Road Type Mountain Pass
Furka Pass in the Central Swiss Alps, 2429M
We take our BMW i8 and test the Furka Pass out
The Furka Pass is one of the finest mountain passes in the Swiss Alps, running for approximately 35KM, starting from the village of Obergoms in the south west, finishing in the more well know Andermatt in the east. The Furka Pass was immortalized by the 007 Goldfinger movie shot in the 60's on the pass, where James in his Aston DB5, was chased by Tilly Materson in her Ford Mustang in the movie Goldfinger. The Furka Pass is another stunning 5 star pass in the central Swiss Alps, part of the "Big 3" passes close by to Andermatt, and it really is a must drive when visiting the Swiss Alps.
Pictures below are from one of our events that ran across the Furka Pass in 2018, led by the Hybrid BMW i8 (which was way better car than we ever actually anticipated btw!)
What would 007 think about a hybrid supercar on the Furka Pass, we have no idea...
What's it like to drive the Furka Pass?
First of all, the best way to drive the Furka Pass is from west to east without doubt, as it's the west face that's the most fun to drive, so you should always try to tackle a pass driving up the best face.
So, after a quick re-fuel of the cars, we started from the village of Obergoms. You head directly onto Furkastrasse which leads up onto the Furka pass - Furkastrasse starts with some beautiful left / right combinations, cut through some incredible alpine rock, making for a dramatic start to the drive. You then head through the small village of Gletsch, where the real action starts. From here, the Furka Pass starts with a couple of tight switchbacks, but then cuts a long sweeping path along the rock-face of the valley for around 5 to 6 KM.
Visibility forward is fantastic, roads surface immaculate, so it's a road that you really can "drive" and really puts a big smile on your face. At the end of this initial stretch of the Furka Pass, you then turn back on yourself. The Furka Pass then gets steeper, with a series of great switchbacks (road surface here is not so great and quiet often can be small rock debris on the road from the steep walls the road has been cut into) up until you reach the Hotel Belvedere, an iconic sight close to the top of the pass (though currently closed indefinitely).
The hotel itself has been closed now for some years, and it's still not clear when it reopens and in what guise, however it always makes for some great pics. Just opposite, you can park up to view the Rhone glacier, it's then just a 4 minutes walk and you are stepping on ice / the glacier itself, wow. You do need to pay to make the walk, but since it's one of the most accessible glaciers you can access within a couple of minutes from where you park the car anywhere in the Alps, we think it's worth the while, and there is even and ice tunnel cut into the glacier you can work into - see the pictures below.
After departing the hotel, the final ascent to the top of the Furka Pass takes you through a few more good switchbacks, before a small lake at the top - a real lunar landscape and a great place to park up for pictures, as most people just breeze across the top.
The run down the Furka Pass is not quite as exciting (as the road narrows and can be quiet steep in places), but does give great views all the way none the less so can be a lot of fun - there is one small stretch with around 10 switchbacks in close succession you should exercise real caution (especially as the Post Bus does come up this pass), but asides that, it's fun all the way.
Once at the bottom of the Furka Pass, there is a 4-6KM stretch of road, arrow straight, running parallel to the railway line, be careful....... All in all this is a stunning pass, with an amazing combination of sweepers, tight switchbacks, dramatic views and a drag straight at the end.
The Furka Pass absolutely deserves it's spot in any Top 10 European roads list, so be sure not to miss it.
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about the pass
When was the Furka pass first opened /a little history?
The pass dates actually all the way back to pre-Roman times, though it was first opened as a horse and wagon route in the eighteenth century. During her visit to Switzerland in 1868, Queen Victoria actually made an overnight on the Furka Pass, which had already a small hotel at this time, and she actually painted three pictures of the surrounding region.
The road opened to motor cars at the beginning of the 20th century and at this time, the hotel Furkablick existed, together with an army barracks from 1917. At around a similar time, during the early years of pioneer rail roading, the Furka tunnel was built.
Is the Furka pass open all year around?
NO. Actually this is one of the latest passes in the Alps to open for the summer season - normally should be by the first week of June, but has been known (after a heavy winter of snow) to be as late as the third week. The closure date does also vary, so normally expect the pass to remain open till end of Oct, but an early heavy snowfall in mid Oct and the pass can remain shut. Always check the latest status when making drives close to the start and end of season - a really good source for the latest status on the pass (open / shut / snow down) would be https://www.alpenpaesse.de/
What's the best direction to drive the Furka Pass?
It's a tricky one - the easier question is which side of the pass is the best to drive, and that's most certainly the west side, the roads are wider, more sweeping and you have the Rhine Glacier to drive along the way. The east side gets pretty narrow (and a little scary) in parts, especially if you meet a Swiss Post Bus coming up the other way. Our advice though is to drive west to east if you want to enjoy the "drive" or east to west, if you are more into the views, so don't mind driving the best driving stretch downhill.
What's the best month to drive the Furka Pass?
Without doubt June, and the earlier the better - at this time you will see walls of snow as you approach the summit, plus the nearby rivers and waterfalls are that bit more dramatic as the glacial snow melts on the surrounding peaks
What's the best time of day to drive the Furka pass?
The pass can get pretty busy, especially on good weekends (bikers) and during the peak holiday season in Europe (July / August). Therefore, try to ensure you drive mid-week, before 10am, or later into the early evening, after 6pm
Where's the best place to stop on the Furka Pass for a bite to eat?
Actually there are no eateries on the pass itself (apart from roadside stalls)- our recommendation is to stop for a bite at the Grimsel Hospiz close to the summit of the Grimsel Pass, around 8km from the summit of the Furka.
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