Make the most of your trip to Switzerland with the ultimate road trip through Swiss mountain passes. The Alpine nation has a surprising number of mountain passes above 2000 meters (6,562 feet) for some of the world’s most amazing views.
Some of the passes are open in the winter, but the best time to travel them is from late May to late October. All are open then, and you’ll have the best chance to experience a variety of them.
You’ll want to stop and explore, so dress comfortably and wear good walking shoes. You’ll find hiking trails, restaurants, cozy mountain hotels, historical sites, and fun things to do along the way.
Let this list of mountain passes in Switzerland help you decide which ones to add to your itinerary.
Table of Contents
Made famous by a movie shoot with James Bond in Goldfinger, Furka pass from Gletsch to Andermatt on Route 19 is perhaps the most popular. It’s also one of the highest mountain passes in Switzerland at 2,429 meters ( 7,969 feet) and is closed from late October until late May.
Driving northeast along the German-Italian language barrier, the road is curvy and full of thrilling hairpin turns. Looking down in the valley, you’ll see the Rhone, a glacial river that flows from the top of the mountain, and a waterfall high up in the rocks. Once at the top where the big parking lot is, you can visit the glacier. There’s a shop with an office where you can book a tour of the ice cave.
The iconic Belvedere Hotel featured in Goldfinger sits at the very top curve. Have your camera ready for an Instagram photo you’ll be proud to share. Unfortunately, the hotel is closed now because the melting glacier is sadly disappearing making the hotel a less popular place to stay.
Only 16 kilometers away from the Furka Pass, the Grimsel Pass stands at an impressive 2,164 meters (7,100 feet.) This mountain pass links the Hasli Valley in the Bernese Oberland with the village of Goms in the canton of Valais. The paved road spans 38 kilometers from Gletsch to Meiringen and passes through a mountainous region with huge granite rocks and reservoir lakes.
Grimsel Pass is popular for its jaw-dropping views and the famous Grimsel Hospiz, a hotel located right next to a reservoir dam. A picturesque stone bridge leads to the hotel. You can walk along the dam, have lunch at the nearby restaurant, stop by a small chapel, and hike to the cascading waterfall by Grimsel Lake, one of the most popular lakes in the Swiss Alps.
This pass is usually driven in conjunction with the Furka Pass. Because of the high amount of snowfall, the road is closed from October to May.
At 2,106 meters (6,910 feet,) Gotthard Pass follows Route 2 between the villages of Andermatt and Biasca. Tolls have been collected for traveling the road since the 1300s, and it has been driveable since 1980 thanks to the 10-mile-long Gotthard Tunnel. You’ll pass by the legendary Devil’s Bridge, which is actually two bridges that pass over the Schöllenen Gorge. The older bridge is in disrepair but remains because of the legend surrounding it. As the story goes, the river was so hard to cross, a goatherd asked the devil to build the bridge.
In addition to striking views, Gotthard Pass has a museum, hotels, a chapel, and restaurants. You can also visit Sasso san Gottardo, an ancient underground Swiss fortification with a maze of tunnels.
The traffic slows to a snail’s pace during the summer months, but you won’t mind because it will give you time to enjoy the views.
One of the smaller Swiss mountain passes, Klausenpass connects the cantons of Uri and Glarus and sits at an altitude of 1,948 meters (6,391 feet.) It’s also another mountain pass with a glacier. It’s a small glacier in Glarus canton and is mostly buried underneath rocks, but it’s worth hiking to. You’ll likely see or hear ice falling into the lake beneath it, making a dramatic noise. It’s a gorgeous hike with narrow paths and takes about an hour.
You’ll see only rocks by the lake with no surrounding grass or dirt giving it an otherworldly look. You’ll find parking, a small chapel, a public toilet, and a restaurant at the top.
Like the Furka Pass, the Bernina Pass can be reached by train—the famous Bernina Express. Reaching an altitude of 2,328 meters (7,638 feet), the pass connects the St. Moritz ski resort to Val Poschiavo, a valley in the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland. The views are particularly stunning and you’ll see Lago Bianco (White Lake) to the right for most of the trip. Be prepared to take lots of photos.
The Bernina Pass also has a history. During the Middle Ages, merchants would take their horse-drawn carts to markets with goods to sell.
The approximately 55-kilometer-long drive with its winding roads can get treacherous even in the summer with an accumulation of ice and snow. Therefore, the pass is usually closed from mid-autumn to mid-spring.
Located only a few minutes from Andermatt, Oberalp Pass is reachable by a train called the Glacier Express which connects the resorts of St. Moritz and Zermatt via Andermatt. It sits at an altitude of 2,044 meters (6,706 feet) and is the only Swiss mountain pass with a lighthouse at the top.
If you drive this pass on a summer afternoon toward Andermatt, you’ll be riding toward the sunset which makes it an even more breathtaking drive as the famous Swiss cows graze in the distance.
Stop along the way and hike to a lake called Tomasee, the source of Switzerland’s longest river, the Rhein. The hike will take around an hour. A little further up, you’ll find a little hut called Badushütte where you can have lunch with a view.
A popular destination for cyclists, Sustenpass stands at an altitude of 2,260 meters (7,415 feet) and is on the way to Gotthard Tunnel and Andermatt You’ll have expansive views of the mountains and valleys on the drive up which has fewer curves than most of the other passes.
You’ll find places to stop along the way that sell Swiss Alps cheese, so don’t pass up the opportunity to sample this local delicacy. Before reaching the top, you’ll pass by Steinsee a lovely Swiss Alps lake. You can either hike or drive there.
At the very top, you’ll find a roomy parking lot and a hotel with a restaurant. It’s a good starting point for hiking to local huts and nearby mountain peaks.
Great St. Bernard Pass
The Great St. Bernard Pass is one of the most famous mountain passes in the Alps. At a dizzying 2,469 meters (8,100 feet), the views are some of the most majestic in Switzerland.
This Swiss mountain pass also has a rich history. It was a commercial trade route for the Romans during the Empire’s heyday and was traveled by Napoleon Bonaparte and his army in 1800 on the march toward Italy. In the 17th century, monks at the Great St. Bernard Hospice bred St. Bernard dogs. The monks are still there to this day and provide information and comfort to travelers.
Travelers can make the journey starting near Zurich and ending in Italy’s Milan unhindered in the winter thanks to a tunnel built in 1964 that passes through the mountains.
At 1,815 meters (5,955 feet), the Maloja Pass is the lowest mountain pass in altitude on this list and is driveable year-round. It’s near the small village of Maloja where there are hotels, shops, and restaurants.
In winter, you’ll find well-kept cross-country skiing tracks if you are into skiing. Or take a winter hike to Lägh da Cavloc when the lake is frozen. In summer, you can go swimming, kayaking, or hiking around Sils Lake or hike up to Piz Lunghin for views at a higher altitude.
Sitting at an altitude of 2,284 meters (7,493 feet), Julier Pass is most likely the highest pass you’ll find open in winter. If you’re looking for majestic winter views, this is the perfect Swiss mountain pass.
If you want to try snowshoeing, you’ll find some good places on this pass. Just beware of avalanches as the snow is deep and easily disturbed.
There are no hotels or restaurants at the top of this pass, but there is a modern building where musical and other events are held. It’s a beautiful winter experience and rare for one so high to be open.
Mountain Passes Between Switzerland & Italy
There are four mountain passes between Switzerland and Italy. They are as follows:
- Great St Bernard Pass
- Umbrail Pass
- Livigno Pass
- Splügen Pass
You could also include other passes that are close to the Italian border like the Bernina Pass or the Simplon Pass.
Which Swiss Passes Are Open?
Passes open and close at various times of the year depending on the weather. For example, an early storm could close a pass in October, or a late thaw could mean a pass remains closed until May or June.
To find out when Swiss passes are open I recommend you check out this website. They provide an up to date status of all mountain passes.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many mountain passes does Switzerland have?
Switzerland has around 70 scenic mountain passes at an altitude of over 1,000 meters.
What is the most famous pass in Switzerland?
Furka Pass became Switzerland’s most famous pass after the 1964 James Bond movie Goldfinger featured a shot of Sean Connery speeding over it in his Aston Martin DB5 as James Bond.
Which is the highest pass in Switzerland?
At 2,469 meters (8,100 feet), St. Bernard Pass is Switzerland’s highest paved pass.