is renowned for ceramics and the skilled local craftsmen. Life moves at a slower pace here, and the centuries-old architecture and quiet way of life is a joy to sample amid the lovely climate and terrific views.
Naturally, the region is a tourist hotspot, so for ideal driving conditions we’d suggest a trip in Spring or after the main tourist season has passed. The roads are tight but a joy to navigate, and there’s a new vista and place to explore seemingly at every turn. Note that the route attracts many large coaches and also thousands of motorbikes and scooters, so be careful on your journey and don’t go too fast – after all, the relaxed pace of life and glorious setting make this a trip to savour, not rush through.
3. Great Dolomite Road
As a total contrast from the scenic charm and glitzy attractions of the south, Northern Italy offers spectacular views and rugged terrain – and some splendid driving opportunities. Chief among these is the Great Dolomite Road, which was constructed over several decades in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; it wends its way from Bolzano in the west to Cortina d’Ampezzo at the eastern end, spanning some 110 kilometres of quaint rural outposts and great mountain scenery.
However the road is about much more than just getting from one town to another; there are numerous sights and lovely places to stop off and enjoy, making this a great route to enjoy over the course of a full day. Bolzano itself is a popular ski destination, and is accessible year round. Its locals are used to Italian, Austrian and German visitors, thanks to its location in the South Tyrol, but you’ll find a welcome whatever your nationality.
As you make your way from Bolzano, the road passes through various canyons and steep sections to Lake Karersee; this is an unusual lake, renowned for its green waters and royal connections. Proceeding onward, the pass takes you to various regions popular with climbers and walkers, notably the Vajolet Towers. Having driven through the Fassa Valley, the road then brings you to Canazei, which is an excellent stop off point, either for an overnight break or for a long lunch.
The road continues to ascend to Passo Pordoi, and that gentle stretch is followed by an astonishing series of 75 hairpin bends and turns as you drive towards Arabba. The road then passes through a lush valley and onwards to the final destination of Cortina d’Ampezzo; with the combination of stunning mountain backdrops and fertile land, the Great Dolomite Road offers a truly beautiful contrast to the Mediterranean coastal routes of the country’s southern region.
The Trollstigen or “Troll Route” is famous as one of the most scenic drives in all of Europe, if not the world, taking in the most majestic scenery that Scandinavia has to offer. The road spans 106 kilometres and links the towns of Valldalen and Andalsnes. It was completed in 1936, and in the ensuing 80 years has attracted millions of motorists keen to explore this fantastic route.
The road wends its way through mountainous land and is renowned for its steep inclines and sharp turns. It is surrounded by mountains such as Kongen and Dronningen, which soar into the heavens and passes by glorious waterfalls including Stigfossen, at a height of more than 1000 feet. There are 11 hairpin bends to test even the most careful driver, and has inclines of up to 9 percent in places, making it a real thrill. The really testing part is a climb from Geiranger to Eidsdal, a section dubbed the “Eagle Road” as it takes you more than 620 metres up the mountain. From the top you can revel in views across majestic landscapes and fjords, including the UNESCO World Heritage listed Geirangerfjorden.
2. Atlanterhavsveien (“Atlantic Road”)
The shortest but perhaps the most impressive road within our European guide is the 8.3 km Atlantic Road in Norway which links two small villages on the islands of Averoy and Eide. The route is entirely man-made, and features 8 bridges linking various small islands. It was completed after six years’ construction in 1989 and is an extremely popular destination for tourists and the curious, and can be especially dramatic in windy conditions.
Storseisundet is the highest of the bridges and gives an amazing view over the fjords and mountains which appear to rise from the sea. Accompanying viaducts and several causeways complete the impressive route, originally planned as a railway line as early as the 1920s. It began life as a toll road, but raised so much revenue in its first few years that it was paid off by 1999 and the tolls were lifted. It has been used as the backdrop for various commercials and is listed as a site of cultural heritage in Norway.
3. Bergen to Oslo
From a tiny stretch of road to an epic journey, the route from the ferry port of Bergen to the Norwegian capital Oslo spans a vast 800 miles. It takes in the very best of Norway’s scenic majesty, from coastal fjords and rocky islands to the verdant forests which adorn the country. There are numerous beautiful towns to stop off at along the route, and there are many fine restaurants, wildlife preserves and coastal destinations to break the journey.
1. Estoril Coast Drive
One of the less-heralded drives on our list, but no less impressive than many, is the charming coastal drive across the Estoril Coast in Southern Iberia. Bound by the Atlantic Ocean, the drive begins close to the capital, Lisbon, and wends its way inland towards Sintra and its mountain ranges.
Sintra itself is a charming town, featuring the remarkable Pena Palace, built in the 19th century and boasting some of the finest architecture in all of Portugal. The region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the town itself and the approach roads can be very crowded, the coastal drive at Estoril and the first part of the route are particularly charming and afford lovely views out to the Atlantic.
1. Transfagarasan Highway
Romania has just one entry on our list, but what a remarkable road. In 2009, the Transfagarasan Highway was acclaimed by Top Gear as the world’s best road, even surpassing the high Alpine routes and Italy’s famous Stelvio Pass. Originally built as a military route, the road climbs to over 2,000 metres and is topped only by the nearby Transalpina highway.
The highway itself is a curiosity, with uneven surfacing in places and is far less well maintained that the epic routes of Switzerland and Austria, but the clever design, astonishing mountain views and classic stop off points more than make up for any shortcomings in the surface. Balea Lake is rightly acclaimed as offering one of Europe’s most photogenic views, while the road passes by waterfalls and through amazing tunnels that are carved into the mountains. The Highway stretches for more than 150 km all told, with the true pass really beginning at the village of Capatenii Pamantului, where visitors can see the castle which inspired the Dracula legends.
The road rises through a gorge and then enters a series of switchbacks and hairpins that all of the classic Alpine roads appear to possess. From here the road takes you across another major landmark, the Vidraru Dam which allows amazing views both of the mountains and the lake below. As you continue your journey northwards, the weather begins to have an impact and the terrain opens out to leave you with a breathtaking scene of the fantastic twists and turns that lie ahead. The descent through the valley takes around 45 minutes at a leisurely pace, and allows for some superlative views.
As with the other great roads on our list, we recommend traversing the Transfagarasan Highway early in the day and out of tourist season if possible. The road can become very crowded with tourists and coaches passing through to enjoy the sumptuous scenery that Romania has on offer. It is also quieter in the evenings, when the sunsets over the mountains are a sight to behold. The road opens for the season in June, is closed in the winter months, but can stay open as late as November, depending on the weather.
1. Klausen Pass
Rising to a shade under 2,000 metres, the Klausen Pass is a beautiful road stretching around 46 kilometres in the Swiss Alps between the towns of Linthal and Altdorf. Routes across the pass date back nearly a thousand years, with the current road established by 1899.
Setting off from Altdorf, the route passes through several communities in the Schachen Valley and ascends to its most noted point of interest, a chapel known as the Bruder-Klaus-Kapelle built in 1938 on the ruins of an 18th century religious building. The road is excellent to drive and offers amazing views of the Swiss mountains all around. Due to its location, it is usually closed throughout the winter and early spring, opening in May and shutting down by mid October. Snowfall can be deep and treacherous, and even leads to the annual closure of the Hotel Passhohe, which lies at 1,850 metres.
The route is twisting and beautiful in equal measure, with wide curves to enjoy. If you’re fortunate enough to be in the region when the Klausenrunnen takes place, you can enjoy the sight of vintage cars hurtling through the mountains. This event was last staged in 2013 and is scheduled to be competed again in 2017.
2. Albula Pass
One of Switzerland’s highest and most dramatic routes takes motorists over the Albula Pass, which soars to more than 2,300 metres. It links various places in the canton of Graubünden in the Albula Alps, and stretches across 31 km in its longest route. The road is noted for its tight corners and twisting runs at its height. Snow and ice again make this very treacherous, and the pass is only open in the months from June to October.
With its asphalt services and narrow sections, the pass is renowned for its less than friendly conditions. If you approach it carefully, you won’t have any real difficulty, but there are several very steep sections in and out of the valleys, and caution should be taken. It remains relatively unspoiled, and is fantastic for photography and enjoying the long sweeping vistas across the mountains. You can also see the various long viaduct bridges that carry the passenger and freight railway through the valleys.
3. Furka Pass
This legendary Swiss pass was brought to worldwide fame thanks to its role in the James Bond movie Goldfinger, during which Bond chased an adversary across the twists and turns of the high Alpine trail.
Sited close to Andermatt in the central Swiss Alps, the pass rises to 2,429 metres and connects Gletsch in the Valais region with Realp in the canton of Uri. It offers long, sweeping sections interspersed with tight switchbacks and tricky corners. It is cut right into the valley face, and the road can occasionally be filled with debris, so be careful when driving. The surface is otherwise excellent, however, and a thrill to drive in good conditions.
As you approach the top, you can stop and admire the Rhone Glacier, which is just a few minutes walk from the pass itself. There’s the iconic Hotel Belvedere to see, and at the very top there’s a tiny lake and a rock strewn landscape, which looks very strange in contrast to the majestic mountains around.
The descent is steep and often narrow, and far less fun to drive, but as you get close to the bottom and the railway line through the region, the road becomes very straight for several kilometres, which is where you can open up the throttle once again. As with many Swiss routes, beware of ice and heavy rainfall, which can leave the surface quite treacherous. Despite the perils, however, the Furka Pass may just be the most iconic and greatest road that Switzerland has to offer.
While the UK doesn’t have as many dramatic vistas and sheer mountains that central Europe has to offer, there are still great drives to enjoy. We’ve picked out a few that show off the scenic British landscapes and offer drivers a superb experience.
1. Cat and Fiddle, Peak District
Named after the pub at its summit which is a haven for bikers and thirsty motorists, this 20 kilometre stretch of road across the Peak District National Park is one of the most thrilling to drive in all of the UK. It’s especially popular with bikers thanks to its sweeping curves and open countryside. The road has been restricted to 50 mph in recent years to cut down accidents, but it remains a really fun experience and showcases some of the fabulous rolling British countryside that the region is famed for.
2. Llanberis Pass, Snowdonia
Possibly the finest driving road in Wales, the Llanberis Pass offers a fantastic drive through the highest peaks of Snowdonia. The 12 mile stretch begins at the charming village of Capel Curig, and ascends through a tree-lined trail past expansive lakeside views and rolling mountainsides. The steep ascent begins once you turn onto the A4086 and head for the main part of the pass.
The road opens up to offer some amazing views of Llanberis and then switches into tight turns and sharp bends as you descend the other side. Passing through Nant Peris and the village of Llanberis itself, the road then sweeps through glorious farmland towards its eventual end at the World Heritage Site of Caernarvon.