The Furka pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 2.431 m (7,976ft) above the sea level, located in one of the snowiest regions in Switzerland. It’s one of the world's most iconic, exhilarating and exciting drives, through the Swiss Alps. The pass was imortalised by the Aston DB5 / Ford Mustang car chase in James Bond's Goldfinger. It's one of the highest mountain roads of the Alps.
The pass links the Ursern valley in the canton of Uri with the municipality of Goms in the canton of Valais. It’s one of the highest paved roads in the country, and the road over the pass was built in 1867. As you drive along the pass's road, you may see the train that travels the Furka Pass chugging along through the mountainside, creating a picturesque scene for you to hold in your memory. Countless tourists are attracted by the unique mountain panorama, the Rhone Glacier with its ice grotto, the attractive options for hiking, climbing and skiing tours, as well as the reopened steam railway.
The drive is definitely worth it. There are many excellent photo opportunities. The road is very wide and perfectly surfaced. The second part of the climb includes much more straight forward road, but it's also less steep. Don’t forget your camera! The road encompasses miles of stunning views through twisty hair pin corners, high elevations and steep grades. The Furka Pass also takes you within a few hundred meters of the Rhone Glacier, source of the Rhone river. Here you can park up and walk up to and actually inside the glacier itself. Travelers can actually walk through the glacier by booking a tour. Though the tunnel through the glacier is only 100 meters in length, you will want to make sure you dress warmly, because it doesn't take long for your body temperature to reach dangerous levels. Although the glacier has retreated dramatically in recent years, it still really is an incredible site, around 7km in length.
There are sheer drops virtually along the entire route and enough hairpins to make a whirling dervish dizzy. A quick glance at the map at its sheer drops and serpentine twists and turns, confirms that this is no hype. Traffic has increased constantly. Nowadays more than 250,000 people cross the pass each year on cycles or motorcycles, in private cars, in Alpine Post Buses or by historic steam train on the reopened rack-and-pinion railway section across the mountains.
The road encompasses miles of stunning views through twisty hair pin corners, high elevations and steep grades. The curvy road with the stunning road and the glacier at the top makes this whole diversion worth it. The switchbacks are scary and exhilirating. Take a lot of time to travel this road - stop and check all the views. It's really incredible. There are plenty of places to stop and have a view / snack. The pass is closed in winters, but with such a high summit altitude the road can be closed anytime due to snowfalls. The zone is prone to heavy mist and can be dangerous in low visibility conditions. Look first at the weather forecast if you want to enjoy the view and not drive in the clouds all the time. Do not travel this pass in severe weather conditions. Avalanches, heavy snowfalls and landslides can occur anytime, being extremely dangerous due to frequent patches of ice. It has a well-deserved reputation for being dangerous because of unpredictable snowstorms and blizzards, and driving under these conditions, can be extremely challenging. The road over the Furka Pass was built for strategic military reasons and was the longest pass road in Switzerland when it was opened in 1867.
The road over the pass is asphalted and is one of the most impressive Alpine crossings in the country. It’s an amazing drive, with awesome scenery and challenging hairpin turns. The road is in good condition and well signposted and the views are spectacular and breathtaking. But the weather factor is really important. The drive is thrilling. A must do and see! This is also regarded as one of the most dangerous and difficult roads. The precipitous slopes aren’t easy to navigate, especially the first section. At least it is wide and smooth: but in the dark or rain it can be very hard to drive. However once you hit the road, be prepared to capture the sites like the Rhone glacier, the Schöllenen Gorge, numerous valleys and small Swiss villages.
The first road over the pass was built in 1867. Its maximum gradient is 11 % and links the cantons of Valais and Uri. Starting from Amsteg, the ascent is 42.0km long. Over this distance, the elevation gain is 1.942m and the average percentage is 4.6% and the maximum is 10.3%. And starting from Brig, the ascent is 57.8km long. Over this distance the average gain is 1.897m and the average percentage is 3%. The maximum is 10.8%. The Furka Pass is magnificent in its own right. Don't forget your camera with lots of film/memory, fully charged batteries and an empty memory card! The road offers views of glaciers, craggy mountaintops, and scenic forested areas.
In 1964, the hairpin bends on the Furka pass earned their place in cinema history thanks to the James Bond film 'Goldfinger' in the scene in which Tilly Masterson attempts to snipe Goldfinger. It was filmed in front of the Rhone Glacier. If you want the full James Bond experience, you can even visit at the iconic petrol station in Andermatt where Bond and Tilly Masterson part ways following her failed attempt to assassinate Goldfinger – it’s now part of the Aurora Hotel. But you’ll probably look anything but Bond-style glamorous when tackling it: steep slopes, hairpin bends, switchbacks and sharp, blind curves make this a white-knuckle ride to all but the most experienced (or crazy) drivers. At least the road’s wide and perfectly surfaced – this is Switzerland, after all.
Pic: Erwin de Wolff