In France there are a few balcony roads: hair-raising lanes cut into the sides of sheer cliffs. It’s a kind of road not for those who fear heights. There is little room for error on these roads. It's normal for your palms to sweat looking at those photos, imagine what it must have been like before the barriers. Dramatically carved out rock on the side of mountains, the balcony roads are a unique experience for any rider.
Balcony roads are beautiful roads with stunning views. These tortuous routes should not be attempted by those who don't know how to reverse. Some of them are so narrow that if two vehicles have to pass each other, one vehicle might have to reverse for anything up to 3 kilometres of winding narrow road to get to a place wide enough to pass. Photos don't capture the incredibly narrow, twisting roads, the stunning views or the imposing depth of the ravines.
There are not many roads like this in Europe, if you can handle the height and the prospect of a very long freefall this road absolutely has to be on the list of any road connoisseur. On the narrow balcony roads your wheels will be astounded at the wonderful view of the valleys spread out before you! They are terrible for drivers who are prone to vertigo. The balcony roads are carved into the mountainside. It’s incredibly disorienting to look over the edge, or even just to see the valleys a couple thousand feet below you. The roads cut along a cliff face where there is only a foot high wall separating you and a sheer, base jumps wet dream, drop to the valley below. They run as a single track road along the mountainside for some distance with nowhere to pass another vehicle. Here one says a prayer that nobody is coming towards you until the road widens a kilometre further. Take a look at this Europe packing checklist for more helpful tips on staying safe while driving on crazy European roads!
Gorges de Galamus are located on the border of the department of Aude and Pyrénées-Orientales. The roads to cross the gorges, extremely narrow and dangerous, are D10 and D7, and both become a challenge for car drivers. The gorges are located in the towns of Cubières-sur-Cinoble and Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet in the Pyrénées-Orientales and have a length of 2km. Crossing the gorges by car is possible all year but in summers the road becomes very busy and the traffic problems are obvious. In July and August there’s a special regulation. Because of the narrowness of the road, it is impossible to turn back.
Gorges de la Pierre-Lys are accessed to the south of Quillan, itself south of Carcassonne (Languedoc-Roussillon region). Quillan itself is a pleasant town, but with little in the way of great monuments. It is however well placed to explore both the Cathars castles to the east and the dramatic gorges to the south. The road from Quillan to Saint-Martin-Lys passes through the deep gorge at Pierre-Lys, with cliffs either side of the road stretching to 700 metres in height.
Gorge du Cians is in the East of Gorge de Daluis and a circuit linking both gorges makes an excellent day out, passing through tunnels, past ravines and waterfalls cut into the stunning red rock, and is a photographers dream come true. It's situated in Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, and belongs to the Alpes Maritimes. The deep gorge carved through the mountains by the River Cians is made all the more spectacular by the deep red of the exposed rock. The river descends 1,600 m (5,250 ft) in just 25 km (15 miles) between the villages of Beuil and Touet-sur-Var. The narrowest and most spectacular part of the canyon is at Pra d’Astier, just in the middle between the two villages.
Clue d’Aiglun, going by the D10 road, is a very scenic drive, with tunnels and at one point the road follows a narrow ledge cut into the rock. This stretch of road, located in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region of southeastern France, should not be attempted by those who don't know how to reverse!
Built between 1843 and 1854, Les Grands-goulets road is a superb route that links the Royans area to the Vercors Central. The construction of this road was a huge human and financial investment. The surface of the road is asphalted. This small valley narrows 20 km further above the Vernaison River that turns into a 200 m high waterfall. The road becomes magnificient with the rock just over your head.
A short section of the D22 road, through the Gorges du Nan, with a length of 5.5 miles only, links the towns of Malleval-en-Vercors and Cognin-les-Gorges. This road is located in Vercors national park (Rhone-Alpes), south of Grenoble. This scenic mountain road, with a high climb, is steep, narrow, and can be closed during the winter months. Chains or snow tyres can be required. Due to the landslides, the road can be closed during anytime.
A short but dramatic stretch of D900a road, from Verdaches to Digne-les-Bains, goes inside the Clues de Barles, a narrow road going through deep canyons. This extremely narrow road is situated in Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur (France) and belongs to the Alpes Maritimes.
With a length of 9,9km only, D219 is one of the scariest roads in Europe. Impassable for two cars at the same time, driving this road becomes a challenge, with terrific cliffs in both sides. Words can’t describe the road and pictures don’t do it justice. D219, which is carved into the sheer rock face, brings you up into the high mountains and ends at a picturesque village. A hairpin bend to the left, 8km away from Bourg-d'Oisans, brings into view the course of the lower Vallée du Vénéon, which ends at the Aiguille du Plat-de-la-Selle.
Clue de Saint Auban is a spectacular gorge which links St Auban and Brianconnet and has the Esteron River flowing through it. It is situated in Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur and belongs to the Alpes Maritimes. The D2211 snakes its way through the clue on a ledge and passes a chapel cut out in the rock where a service is held every September. The narrow and winding, D-2211 is a roller-coaster through forests and mountains to finally climb up to the clue of St. Auban.
Built in 1833, this windy wild road of Les Ecouges zigzags up to the village of Rencurel, in the Isère department in south-eastern France, before crossing mountain pastures until the Col de Romeyère. The road carries on via the lonely valley des Ecouges, then go though an impressive tunnel dug in the rock at Pont Chabert. The tunnel leads to a road hanging above a waterfall before going down vertignously to the Isere Valley.
Col de la Machine is a mountain pass at an elevation of 1.011m above the sea level, located near the tip of the remote Combe Laval in the Vercors massif, and is situated in Rhone-Alpes and belongs to the Alps. This pass connects the towns of Saint-Jean-en-Royan and Bouvante, by the D76 road, it is slightly marked and is cut into the steep mountain side and has some nice short tunnels.
Col de la Cayolle, at an elevation of 2.326m (7,631ft) above the sea level, is a high mountain pass located in the French Alps at the border between the departments of Alpes-Maritimes and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. The asphalted road over the Col de la Cayolle, located in the Parc National du Mercantour, links the municipalities of Barcelonnette in the Ubaye Valley and Saint-Martin-d'Entraunes. The most scenic part of the road is a narrow section inside the Gorges du Bachelard.
D13 is a short mountain road with a length of 22,7km, located in the Pyrénées-Orientales department in southern France. This curvy mountainous road which rarely permits speeds over 30km/h, is extremely narrow, full of hairpins, and links the communes of Maureillas-las-Illas and Llauro. Maureillas-las-Illas (Morellàs i les Illes) is a rural commune in the Vallespir, Pyrénées-Orientales in the south of France and Llauro (Llauró) is a commune in the Pyrénées-Orientales department in southern France.
Gorges de la Nesque are located in the Vaucluse Mountains, a mountain range of the French Prealps located in the departement of Vaucluse, between the Luberon Massif and Mont Ventoux. The gorges are traversed by the D942 road. The road is certainly breathtaking and it has a fearsome reputation. The Nesque Gorge road is very popular with cyclist and is fairly traffic free thanks to the numerous low tunnels that you have to pass through. The small Nesque river runs down through the gorges and valleys from near Sault, where it's at 620 m, to an area between Villes-sur-Auzon and Methamis, where it drops down to about 300 m.
Gorges de Chouvigny is a canyon located in the Allier department. The gorge is carved by the La Sioule river. It’s traversed by the D915, a 7.4 km long narrow road linking the towns of Le Pont de Menat and Chouvigny.
The Clue de Riolan is one of France's most beautiful canyons. Located in the Alpes-Maritimes department in southeastern France, the canyon is carved by the Le Riolan river. It’s traversed by the D17 road. It’s 11.4 km long and links the towns of La Combe and Roquesteron. This amazing road is located in the Vallée de l'Esteron (Esteron River Valley).
D29 is a short mountain road located in the Aude department in southern France. It’s 2.7 km long starting from Fontanès-de-Sault. The road climbs up several mountain passes up to 1.000m. Along the way there are several unlit tunnels. Totally closed to vehicles higher than 2.7 meters.
Gorges de la Blanche is an amazing gorge located in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department in southeastern France. The road along the gorges is called D900C and follows a river called La Blanche. The surface of the road is in bad conditions and there’s a strong risk of rockfalls. The road links the towns of Espinasses and Selonnet. It’s 3,8m high and 9m wide in some sections.
The Gorges du Guiers Mort is a canyon formed by the Guiers Mort river in the Isère department in southeastern France. The gorges are traversed by the D520B road, also known as Route du Désert. The gorges are located on the route between La Diat and Saint-Laurent-du-Pont.
Located in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department in southeastern France, the Clue de Carajuan, a place where the river breaks through a band of limestone and is pushed into a short canyon, is called Route Departementale D952 and links the villages of Castellane and Palud-sur-Verdon.
Clue de la Maglia is a very scenic drive located on the isolated valley of Maglia River near the village of Breil-sur-Roya in Alpes-Maritimes department of southeastern France. The surface of the road, with the Maglia river sparkling deep below in the canyon, is mostly asphalted, with some gravel sections near the end. Speed limit is 30 km/h. The road is extremely narrow, totally impassable for 2 cars at the same time. It’s a wonderful and very amusing canyon digged in the white limestone of the Vallèe de la Roya.
Gorges du Guil are a picturesque, deep and narrow gorge slices through black rock shot through with bright patches of colour located in the Hautes-Alpes département, southeastern France. The road to cross the gorges is called D902. It's asphalted but extremely narrow. There are several tunnels. The Gorges du Guil provide a gateway to the Queyras and are truly impressive.
D81 road through the Calanches de Piana is one of the great drives of Europe. It’s located on the west coast of Corsica. Located in the gulf of Porto, this 11,7km section goes through a spectacular landscape of red granite cliffs and spiky outcrops, carved into bizarre shapes by the forces of wind and water. Between Porto and Piana, this narrow road winds against the magnificent red granit faces that plunge into the sea. These are the "Calanche of Piana". Engraved by the erosion, they look like a fantastic sculpture.
Pas de Tous Vents is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 1.052m (3,451 ft) above the sea level, located in the Alpes-Maritimes department in southeastern France. The road to the summit is stunning and dramatic. It’s called D2 and goes within the Clue de Gréolières, a collection of tunnels and cliffs perched on a road carved into the rocks. The drive is worth it. The road is asphalted, is very narrow, it includes a lot of turns and ends in Gréolières, a pretty Medieval village perched on a ridge against the southern flank of the Cheiron mountain, in the hills 25 km north of Grasse.
The Gorges de Daluis are a deep, narrow gorge on the upper Var river located in the Alpes-Maritimes department in southeastern France. The famous gorges are a six-kilometer-long canyon formed by the river Var within the D2202 road, running south from Guillaumes to Daluis. The drive is definitely worth it. Don’t forget your camera! It’s at its best during the winter thaw when the melted snow swells the river to offer adventurers a maximum adrenalin rush and long lasting memories.
D220 is a short mountain road located in the Isère department in southeastern France. The road is asphalted but extremely narrow. It’s 5,7km long. The road, known locally as Les Travers, is made difficult by single track sections and overhanging rock, and is impassable to heavy vehicles.
D211A road is a short mountain road located in the Isère department in the Rhône-Alpes region of south-eastern France. The road is 15.9km long. This amazing road is carved into the mountainside in France. It’s a road in France to die for (or die on, if you're not careful!). This cliff road is asphalted and goes through the Combe de la Fayolle. It's normal for your palms to sweat looking at those photos, imagine what it must have been like before the barriers.
Frequently recognized as the most magnificent road in the French Alps, this road through Combe Laval was constructed between 1861 and 1898 and originally served for the transportation of timber from the Forêt de Lente to St-Jean-en-Royans. Right now it mainly attracts cyclists eager to face the challenge of a steep climb and be rewarded with awe-inspiring views of the Vercors region. The most spectacular stretch of the road, between St. Jean-en-Royans and Col de la Machine, cuts into the cliff-like side of the gorge and runs via a series of short, narrow tunnels. Nearly 8 mi (13 km) of lush, alpine beauty and dizzying heights. To go through this road, at Saint Jean en Royans, take the D 76 at the end of the village, direction Col de la Machine.
Route de Presles is a stunning mountain road located in the Isère department in southeastern France. The road is 7 km carved into the mountains. Words can’t describe the road and pictures don’t do it justice. It’s one of the most spectacular balcony roads in the country. The road is called D292. It’s a succession of open tunnels and passages, carved directly into the rock, resulting low and narrow lanes, blind corners and potential landslides.
The Gorges de la Bourne is a canyon formed by the Bourne River, located in the Vercors Massif, in the départements of Isère and Drôme in the French Prealps. The gorges are traversed by the RD 531. It’s one of the most spectacular roads in the world. The gorges are located on the route between Pont-en-Royans and Villard-de-Lans, two municipalities in the Isère department in south-eastern France.
Route de la Bérarde is a legendary drive located in the Isère department in south-eastern France. The road is D530. It’s 27.4km long and is asphalted. This road was opened to vehicles in 1921.
Nicknamed the ‘Grand Canyon of Europe’, the Gorges Du Verdon is one of the most spectacular sites in the world. Located in south-eastern France, a narrow road was carved out of the cliff high above the green river. It’s a hair-raising drive: a sheer vertical drop of more than 2,300 feet, in many places too narrow for two-way traffic, with craggy rock overhangs, blind curves and hairpin turns, and thrillingly, no guardrail. The gorges, also called the Grand Canyon du Verdon, is a river canyon that is often considered to be one of Europe's most beautiful, forming a border between the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and the Var.
Gorges du Guiers Vif is a very scenic canyon located in the Isère department in southeastern France. The road along the gorges, also known as Gorges du Frou, is called D520C, also known as Route des Entremonts. The road is 11.8 km long.
Located in the Lot department in south-western France, the D43 road is a thrilling experience. The road is asphalted. It’s 2.4km long and links Le Colombier and La Tuilerie. The most challenging part of the road runs along the Dordogne river. It runs as a single track road along the mountainside for some distance with nowhere to pass another vehicle.
The Gorge du Loup is a stunning gorge which starts high in the hills above Greolieres and continues down to Pont-du-Loup, from where you can look up and see Gourdon perched on the cliffs high up above. Located in Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, in the Alpes Maritimes, the road that crosses the gorges is called D6 (or Route des Gorges du Loup). The road is cut in the rocks, with some tunnels. Along the route you will find numerous cascades and deep pools, and some well-known high jumps.
D918 is an extreme high mountain road located in the Pyrenees. The winding asphalted road is 45.0 km long. It connects the town of Laruns, in the valley of the Gave d'Ossau, via Eaux-Bonnes (west) and Argelès-Gazost, in the valley of the Gave de Pau, via the Col du Soulor (east). This road is generally closed from December to June. Its highest elevation is Col d'Aubisque, at 1.709m (5,607ft) above the sea level.
D943 road through the Gorges du Hourat is one of the great drives in south-western France. The surface of the road is asphalted and is very narrow.
Gorges de la Méouge is an incredible canyon located in the Hautes-Alpes department in southeastern France. The gorge is 7-kilometre (4.3 mi) long carved by the Méouge which has its source in the Drôme. This real gem of a discovery located within the Baronnies Provencales Natural Regional Park, is traversed by the D942, a small asphalted narrow road. It’s 10.0 km long and links the towns of Le Plan and Barret-sur-Méouge.
Gorges des Gats is an incredible canyon located in the Drôme department. The gorge is carved by the Ruisseau des Gats river. It’s traversed by the D539. It’s 10.2 km long and links the towns of Châtillon-en-Diois and Glandage. The road was built in 1865. There are 5 unlit tunnels along the road. The gorge is famous for its bewildering network of subterranean caves, a few of which are open to the public.
Cirque de Navacelles is a deep, steep-sided canyon located in the Occitanie region in southern France. The cirque was once created by the River La Vis. It’s traversed by the D130 and D713. It’s 10.2 km long and links the towns of Blandas (in the Gard department) and Saint-Maurice-Navacelles (in the Hérault department). This geological spectacle in a beautiful environment, offers a great geologic experience. The canyon was formed long ago when a meander of the river Vis carved it into the limestone of the Causse plateau. Today, the river has dried up, leaving a wonderful spectacle of nature.
The Gorges de Saint-Georges is a canyon formed by the Aude River, in the Occitanie region of southern France. Located within the Pyrenees, the gorges are traversed by the D118 road. The road is stuck between two huge rocky walls and the river Aude.
Col du Chaussy is a mountain pass at an elevation of 1.533m above the sea level, traversed by the D77B road, in south-eastern France. It's an improbable road clinging to the edge of the cliff. Dating from 1934, Col du Chaussy is probably best known for the 17 truly unbelievable hairpins at the start – the “lacets de Montvernier.” But beyond this it’s a big climb with more than 1000 metres of ascent.
Clue de la Roche Percée is a very scenic drive located in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department in southeastern France. Driving on this narrow road between walls of cliffs and gorges is a delight. The road is called RD4085 (formerly known as RN 85). The road climbs up to 1.071m above the sea level.
Clue de Chasteuil is located in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department in southeastern France. The road to the clue, a place where the river breaks through a band of limestone and is pushed into a short canyon, is called Route Departementale D952 and links the villages of Castellane and Palud-sur-Verdon.
Located in the Alpes-Maritimes department in southeastern France the Passage de la Petite Clue was totally closed to motor vehicles after the construction of a tunnel. Part of the old D-28 road, this narrow piece of asphalt is located on the parking just before the Tunnel de la Petite Clue. It's 457.71 m (1,501.66 ft) long.
Located in the Alpes-Maritimes department in southeastern France the Passage de la Grande Clue was bypassed by a tunnel and totally closed to motor vehicles. Part of the old D-28 road, this narrow piece of asphalt is 500m long. Landslides, rock falls and mudslides can occur anytime and can sometimes block some sections of the road. Fallen rocks are found at the road.
A short but dramatic stretch of the D900a road, from Verdaches to Digne-les-Bains (France), goes through the Clue du Pérouré, a narrow road going among deep canyons. This extremely narrow road is situated in Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur and belongs to the Alpes Maritimes. Along the road there are several signs about the limited maximum height of the road, ranging from 2,8m to 3,2m.
Located in the Lozère department in southern France, Les Détroits is a thrilling experience. The road is called D907BIS. It’s 11.3 km long and links the villages of La Malène and Les Vignes. In France there are a few balcony roads, which are hair-raising lanes cut into the sides of sheer cliffs. The most challenging part of the road runs along the Tarn river. It’s certainly breathtaking and it has a fearsome reputation. Maximum height is limited to 3.8m.
Gorges de l’Asco is an incredible defile located in the Haute-Corse department in the Corsica region. The gorge is carved by the Asco river. It is traversed by the D147, a thin asphalted road following the winding course of the river. It’s 11.6 km long and links the towns of Moltifao and Asco. It's in good condition but with no guard rails and basically one lane. It's located in the valley of Asco inside of Parc naturel régional de Corse.
Perched high above the glistening coastline of the Côte d'Azur in southeast France, the D22 road is asphalted. Many of the corners are sharp and blind. If you're afraid of heights, it's probably best to keep your eyes forward. The whole road is very steady and basically there is no place to get any rest. This narrow winding road climbs up to Col de Bausson (732m), Col de la Madone de Gorbio (927m) and Col de Saint-Pancrace (673m). There are also 5 unlit one-lane tunnels cut into the rock. It was used by Lance Armstrong, Tony Rominger, Chris Froome and Richie Porte to test their fitness in the run up to the Tour de France.
Col de Turini is a mountain pass at 1.607m (5,272ft) above the sea level, in the Alps, France. Helter skelter corners and changeable weather conditions mean this road is far from safe. Lethal in bad weather, this road can often be covered in snow and ice making it one of the most treacherous roads in the world. Hugging the mountainside, and going through it, up through the trees, the road becomes more challenging, with hairpin bends a plenty, rock on one side and drops on the other, the top section is extremely twisty, with rocks sometimes in the road, not a road to lose concentration on.
Gorges de Padern are located in in the Aude department in southern France. The gorges are traversed by the D123 road. Be careful in the curves. The gorges were carved by the Le Torgan river. The water flows in a succession of cascades, potholes and small lakes which have been naturally crafted in the rocks.
Route Départementale D662 is located in the Lot department in south-western France. The road is asphalted. It’s 30.2 km long and links the villages of Saint-Géry and Cajarc. It’s pretty quiet. It runs along the shore of the Lot River. Recommended to small vehicles (4,1 meters height limit). It’s a pleasant ride above the Lot River with manageable elevation gain. Fast flowing so drive carefully.
Located in the Aude department in southern France, Gorges de l'Aude is a narrow canyon to the south of Quillan, itself south of Carcassonne. The road through the gorges is the challenging D118, with some narrow parts. Walking and cycling are recommended because the narrow roads will require much of your attention, and you will see less of the scenery from the car window. The canyon was carved over time by the River Aude, hurtling down the slopes of the Pyrenees.
Gorges de Rebenty is a very scenic canyon located in the department of Aude, region Languedoc-Roussillon, in southern France. The drive is very lovely but can also be very challenging if you are driving. The most treacherous, narrowest and deepest part of the drive is a short section known as Défilé d'Adouxes. It’s 2.4 km long, running from the town of La Fajolle towards Mérial.
Défilé de Joucou is a very narrow canyon located in the department of Aude, region Languedoc-Roussillon where even the road barely fits. Located up the valley of the Rebenty, the tiny road through woods is totally paved, but very narrow. It’s called D107. At some places, the road is cut out of the rock leaving the overhanging rock as a kind of roof. The canyon is also known as Défilé d'Able. Themost treacherous, narrowest and deepest part of the drive is a short 4.7km long section running from the town of Joucou towards Belfort-sur-Rebenty. Height limit is 3.5 meters. The road runs through a few unlit tunnels.
Gorges du Tarn is a canyon formed by the Tarn River, located to the north of Millau, in the Lozère department of the Massif Central, northern Langudoc-Roussillon, in southern France. The gorges are traversed by the paved D907bis road. This scenic drive follows alongside the gorge and it has lots of stopping places, although not always in quite the place that you want to stop. The riverside road is notorious for summer traffic jams. It’s narrow and not recommended to large vehicles. The tunnels and rocky overhangs along the route will be hazards to negotiate with care.