Passo dello Spluga

Splügen Pass, an exciting Alpine road

Passo dello Spluga is an international high mountain pass, at an elevation of 2.115m (6,939ft) above the sea level, on the border between Switzerland and Italy. It's one of the highest asphalted roads of the Alps. Hairpins and great views make this one to see and drive. It’s one of the famous hairpinned roads in the world.

The pass links the Swiss Hinterrhein valley and Splügen in the canton of Graubünden with the Valle Spluga and Chiavenna in the Italian province of Sondrio. The road traversing the pass, the SS36, continues to Lake Como. Near the top, some incredible views of the distant snow covered peaks and valleys become visible. The pass was already in use in the Roman era. This pass has a high regard among cyclists, mostly because of the difficult and exciting south side. There are water and restaurants on the south side, if you need to stop.
The road over the Splügen Pass marks the boundary between the Lepontine and Rhaetian Alps, respectively part of the Western and Eastern Alps. The north (Swiss) side is a wide road and serpentines out of the little villlage of Splügen, then it narrows a bit through trees - snaking rather than twisting, then out above the trees on a long straight. Up a steep narrow set of hairpins on a very good surface to the Swiss border crossing. Then there's a no-man's-land up more difficult narrow and steep hairpins and over the top to the Italian border. Watch out, the hairpins aren't signposted! Just before you reach the crest of the pass, a series of 10 of the most ridiculously laid out hairpin bends present.

The road becomes a nightmare in the wet or dark (or both). On the Italian side after the border the road continues up with fewer hairpins and a similar good surface. This side is extremely steep. The hairpins are in unlit tunnels with poor surfaces. Watch out for cattle in the road. On the descent there are a few grim-looking villages and a few more hairpins leading to a fast road beside a reservoir. There are a couple of dark galleries before the village of Pianazzo. After Chiavenna there are a large number of narrow galleries and unlit tunnels, some with bends in them or even hairpins.
There are 2 routes to reach the summit. Starting from Splügen (in Switzerland), the ascent is 7,83 km long. Over this distance, the elevation gain is 658 meters, and the average percentage is 8.3 %. The maximum slope is 13 %. And starting from Chiavenna (in Italy), the ascent is 30,2 km long. Over this distance, the elevation gain is 1.780 meters. The average percentage is 5.9 %, with spectacular views over the valley from the road in the rocks, and the tarn Lago di Monte Spluga near the top. 

The experience of using this road is very impressive: This is a stunning road which twists and turns ever upwards, but also has several long straights and sweeping curves. One minute, you’re switchbacking your way through tunnels literally stacked on top of each other within the mountain, heading past sharp vertical drops providing stunning views into the valley. The next minute, you’re sweeping through lovely Alpine meadows. The variety makes this one of the most gorgeous drives. Since the construction of the tunnel through San Bernardino, the pass has lost its former importance; it is not kept open in winter. It's a challenging and rewarding road to drive.
The road includes some steep sections. Previously the road surface was very poor here but it has been improved somewhat. The surface of the road is asphalted. The first part of this road, from Chur to Bellinzona was built between 1818 and 1823, and it had numerous civil engineering structures and a slight and even gradient thanks to many hairpin bends. However, the Splügen Pass was already crossed by foot in Roman times. Just before the top of the pass you encounter an exceptional example of road building skill, the 312-metre-long avalanche gallery built in 1843. 


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