If you want to have the most fun possible while driving in Switzerland, you must visit Swiss mountain passes. These are ultimate alpine drives in the mountains.
Switzerland has a lot of of mountain passes above 2000 meters and some of them are even open in winter time.
The best time to visit the Swiss mountain passes is summer as all of them are open: from late May till late October you will have the best chance to visit them all.
Mountain passes are as well full of restaurants, hotels, lakes, churches, hiking trails and many other attractions, so it is not only driving, you can have lots of fun once you get up there.
You can have a look at my ultimate Mountain passes in Switzerland adventure which connects 4 mountain passes and you can easily do it in one day, but now let’s discover top mountain passes in Switzerland.
I will unravel such information: how far it is from Zürich, how high is the mountain pass and what you can expect, find or do up there.
Furka Pass is definitely the most famous mountain pass in Switzerland if not in the whole world. It is very well known because James Bond once had a shoot out there in the movie Goldfinger. This movie made this mountain pass wildly popular.
Furka pass is as well one of the highest mountain passes in Switzerland: 2429 meters and is closed mostly from late October till end of May.
Once you are close to the top, you can see the iconic Belvedere Hotel which stands right on the serpentine road. At the moment hotel is not open, but it looks stunning. It is a very popular Instagram location.
Right by the hotel there’s a parking lot with a tiny restaurant, tiny shop and entrance to the glacier. It is very sad that this glacier is getting smaller and smaller and it is even hard to believe how big it was in the end of 19th century. I don’t know exact numbers, but from the pictures it looks that it shrank 4 times in the last century. Once you visit it, you support it. So there’s your chance to visit on of the Swiss glaciers as well.
But the Belvedere hotel and the glacier entrance is not the top of Furka Pass, you will have to drive a bit more to reach the top with a big parking lot and viewing point to the valley in front where little and famous Andermatt lays.
If you want to have even more fun in the Furka Pass, you can take a steam train and have a look at all the mountains from the different angle.
Distance from Zürich: 129km, 2h drive. Once you leave from Zürich, you may reach Furka Pass from Andermatt side, so the Belvedere Hotel will be a bit lower than the top, just keep that in mind and don’t turn around until you reach the hotel.
Grimsel Pass stands at 2164 meters and actually is just 16 kilometers away from Furka Pass, so you have a great chance to visit two beautiful mountain passes just in 20 minutes.
Grimsel Pass has a restaurant, a hotel, a church, great hiking trails, a beautiful lake on the top, so it is a perfect location for your lunch or dinner. The views are jaw-dropping.
Once you are on the top, you can take a hike to another mountain hotel: Berghaus Oberaar which stands right next to the dam by the huge lake: Oberaarsee.
A bit lower than Grimsel Pass there is a famous Grimsel Hospiz – a huge hotel right next to the dam, and you can reach it just via narrow stone bridge. It is a fascinating location. Once you visit Grimsel Pass, you must visit Grimsel Hospiz. You can have a walk on the dam, visit a small chapel and have a lunch in the restaurant as well. If you have time – take a hike to the waterfall by the Grimselsee (Grimsel lake).
Grimsel lake has a very specific color, that is one of the most exceptional lakes in the Swiss Alps.
Distance from Zürich: 148 kilometers, 2h 30 minutes. You will probably go via Furka Pass to Grimsel Pass.
Oberalp Pass is one of a few mountain passes which you can reach by train and a famous Glacier Express goes by it.
Oberalp Pass is just minutes away from Andermatt and is at 2044 meters altitude.
Oberalp Pass is probably the only mountain pass which has a lighthouse and in summertime, on the top of the mountain pass, there’s a high chance to meet the famous Swiss Alps cows.
Once you are on the Oberalp Pass I highly recommend hiking to a very lovely lake called Tomasee. It is a very important lake, because it is a source of the longest river in Switzerland – Rhein. The hike to the lake would take you around 1 hour. Afterward you can hike a bit higher to a little hut called: Badushütte and have a snack with stunning views.
If you drive on a highway to Gotthard Tunnel or Andermatt, Susten Pass is right on the way, but you will have to take a turn to the right a bit earlier.
Susten Pass stands at 2260 meters altitude and is a very famous cyclists and bikers destination.
The drive up to Susten Pass gives a very wide views of the valley and mountains, it is much less “serpentiny” than other mountain passes.
On the road to the top you may see some nice places where they sell local Swiss Alps cheese, so if you are a fan of local delicacies, stop and buy some.
Once you reach the top, you will find a huge parking lot and a restaurant with hotel.
A little bit lower than the top is a very beautiful Swiss Alps lake: Steinsee, so you can hike there or drive if you wish.
Susten Pass is a very fine location to do some hiking to near by peaks and mountains OR to the local huts, have a look at my recommendations here: Susten Pass hikes.
Distance from Zürich: 118 kilometers, 1h 30 minutes. I highly recommend going up from one side and going down to another side.
Klausenpass is yet another mountain pass with a glacier in Glarus canton.
Klausenpass is one of the smaller mountain passes in this list, but I really enjoyed hiking up there. Klausenpass altitude is 1948 meters and it connects two cantons: Uri and Glarus.
On the top you will find a restaurant, public toilet and a small chapel. Parking can be a problem on a busy days up there, but you can park a bit lower.
I really recommend hiking to the little glacier (it is almost invisible as it is buried under rocks) and a lake beneath it.
I have visited this glacier probably three times and always heard or saw some ice falling into the lake.The glacier has a very specific terrifying noise.
As well, by the lake, there’s no grass or dirt, only rocks, it almost feels like being on the other planet.
The hike to the glacier will take you about 1 hour. It is a very beautiful hike with narrow paths.
Distance from Zürich: 101 kilometers, 1h 20 minutes.
Gotthard pass is one of a few high-up mountain places with a museum.
In a summertime, if Gotthard Tunnel is really jammed, you can take a turn to Andermatt and go up to Gotthard Pass to avoid a huge traffic jam, on one side, you may not save much time, but the experience and views will be worth taking a detour. Later on you can continue to Ticino canton from Gotthard Pass.
Gotthard pass is at 2106 meters altitude and accommodates restaurants, hotels, a chapel and even a Museo Nazionale del San Gottardo. This museum has a lot of exhibition stuff about the famous general Suvorov who passed Swiss Alps with his army in the 18th century. At that time it was an excruciating task.
Probably the most cool thing you can do in Gotthard pass is to visit Sasso san Gottardo. It as a famous and one of the largest underground Swiss fortification. It is a massive maze of tunnels and much more. You can find more information about it here: Sasso san Gottardo.
Umbrail Pass is the highest mountain pass in Switzerland and that is why it makes to the list of best mountain passes in Switzerland.
Umbrail Pass is even on the way to the highest mountain pass and paved road in Europe – it is minutes away from Stelvio Pass. Stelvio Pass is not on the list, because it is in Italy. Stelvio pass is at 2757 meters and an only a 10-minute drive from the top of Umbrail Pass. Stelvio Pass has a few restaurants and hotels, it is like a small village up there.
Umbrail Pass stands right on the border of Switzerland and Italy at 2501 meters altitude.
The alpine drive to the top is one of the most fun ones, the serpentine is really exceptional up there.
On the top, you will find a little restaurant where you can have a cup of coffee. Once I was there in the middle of summer, I even found some Swiss Alps cows at 2500 meters altitude! Isn’t that crazy? Love it how they survive up there.
Umbrail Pass has many hiking trails and you may even one to reach the Piz Umbrail – the peak above 3000 meters.
Distance from Zürich: 227 kilometers, 3h 30 minutes. It is the highest one in Switzerland, but the furthest from Zürich as well.
Maloja Pass is the lowest mountain pass in this list, but it is open all year round! So you can visit it whenever you want, especially the ride from Italian is much fun.
Maloja Pass altitude: 1815 meters.
Maloja Pass is right to the small village of Maloja so I would say this mountain pass is the most inhibited in Switzerland. They have hotels, restaurants, shops, whatever you want.
If you come there in winter, they have really fund and well-prepared cross country skiing tracks. So you can spend hours up there if you are a fan of skiing.
As well, do not forget the famous Maloja Palace which is now a majestic hotel and the Sils Lake. In winter, once frozen, it looks really really cool. In summertime you can do some swimming, kayaking or hike around it.
If you happen to be in Maloja Pass in winter, take a hike to Lägh da Cavloc – it is a magical winter hike to the frozen lake.
If you are on Maloja Pass in summer, I highly recommend a hike up to Piz Lunghin – it is a very picturesque hike to 2780 meters altitude.
Distance from Zürich: 228 kilometers, 2h 40 minutes.
I have discovered Julier Pass quite incidentally as I was leaving St. Moritz in wintertime and saw a sign to the mountain pass and it wasn’t closed, so it really tempted me to visit it. Not so many mountain passes are open in winter.
I couldn’t believe that I got so high in winter, Julier Pass is at 2284 meters! In winter! Fascinating.
It is full of snow and there’s quite many nice places you can do some snowshoeing. Just be aware of avalanches as at such altitude the snow is very deep and can be easily disturbed.
On the top of this pass you won’t find any restaurants or hotels, just a modern building where they do some music or other events.
But if you want to experience a deep winter mountain views – you should really get to Julier Pass. I was really stunned that it was open in the middle of winter and I am exploring mountains all the time. It was big good surprise.
Distance from Zürich: 190 kilometers, 2h 30 minutes. The mountain pass is very beautiful on both sides.
Bernina Pass is the second mountain pass in this list which you can reach by train and the famous Bernina Express goes by it.
Bernina mountain pass connects the famous St. Moritz skiing resort to italian speaking Val Poschiavo.
Back in the Middle ages, this mountain pass was a famous trading route as it is very close to Italy (the Roman Empire).
Now it offers an amazing alpine drive at 2328 meters altitude.
On the top, you will find a huge lake Lago Bianco and another one: Lagh da la Cruseta.
As well, for tourists, there are a couple of hotels and restaurants.
Distance from Zürich: 224 kilometers, 3 hours.
Mountain passes in Switzerland sum up
Switzerland has a lot to offer for the adventure seekers and in my opinion, visiting the mountain passes is one of the best ways to do it.
You will experience great alpine drives, will see plenty of Swiss Alps lakes, small cozy restaurants, mountain hotels, try local delicacies, see thousands of mountain cows and goats.
It is really really fun to visit mountain passes.
I highly recommend doing it in summer, and if you want: you can visit them all, that would be your 2-3 days Switzerland itinerary.
I must mention a couple of other mountain passes I think are great as well: Albula Pass, Flüela Pass, and Simplon Pass. These are great and fun mountain passes as well.
If you have any questions about mountain passes in Switzerland, please let me know, I will do my best to help you.
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