All the important information can be found here: Discover the 9 most beautiful Alpine passes in Switzerland, including breathtaking tips on how to combine your trip.
Text and pictures by Marc Gottwald
Switzerland is known for its beautiful Alpine passes. It’s hard to choose the right ones. That’s why you’ll find a selection of our top 9, including tips for excursions that are definitely worthwhile.
1). Albula Pass (normally closed from November to June)
Alternative in winter: Julier Pass
The Albula Pass is one of our top 9 most beautiful Alpine passes in Switzerland. It connects the Albula Valley with the Upper Engadine. Unlike the Julier Pass, which is basically open all year round, the Albula Pass is closed every year from about November to June due to snow and avalanches.
However, in winter it is possible to sledge on the Albula road, as it is partly completely closed to traffic. A popular route goes from Alp Alesch down to La Punt. The only drawback: the toboggan has to be pulled up, but it can be combined with a great walk.
There is also a toboggan run from Preda to Bergün in winter, but you can reach it by train. Hence, it is one of the popular sledding slopes in Switzerland.
Lai da Palpuogna
The Lai da Palpuogna is probably the most beautiful excursion tip on the Albula Pass and lies directly next to the road. At this lake you can take indescribably beautiful pictures.
Since the authorities do not want the lake to be overrun in the nature reserve, there are practically no signs and a limited amount of parkings. For this reason it is also forbidden to swim. If you want to swim at the Albula Pass, you should take a look at the hike at the next point.
Lais digl Crap Alv
Another excursion tip are the “Lais digl Crap Alv” lakes, which can be reached in about 30 minutes from the Albula Pass (bus stop “Preda, Crap Alv”). The 150 metres in altitude that you have to tackle are really worth it! The short hike tempts you with a fantastic panoramic view and a cool swimming adventure in the lakes.
2). Flüela Pass (normally closed from January to April)
Alternative in winter: Flüela/Vereina car transport
Also in the canton of Graubünden, above Davos, the Flüela Pass is one of our favourites. On the one hand, because of its beauty, the Flüelapass has an incredible charm, especially with its lakes. On the other hand, the alpine pass is a paradise for unforgettable hiking experiences in the summer months.
Jöriseen circular hike
The Jöriseen circular hike is probably one of the most beautiful hikes in Switzerland. The 5.5-hour hike leads to at least 15 larger and smaller lakes. The highlight is definitely the view of the lake plateau from the Jöriseenfurgga. The different colours of the three lakes trigger an indescribable feeling of happiness and contentment.
To the lakes of Radönt
Another insider tip is the hike to the Radönt lakes. In about 45 minutes you can reach the first lake of this lake plateau from the Flüela Pass. You can also discover relatively many gentians and alpine roses in early summer. Please note that there is still snow for a relatively long time and the hike can only be made around the beginning of July.
3). Gotthard Pass (normally closed from November to June)
Alternative in winter: Gotthard tunnel
For centuries, the Gotthard Pass was the most important trade route between north and south before it was replaced by the tunnel. But its beauty is also incomparable, as you travel from the north to the Mediterranean Ticino. Scenic and cultural differences make a journey along the pass a diverse experience. Absolutely worthwhile are the following two insider tips at the Gotthard Pass.
Hospental is a community in the canton of Uri that has existed since the Middle Ages. For example, the residential tower, which is a beautiful destination for an excursion, dates from that time. From there you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the Urseren valley in direction to Andermatt and the surrounding mountains.
5-Lakes Hike Gotthard
If you like hiking and travelling over the Gotthard, you should definitely not miss the 5-lakes hike. Because this hike let guests immerse themselves in another world. On the one hand, there are always military relics to discover, such as an anti-aircraft defence system. On the other hand, the lakes are so idyllic and different that one likes to spend more time here. The whole hike takes about 2.5-3 hours.
4). Furka Pass (Closed between November and May)
Alternative in winter: Furka Oberwald car transport
The Furka Pass is one of our favourites thanks to its far-reaching views and the Rhone Glacier. For a long time, the connection between the canton of Uri and the Valais could only be taken via the Furka Pass. Especially due to the migration of the Walsers from the Valais towards Uri and Graubünden, the Furka Pass became increasingly important. Incidentally, the road was built in 1866 and was a big hit thanks to the mountain panorama with a direct view of the Rhone glacier. Unfortunately, the glacier has receded so much that almost no direct view is possible any more.
Rhone Glacier Hike
Nevertheless, the Rhone Glacier is still one of the most impressive glaciers in Switzerland. An insider tip hike leads from the Furka Pass to a breathtaking vantage point over the Rhone Glacier in about an hour.
The Rhone glacier with the glacier cave can also be reached even faster from the Belvedere.
The Hotel-Restaurant Belvedere is the main photo motif on the Furka Pass, along with the Rhone Glacier and the Ice Grotto. Especially in the early morning or late evening, when there are no more cars and the sky conjures up special colours, a stop is worthwhile.
Zum Dorf – the smallest village of Switzerland
Zum Dorf is officially the smallest village in Switzerland and worth a stop for that reason alone. The village with only three inhabitants is located on the Uri side of the Furka Pass very close to Andermatt. Nevertheless, the village has a traditional restaurant that is highly praised beyond its borders.
5). Julierpass (normally passable all year round)
The Julier Pass is said to have been used by wagons as early as Roman times. At least, this is what the history indicate. For a long time, the Alpine pass was in competition with the Septimer Pass, which even today can only be done by foot or by bike. Especially with the rise of the Engadine health resorts such as St.Moritz, the Julierpass became more and more important. Today, the pass is basically open all year round.
There are also two highlights on the Julier Pass, especially in summer.
Lej da las Culuonnas
On the one hand, there is the Lej da las Culuonnas, which is right next to the Julier Pass. It is worth stopping here for a picnic or to enjoy the peace and quiet of the mountains.
Another lake, Leg Grevasalvas, can be reached in only 50 minutes hiking time from the bus stop Julier, La Veduta. From the beginning of July, the path and the lake should be free of snow. The view of the lake from the top alone is enough to make you dream. But a cool swim is also a welcome refreshment.
6). Klausen Pass
Alternative in winter: none
The Klausen Pass is also a gem among the Alpine passes in Switzerland. The pass, which lies in the canton of Uri and Glarus, offers endless scenic beauty. The far-reaching views on the Klausen Pass into the Schächen Valley or onto the Urnerboden are picturesque. If you like, you can stop at the cheese dairy on Urnerboden, because the cheese is really good there.
Gletscherseeli – glacial lake in the Swiss Alps
A breathtaking hike from the Klausen Pass and reachable in only 50 minutes is the viewpoint of the glacial lake. You might think you’ve landed in the deepest Antarctic. This is because in summer, huge chunks of ice keep falling from the glacier, triggering smaller tidal waves. That is why we do not recommend hiking down to the glacier lake.
The Berglistüber is considered one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Switzerland and belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage. A visit to the gem is almost a must when travelling the Klausen Pass. There are only a few waterfalls in Switzerland where you can walk behind the water. You can do this at Berglistüber at your own risk.
7). Sustenpass (normally closed from November to June)
Alternative in winter: Brünig Pass
The Susten Pass connects the canton of Uri with the canton of Bern. Although it was never an important pass in terms of trade, the pass became more and more important militarily. For example, the Simplon Pass was occupied by Napoleon, which suddenly made the Susten Pass more important. The Alpine pass was mainly developed for national defence purposes during the Second World War.
Today it is a very popular pass in Switzerland and is used by many excursionists in summer and autumn. There are also various excursion destinations and hikes in the region.
For example, the Steinsee lake with the Stein glacier in the background is a popular photo motif. But not only that: the lake is also a great place to enjoy the peace and quiet. On a private road (ticket can be bought directly at the barrier), you can drive to the lake directly.
Another great tip is the Engstlenalp with the Lake Engstlensee, but it is much more visited than the Steinsee. We therefore recommend that you avoid this destination during the summer holidays or at weekends. Engstlenalp has a restaurant and various breathtaking hikes waiting for you.
8). Ibergereggpass (normally passable all year round)
The Ibergeregg Pass is an alpine pass in the canton of Schwyz and connects Schwyz with the area around Hoch-Ybrig and Unteriberg. This pass is a recreational area and offers wonderful experiences both in summer and winter. Here are two excursion tips that you shouldn’t miss.
For example, the hike from the Ibergeregg Pass to the Rotenflue is highly recommended. Because whether summer or winter, unforgettable moments are guaranteed. The view of the two Mythen mountain tips as well as the valleys and lakes make us dream every time.
An insider tip hike from Ibergeregg goes to St.Karl. This is only doable in summer, although it is worth travelling by public transport. The hike, which takes around 2.5 hours, leads past fields rich in orchids, views of Muotathal and the charming village of St.Karl. From there you can take the bus back to Schwyz.
9). Grosse Scheidegg (year-round ban on motorised traffic)
Although there is a ban on motorised traffic on the Grosse Scheidegg (except public transport), it is one of the most beautiful Alpine passes in Switzerland. Thus, the alpine pass “Grosse Scheidegg” is an Eldorado for hikers and bikers. Because the view of the Wellhorn or Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau are tremendous.
Hike Grosse Scheidegg – Grindelwald Bort
If you want, you can also take the bus to Grosse Scheidegg and start the hike from there. A popular hike goes from the Grosse Scheidegg to Grindelwald Bort. In Bort you can hire a scooter to take you back to Grindelwald. What could be better than that?
Sledging adventure Grosse Scheidegg – Schwarzwaldalp
Incidentally, in winter you can sledge from Grosse Scheidegg to Schwarzwaldalp on selected dates. The 5.5 km long toboggan run is an adventure for young and old.
Conclusion Alpine Passes Switzerland
The Swiss Alpine passes are fantastic, I think everyone would agree. Accordingly, it is very difficult to make a selection. Here we have listed our 9 favourite passes, but there are many more beautiful passes. Which are your favourites in Switzerland? Let us know in the comments section.