The Furka Pass is one of the highest and most beautiful mountain passes in Switzerland. The road stretches 2,429 meters (7,969 feet) across the two cantons of Valais and Uri. It is also considered one of the most dangerous and difficult roads in Europe. While driving along this scenic road, you can enjoy views of the Rhone glacier, the Schöllenen gorge, and the Galenstock summit rising to an altitude of 3583 meters.
The pass was used during exist of the Roman Empire for transporting goods and marching troops. Later, from the 13th century, appeared a trail for mules at the pass, which carried more and more goods, such as salt, wine, furs and also grain. In the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, the Walser people (one of the Alemannic tribes) used the pass as a trade route between Valais, Uri and Graubünden. In 1864 started the construction of the road from Hospental to Oberwald, and in 1866 it was officially opened (some sources say it was 1867). At first, a horse-drawn post office operated along the route until the first postal bus passed through the pass in 1921. In 1911 started the construction of the Furka Railroad, which was opened in 1925. It could only be used for a few months of the year when there was no snow. In 1982 built, the Furka Tunnel. Consequently, train rides could be made all year round.
WHERE IS THE FURKA PASS LOCATED?
The road is located in the Swiss Alps, on the border of the cantons of Uri and Valais. Furka Pass is located in the Lepontine Alps, in the heart of the Saint-Gotthard Massif. The nearest village/community where you can stay overnight while being near this beautiful road is Obergoms.
HOW TO GET TO THE PASS?
The pass is located on road 19, which connects Brig in the west with Chur in the east. The route is start in Gletsch and end in Andermatt (or vice versa, depending on whether you are driving from west to east or east to west).
WHEN IS THE PASS OPEN?
The pass is usually open from the end of May to early November. Before heading out in the trip, check information about weather on the official website (link here) whether a road has been closed due to bad weather.
IS THE FURKA ALPINE ROAD DEMANDING?
The road leading to the pass from Gletsch is wide and has two lanes. However, on the Realp side, it is narrower, and sometimes you have to stop in order to two cars can pass each other. On weekends and during the holiday season, there is more traffic on the route. During this period, it is best to leave early in the morning, because then you can enjoy the ride. 250,000 people pass through the pass each year on bicycles, motorcycles, cars, buses, or the historic steam train that runs through the local mountains. It is a route with amazing views, but you have to remember that it has a lot of sharp corners. The road is well-marked. However, you must pay attention to the atmospheric factors. When it rains, driving becomes difficult and extra caution is required.
FURKA CAR TRANSPORT
In winter, the road to the Furka Pass is closed. During this period, the car can be transported by train through the Furka base tunnel, which connects Realp and Oberwald. Furka Car Transport, runs year round and the trip takes only 15 minutes. Train departures are every 30 minutes from Friday to Monday and every hour from Tuesday to Thursday. However, riding the pass by car or motorbike in the summer is definitely a more rewarding experience. 😊
You can find all information about Furka Car Transport here on the official website.
WHERE FILMED A MOVIE “GOLDFINGER” WITH JAMES BOND?
In 1964, the sharp corners in the Furka Pass have been remembered in cinema history, thanks to a scene in the film Goldfinger. Filmed over there chase between James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 (Sean Connery) and a Ford Mustang driven by Tania Mallet, whose only acting role was in Goldfinger. This scene was shot in front of the Rhone glacier. If you want to feel like James Bond, you can visit the iconic gas station in Andermatt where Bond and Tilly part ways after their failed attempt to assassinate Goldfinger – now it is part of the Aurora Hotel. One of the curves on the east side of the pass is even named “James Bond Strasse”. At the sign, there is a viewpoint with a small parking area. The chase scene, featuring Bond, can be viewed below.
WHAT TO VISIT IN THE AREA
Hotel Belvedere is a hotel located by the road to Furka Pass. It was built on a curve overlooking the Rhone Glacier. The road to the pass was opened in 1866 and the hotel in 1882. Rebuilt in 1890 and 1903, it then became a very popular stopping place for tourists. It owed this panorama to the Rhone Glacier and served as a starting point for mountain expeditions Within a one century, automotive progress has made crossing the Alps became easier and therefore more accessible. The retreat of the Rhone Glacier by almost a kilometer has made that the view at the glacier became less spectacular. As a result, the hotel first closed in 1980 and reopened about ten years later. As of 2015, the hotel is closed again.
The Rhone Glacier (Rhonegletscher or Rottengletscher in German) is located at the northeastern end of the canton of Valais in Switzerland. It gives start the Rhone River, who’s the source is near the town of Gletsch. The river has influx in the Gulf of Lions on the Mediterranean Sea. The glacier extends over 8 kilometers (5 miles) and reaches a width of some over 1 kilometer (3280 feet). It has a surface of 16 km2. Like most alpine glaciers, it has regressed considerably since the mid-19th century. It is easily accessible thanks to the road to the Furka Pass. The glacier has a blue ice tunnel length about 100 meters, where there are the “ice halls”. The tunnel and halls have been re-cut into the glacier every year since 1870.
Goms Bridge in Valais
In the canton of Valais a Goms Bridge was built connecting the villages of Fürgangen and Mühlebach. The bridge is 280 metres long, and it is located over the Rhone River. It is one of the longest hanging bridges in Valais. Walking on it, you can feel its gentle swaying. The Goms Bridge is open all year round.
In summer, you can take a ride on the historic steam train Furka, which runs on the route Oberwald-Gletsch-Realp. Rides take place from June to October. You can find all the information you need here on the official website.
The name of the pass comes from the Latin word furca, which in ancient times meant an object with split tips resembling a pitchfork, used as a pitchfork in the household and also as a support in the cultivation of, for example, vines.
Being in Switzerland, anyone who feels good behind the steering wheel should drive the swichbacks of the Furka Pass. This 30-kilometer route, which is one of the highest roads in Europe, will provide drivers and also passengers unforgettable impressions and views. And for those less motorized, wait a 2-hour ride on the Furka Steam Railway with extraordinary panoramas of the Central Alps.
Patrick Robert Doyle, Rhone Glacier, source Unsplash.