During the winter season we got to thinking about our all time favorite roads. This then led us to create a top 10 of our all time greats. This said it is of course only our humble opinion, so if you have any others we should try, let me know.
# 10 – La col de la Bonnette
Possibly one of the most famous roads in the Alps, due to the fact that it is, at 2807M, the highest road in Europe. The actual pass finishes at around 2700M with an addition taking it to the full height, a recent addition that the French added to retain the title.
As surprising as it is, the ascent is not as difficult as would be expected of the highest road in Europe, the road surface is very smooth and the scenery breathtaking. As the beautiful sweeping roads get higher there is a fantastic contrast between the greenery at the base of the pass and the barren, almost volcanic atmosphere at the top. The way the route is set out means that as you get in to the driving rhythm, the roads tests you more and more, a test that brings its rewards in the form of one of the most stunning panoramas in Europe., accompanied by a plaque to confirm your exploit.
The run down is much the opposite, once at the summit of the pass, the road down can be seen for the next 5km, looking more like a race circuit than a mountain pass. As you get further down the pass the corners become slightly more testing, but the road surface gets better, due to the regular passage of the tour de France.
This pass definitely merits a place in our top 10 just due to it’s staggering figures, 2807M deserves it, however that is not all, this pass is a fantastic test for people who really appreciate driving and brings rewards worthy of any mountain pass. Although it is fairly testing at times with some of the route becoming very narrow, it is a road that anyone can enjoy, with everything a real connoisseur needs to get the most out of his car.
#9 -Flüela Pass / Graubunden / Swiss
This is an excellent pass along an extremely quiet valley, with limited villages – this aspect allows you to get into a great driving rhythm, without having to slow down and then speed up again every few kilometers as you approach villages.
Starting from the north (Davos) end of the path, the initial rise up is through a beautiful alpine forest, with a nice collection of wide sweeping bends running into one another. As you rise further up the pass, and burst through the forest and above the tree line (approximately 1800M) the pass starts to tighten, however it never becomes extreme (switchback on top of switchback) so allows you to keep the rhythm going all the way to the top.
Coming back down is a little steeper, and there are a few more twisty sections as you come out of the main valley and back into the wooded area.
The pass has a immaculate roads surface, and for the fact you can complete end to end almost uninterrupted, allows it to sneak into our top 10 at number 9.
#8 – Silvrettastrasse / Vorarlberg / Austria
This is a very impressive 30km stretch of road, that takes in Silvretta Hochalpenstrasse toll road, a run directly through a preserved national park.
The run up from the East can be briefly interrupted by a diversion just outside of Galtur up to Kops Stausee, a short twisty and steep ascent, but actually with good views since the valley is pretty must pastures at this point. The artificial lake Kaps at the top is quite interesting to run around, and stop and admire the views from.
Return to Silvretta Hochalpenstrasse and about 1km later you pass through the toll booth (11 Euros) and start the ascent to the top. From this side the ascent is not so steep, you go straight into wide open valley sweepers, on the most beautiful road surface you can imagine, driving all the way to the summit of this road (Biehole Hohe) at 2036m, and the small lake directly adjacent to the road. It’s worth stopping here to admire the views again, before starting the ascent down.
The ascent is also fantastic, initially very long sweeping bends, with nice granite rock faces either side, with great views ahead can be taken at speed, though do watch out for occassional coaches which can be popular during the peak summer season. As you ascend further, the roads become more twisty, with plenty of scattered switchbacks, but never overly aggressive – always a good surface, fantastic cambers (as only the Austrians seem do build to perfection). There are also plenty of nice waterfalls along the valley to admire.
The final run to the bottom levels out through a small forest section, before you exit the national park. Unbeleivable drive, sights and sounds, and a complete snip for 11 Euros!
Stay tuned for the next installment, and of course let us know what you think. If any of this roads inspire you like they did us, have a look at http://www.ultimatedrives.net
Until next time…..