A journey on the legendary Colle di Tenda
Col de Tende (Colle di Tenda) is an international high mountain pass at an elevation of 1.876m (6,154ft) above the sea level, located on the border between France and Italy.
Can you drive to Col de Tende?
The pass separates the Maritime Alps from the Ligurian Alps. It’s considered the southernmost of the great Alpine passes. 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 a 3.182m long tunnel and was the first long tunnel under a major alpine pass.
How long is Col de Tende?
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 Piedmont, 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 17% of maximum gradient through some of the ramps.
Is Col de Tende worth it?
Set high in the Alps, the road to the summit is totally impassable in winters. 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, resulting in an immensely fortified ridgeline. The ruins of these fortifications remain. In a way this is like a visit in a museum, but without the crowds or fees that are often connected with such a visit.
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 that there is no police to check that. On 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 on 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 a 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 with is closed at minimum of 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