The Swiss are well known for their precision technology, and some of the most stunning examples of it can be found in what are generally acknowledged to be the top five driving roads in their country.
If you want to experience Switzerland’s cheese, chocolate, and clocks together with breathtaking rural scenery that gives way to vibrant cities, there’s no better way to do it than by renting a car and hitting the road.
Driving in Switzerland comes with some fairly strict driving laws, so familiarize yourself with the rules of the road and then have a great journey. Or, as the Swiss say, Gueti Reis!
1. St. Gotthard Pass
One of the most impressive roads on the European continent, the Gotthard Pass is situated in the heart of the Alps and is one of the highest mountain passes. With its serpentine twists and turns, varied surfaces of smooth asphalt and cobblestone, and sheer drops, it stretches between the towns of Andermatt and Airolo. Completed back in 1830, it is 27 km (17 miles) long and has an elevation of 7,000 feet.
On your way to the top of the pass, you’ll pass through beautiful, snow-capped scenery and view some amazing lakes. At the crest, the National Gotthard Museum, open from May through October, is housed in what was once a hospice. It offers a history of the building of the pass and includes models, paintings, reliefs, and slideshows.
2. Furka Pass
At the base of St. Gotthard Pass, you’ll reach the Furka Pass, which connects Gletsch and Realp. Immortalized by the car chase scene in James Bond’s Goldfinger, this switchback-filled road is worth driving if only to view the Rhone Glacier.
Park at the iconic Hotel Belvedere and take a short, 2-minute walk to the impressive 7km (4 mile) long glacier which is the source of the Rhone River. After entering and viewing the ice tunnels, hop back in the car and continue on to the top of the pass, where you’ll find an impressive lunar-like lake and landscape.
The road down the other side is quite narrow and steep, but still offers up some of the best driving in Switzerland. All in all, the Furka is an incredible, picturesque drive.
3. Klausen Pass
This drive begins in Altdorf and travels through scattered villages onward into the heart of the Alps. The route upward takes you through gorgeous forests and contains sweeping turns and tight switchbacks. After passing through a series of small tunnels, you again enter the forest, where the road contains some stretches of the original cobblestones. Where the surface begins to level, you’ll find yourself at the Urnerboden. Here, you can view some of the most spectacular granite peaks in the Alps as well as take in several waterfalls.
Many twisting turns later, you’re at the top of the pass, where you can stop at the Klausen Café for a coffee before heading down the other side. The road down starts off with some sheer drops, but quickly returns to great, sweeping turns leading to more Alpine forests. The descent ends at Burglen, where you can visit the Tell Museum and learn about the legacy of William Tell.
4. Susten Pass
The Susten Pass, with its series of beautiful sweepers and few switchbacks, is sometimes referred to as the one Swiss road that, when driving in Switzerland, actually lets you view the Alps. The road here is wider, smoother, and less congested, making for a pleasant way to take in the glacier and mountain scenery.
It starts out in a beautifully scenic valley floor and then steepens and narrows, hugging the granite walls as it makes it way to the top. The downhill route contains some fast portions and nice banked turns, as well as steep up-hills.
Stop to take in the views of the Stein Glacier, which also affords some great hiking opportunities starting from the Hotel Steingletscher. Many drivers like to grab a photo here of themselves and their car with the glacier as a stunning backdrop.
5. San Bernardino Pass
Motorists looking for the fastest year-round route to northern Italy use the San Bernardino Tunnel, which opened in 1967. The San Bernardino Pass is no longer needed as direct route into Italy, but it’s a beautiful drive that takes you to the highest point of the San Bernardino Road. One of the world’s highest paved roads, it stretches for nearly 100km (62 miles) and offers up stunning views of the Rhinewald Valley.
It’s one of Switzerland's more challenging drives, with 40 hairpin turns and a steep slope that affords views of Pizzo Uccello (Bird Mountain), the Marschalhorn, and the Zapporthorn with the Muccial glacier on the way up, and Pan de Zucchero, Piz Lumbreda, and Piz Curciusa on the road down.
Switzerland may be a small country, but driving these beautiful routes with their expansive vistas and towering mountains makes it seem larger than life itself. Before hitting the road, be sure to read up on the basic rules of the road, including obtaining a motorway vignette for your car. As mentioned earlier, Swiss driving laws are more stringent than most other European countries, primarily for safety reasons, and new laws were recently passed.
As Alpine driving comes with its own special skills and challenges, we also suggest taking the time to learn about how to drive in the mountains.
With the Auto France Peugeot program, one of our most popular rental locations is located in Geneva , Switzerland. In fact, our Peugeot rental location in Geneva is our 3rd most popular location for delivery and returns after Paris and Nice, France. Being centrally located, it makes for a great starting point to kick-off a long term European road trip.
One interesting tidbit to note that makes our Geneva location even more appealing to rent from is that the Geneva airport is, in fact, broken down into two sides: the French side and the Swiss side. Since our Peugeot Geneva car rental location is technically on the French side, once you exit the airport, it is fee-free and thus we do not charge the delivery or return fee for using it, which comes with any other location outside of France.
Ahh, Geneva…pretty sweet in more ways than one, right?
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