A journey on the legendary Col de Tende-Colle di Tenda

Col de Tende (Colle di Tenda) is an international high mountain pass at an elevation of 1,876m (6,154ft) above sea level, located on the border of France and Italy. If you like hairpin bends, this climb is a must. It's one of the most hairpinned roads in the world.

Col de Tende-Colle di Tenda

Where is Col de Tende-Colle di Tenda?

The pass is located on the border between the Alpes-Maritimes department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region of France and the Province of Cuneo in the Italian region of Piedmont. The pass separates the Maritime Alps from the Ligurian Alps. It’s considered the southernmost of the great Alpine passes.

Can you drive to Col de Tende-Colle di Tenda?

The road to the summit is very challenging. It’s an old military road, mostly paved, with a gravel section at the end. It features 48 hairpin turns. The pass was bypassed by the Col de Tende Road Tunnel, which was inaugurated in 1882. It’s 3,182m long and was the first long tunnel under a major alpine pass.

How long is Col de Tende-Colle di Tenda?

The road to the summit is 7.5 km (4.66 miles) long, starting at D6204 (E74) road. Over this distance, the elevation gain is 603m, and the average gradient is 8.04%, hitting a maximum gradient of 17% through some of the ramps.

Is Col de Tende-Colle di Tenda worth it?

To drive the road without stopping will take most people between 30 and 40 minutes. At the summit are extensive fortifications from the 19th century, which were built by the Italians. It’s reputed to be one of the most ancient roads in Europe, laid down by the Phoenicians and later used by the Greeks who had colonized Marseille and, after them, the Romans. The historical importance of this crossing results in an immensely fortified ridgeline. The drive is littered with old fortifications that used to guard the French-Italian border. The ruins of these fortifications remain. In a way, this is like a visit to a museum, but without the crowds or fees that are often connected with such a visit.

Is Col de Tende-Colle di Tenda open?

Set high in the Alps, the road to the summit is totally impassable in winter.

2019 Update:

Coming from the Italian village of Limone Piemonte, you can reach the top as usual. Unfortunately, directly at the border with France, there is a strict driving ban - even though there is no police to check that. In 2017, there was a landslide on the French side, which made it impossible to pass the road by cars or heavy motorcycles. This landslide does not block the street anymore. Unfortunately, in 2019, there is another problem. This road was passed by one of the first long mountain tunnels in the Alps. This tunnel has just one traffic lane so there is a traffic light on each end to enable one-way traffic which changes every 15 minutes. This is going to change because currently they are digging a second tunnel. The construction works are ongoing on both sides of the mountain and of course there is a building area on both sides. On the French side, the old road crossing the pass ends in this building area and it is not predictable if the end of the road is not blocked by any building material of construction machines. Even if not, there is a high fence around the building area with a door which is closed at minimum on the weekend. So chances are currently good that you have made this fantastic road and immediately, at the end, you have to turn around and drive back the whole distance and cross the mountain via the tunnel anyway.
Road suggested by: Michael Spannlang