The Stelvio Pass: Is This Europe’s Most Spectacular Road?

Stelvio Pass
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Famously once hailed as ‘the greatest driving road in the world’ by BBC Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson and Co. in 2008, the reputation of the Stelvio Pass clearly precedes it. This northern Italian mountain pass has reached legendary status and many motoring and cycling enthusiasts flock to the pass during the summer months to experience the thrill of travelling on one of Europe’s most spectacular roads. 48 hairpin bends snake their way up to the summit of 2757 m, making the Stelvio Pass the highest paved road in the Eastern European Alps and definitely one for the bucket list!

Why you should drive the Stelvio Pass:

Stelvio Pass, Forest

It begins in beautiful alpine forest

No matter which side of the pass you begin your drive on (either from the south-east or the north-west), the picturesque scenery begins immediately. The road initially gently coils up the hillside, framed on either side by verdant, lanky pines.

Stelvio Pass

Wave at cute, little villages on your ascent

During the initial stage of the ascent, you’ll find a couple of pretty little villages nestled neatly in the valley. Perhaps a place for a picnic or a drink on your way up?

Stelvio Pass Switchbacks

Its scenery is some of the most dramatic in Europe

The Stelvio Pass literally takes you up over the Alps. With snow-capped, towering mountains looming over you and the alpine tussock valley below, it’s impossible not to feel awestruck!

Stelvio Pass

The photo opportunities are endless

Even though the Stelvio Pass is only just over 24 kilometres, be sure to allow half a day to complete the drive. You will not want to rush and will feel the need to pull over every few minutes for another spectacular photo opportunity!

Stelvio Pass Switchbacks

Negotiate 48 switchbacks

The journey becomes a rhythmic motion of accelerating, braking and turning as you negotiate the stairway of 48 switchbacks of the pass. Signage marks each one and it makes for a fun game of counting each one of these hairy, 180 degree bends down!

Stelvio Pass

The elevation gain is rapid

An elevation of over 1800 metres is gained rapidly on the ascent to the summit. You’ll notice your ears pop during your journey as your car works hard to power you up the steep mountainside.

Stelvio Pass

There’s a concrete barrier for safety

The narrow road clings to the mountainside with a steep drop to the valley floor below. Luckily, concrete barriers on the more aggressive, west side of the pass offer protection, allowing your eyes to be captivated by the snow-capped peaks instead of glued to the edge of the road!

Stelvio Pass Summit

It is the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps

With the highest elevation point at 2757 m, the Stelvio Pass is the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps. The rapid ascent combined with the high elevation will have you noticing the thinner oxygen in the air at the summit. At this elevation you may feel the effects of the altitude and it’s common to feel a slight shortness of breath. A true adventure!

Stelvio Pass Tunnel

The narrow tunnels

This road has literally been carved into the mountainside and on the eastern side of the pass, you will pass through a series of narrow tunnels cut out of the rock, often wide enough for only a single car.

Stelvio Pass, Morning

If you get on the road early, you might have it all to yourself

The Stelvio Pass’ iconic status means that it is also one of the most popular drives in Europe. If you want to beat the traffic, avoid the busiest summer months of July and August. If you get on the road by 7am, you might just have this magnificent playground all to yourself.

Stelvio Pass, Memorial

There’s a WWI memorial

After you’ve reached the summit travelling east, you descend slowly at first into a flat plain. There is a WWI memorial you can stop at to pay your respects to the Italian soldiers that lost their lives defending this unforgiving landscape in WWI.

Stelvio Pass, Bormio

If you approach from the east, the beautiful town of Bormio awaits

After negotiating the last of the switchbacks and tunnels, the delightful, small town of Bormio appears in the lush valley below, nestled at the foot of four mountain passes. This picturesque, medieval town is little-known to tourists except those interested in the Stelvio Pass or skiing in the wintertime. Bormio is famous for its hot springs and adventure activities and is an ideal place to base yourself for a few days after your drive. It’s straight out of a postcard, isn’t it?

The Stelvio Pass is open from June to September, although can be closed due to snow at any time. Check the official Stelvio Pass site for updates.

What is the most spectacular road you’ve ever driven? Share in the comments below!

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    September 27, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    I’m currently planning my trip to Italy for October ! I’ll take a look at this.
    Thank you.

    road trip italy
    July 31, 2015 at 10:48 pm

    Lovely photos of Italy. As with many other European destinations, I would love to put this on my bucket list.

    July 26, 2015 at 3:27 am

    My favorite road in the whole world is the Strada del Vino! Also in Italy! Amazing views and lots of great wineries.

    Saakshi Kumar
    July 22, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    I think these are some of the best scenic, most beautiful pictures I have come across yet.
    A spectacular road that I have driven? The path from Puri to Konark on the NH-203 and from Gangtok to Lake Tsomgo and Nathu-La Pass in India. Some of the best road trips you can take in India. 🙂

    alfredo ciano
    July 22, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    We Love Italy…

    July 20, 2015 at 9:54 am

    it'[s pretty gosh darned stunning! love it~

    July 19, 2015 at 9:12 am

    Great post. I’ve always dreamt of cycling this pass since seeing it in the Giro D’Italia.

    July 18, 2015 at 9:16 pm

    What stunning views! It looks so peaceful there. I swear every time there’s a road trip on Top Gear, something else get’s added to the bucket list!

    Tessa / Bramble & Thorn
    July 18, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    This is incredible, I actually drove through here a couple of weeks ago! I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve said, it’s one of the most amazing locations I’ve ever seen and was constantly snapping photos from the car. Definitely not for those who get travel sickness though!


    Clipping Path Outsource
    July 18, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    This is nice!
    thanks for the photos.

    July 18, 2015 at 8:02 am

    this is fantastic, thanks!

    Maddy @ Travel Alphas
    July 18, 2015 at 6:58 am

    This looks incredibly gorgeous! I’m surprised I’ve never heard of this magical drive! We’ll be spending a month in Italy next summer so we’ll most definitely be doing this! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    July 18, 2015 at 5:43 am

    I love Italy, but I think for the most impressive roads in the world. I still turn to my dear Norway. Nothing can beat the winding, zizag roads that go up a Norwegian mountain!

    Jennifer @ This Off Script Life
    July 18, 2015 at 4:10 am

    I drove the Splugen Pass from Italy to Switzerland, and it was actually pretty scary at times. But, then again, I’m afraid of heights. The Stelvio Pass looks really similar. Thanks for sharing this amazing photos.

    July 18, 2015 at 12:14 am

    The US1, the scenic Pacific Coast Highway is breathtaking especially the Big Sur section from Carmel down to San Luis Obispo.

    July 17, 2015 at 11:24 pm

    Looks amazing!

    July 17, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    This is definitely going on the itinerary for the next month and a half – I’ll be sure to fit it in at some point! Looks like a gorgeous drive – and the photo opportunities will be absolutely mint 🙂

    July 17, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    So beautiful!

    July 17, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    I’ve been there several times by motorbike and my advice is: always plan the trip and check if the pass is open as generally it is only opened for few months (from June to September if you’re lucky), so there’s NO way to avoid July and August! Anyway, I can assure there’s no traffic. And dress properly as once I was there on July 31st and it was snowing..

    July 17, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    We have quite a few mountain roads similar to that here in Norway, but none in my area go quite that high! Breathtaking! I would never advise tourists to go up any of ours though, it’s too dangerous if you’re not used to the road. Maybe I should send them to Italy? 🙂

    July 17, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    absolutely stunning!

    July 17, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    absolutely stunning!

    July 17, 2015 at 11:57 am

    The scenery is absolutely stunning, defiantly gotta do this one!


    July 17, 2015 at 10:00 am

    That looks amazing! I’m sure it would be quite the lengthy drive though, as I know I would be stopping and taking a ton of pics. Thanks for sharing, I’ll be sure to pin this to my bucketlist 🙂