Five forgotten mountain roads in Europe

Nietzsche knew it all along: “The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time.”
 

Whether that bad memory is caused by a severe case of New Year’s toast involved Korsakovs, or you’re just one of the oblivious kind, believe us: the upcoming five forgotten mountain roads are a quintet you will enjoy multiple times as if they were a first time.

 

 

Klausen Pass (Switzerland, 46 km)

Take for instance the Klausen Pass, the first alpine pass worth mentioning as you ride south from Zurich and a magnificent gateway straight into the heart of the Swiss Alps.

The thing which sets the Klausen Pass apart from the other passes in the Alps, is the fact that there is a highway alternative, so traffic on the pass is really restricted to locals, riders or drivers - which renders the experience hardly ever corrupted.

Luckily, as that would have been a shame: the Klausen Pass is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and unspoiled Alpine Passes in Switzerland.  

From the start in Glarus you’ll ricochet over the original pass cobbles before the road quickly winds through the woods and slings you into some high speed sweepers, topping it off with a series of narrow switchbacks.

The remainder of the ride you’re being spoiled with plenty of narrow tunnels, straight but tight stretches through dark woods, and as the road levels out at the Alpine Plateaux of Urnerboden, magnificent sky-scraping granite peaks and waterfalls galore.

Forty-something steeply climbing corners later, you’ll arrive at the top of the Klausen Pass with a giant smile behind your visor.

After a well-deserved coffeestop, the ride down might seem less spectacular at first, but it will challenge you in different ways: it’ll require every bit of your focus, as the drop offs are terrifying and the rickety railings aren’t what we would call reassuring in case of a crash…

Luckily, a bit further down, the road will spoil you with a bunch of sweeping turns, forests and an impressive waterfall which drops hundreds of meters into the green abyss. A true marvel. 

And before we forget: as you’ve now reached the outright core of the central Swiss Alps, ride on towards the south as the Susten, Furka and Grimsel Pass are closer than they might ever be again. You won’t regret it.

See the Klausen Pass.

 

Biescas - Laruns (Spain, 57 km)

As any motorcyclist will tell you: having to cross the French-Spanish border is all but a punishment, as the ever-appealing Pyrenees push the soil and roads up and beyond the tree line in an exquisitely twisty way.

The pass over the mighty Col du Pourtalet (1.984 meters) is no different: situated just outside the Pyrenees National Park, this climb will treat you to some truly breathtaking views of the Ossau Valley.

Cursed by the few cyclists who storm its flancs, the long and technically challenging climb of the Col du Pourtalet has gained its nickname ‘the stairway pass’.

And rightfully so, as the 29 kilometer long ascent is split up into three steep ‘steps’ and some longer slighter climbing parts which ‘ll drag you through steep-sided gorges, high-mountain prairies and picturesque Pyrenean villages.

You’ll especially love the curly way the road is weaved into the magnificent backdrop, as rocky formations and meadows leapfrog their way through the border region.

To - pun intended - top it off, the view at the summit is an absolute stunner: an uninterrupted view of the Pic du Midi d'Ossau mountain and the Cirque d’Anéou, where sheep and cows can be seen peacefully grazing while your bike takes a rest. Why not do the same, while you’re at it?

The various bars and restaurants on the top, will provide you with the ‘fuel’ you need to head down, and ride it all over again. Lovely passtime!

See the road Biescas - Laruns.

 

Sognefjellet Road (Norway, 81 km)

If you wonder why you should head north on your bike, our answer consists of just one word, six letters: Norway.

This country’s the absolute advocate of Scandinavian splendor: majestic fjords, waterfalls thundering down into the abyss, endless stretches of fog-infested woodland and perfectly paved roads as far as the eye reaches. Oh yes, and snow.

The Sognefjellet Road itself is at its best in early springtime, as in that time, the roads are fringed by massive walls of the white stuff - we’ve not seen more fairytale-like conditions very often.

Route 55 - as it is called officially - runs elegantly across the Sognefjell mountain area between Luster and Lom, and is the highest and is one of the most impressive mountain passes in Northern Europe, with a peak at 1.430 meters.

It has been awarded the status of National Tourist Route because of the spectacular and wild mountain scenery it passes through in the Jotunheimen National Park.

While the road might seem deserted and ready to race, remember to take care: fines in Norway are income-related and tend to be fierce, so make sure not to exceed speed limits (50 km/h in built-up areas, 80 km/h on most other roads)  and - this one’s a no-brainer, really - make sure not to drink and ride.

Those limitations might seem a bit sluggish, but look on the bright side: more time for you to really enjoy the marvellous surroundings.

If you want to make sure never to forget the trip - and visual memories just aren’t enough, do yourself a favor and go for a bite of the local ‘rakfisk’, a pickled kind of fish, which is covered under a layer of pine branches and afterwards stored in wooden barrels in order to yeast. Not for the faint-of-stomach, this one.

See the Sognefjellet Road.

 

Cetinje - Kotor (Montenegro, 33 km)

P1. While this is the sign we’re keen on spotting on the pit wall as we’re blasting past during any endurance race, it’s also the name of the magnificent stretch of monstrous asphalt between the cities of Cetinje and Kotor - both in Montenegro.

A look on Google Maps will reveal its curvy character, but nothing can prepare you for the real deal: 38 kilometers of rather dangerous, twisty roads. It kicks off at the foot of the Lovcen mountain in Cetinje, a treasure of Montenegrin cultural and historical heritage.

A good hour of riding later, the road ends along one of Montenegro's most beautiful bay - Boka Bay -  in the colourfull city of Kotor. The Old City of Kotor is a well preserved urbanization typical of the middle Ages, built between the 12th and 14th century.

But be wary of the fact that this road is not for novices, nor for sissies, as there is little to no room for error. If you can feel the hair raise on your arms, and your palms are getting sweaty by the thought alone, imagine what it must have felt like before the government decided to install barriers.

As motorcycling is all about ‘going where you’re looking’, do yourself a favor and try not to peek over their edge: there’s only a mind boggling vertical drop of hundreds of meters awaiting… 

The most seductive part of the road is a merely 8 kilometer long stretch, which consists of 16 hairpin turns, called the Kotor Serpentine. What’s in a name. The narrow one-lane road, slithers its way up the seaside mountain, offering stunning views over Kotor bay from above.

Along this section, the road starts at an elevation of 458m above the sea level, and ends at 881m - an elevation gain of 423 meters, in other words. Marvellous stuff.  

Sounds almost too good to be true, right? Well, it is, in a way: the road itself is in dreadful condition and requires strong nerves to negotiate it. If the deteriorated surface of the pass doesn’t challenge you enough, you might want to steer your nobbies from Kotor to Cetinje via the old, but still rideable donkeypath.

Absolutely not for the faint of heart… Everything added up, this mountain road will spoil you with no less than 25 numbered switchback corners during the ride. But beware: in between 10 am and 4 pm, the road tends to be less forgotten than we would’ve hoped… But then again, the sunrise provides this landscape with an indescribable touch.

See the road Cetinje - Kotor.

 

Casteldelfino - Passo del Angelo (Italy, 19 km)

While every motorcyclist and his dog have are dreaming of riding the Stelvio Pass at least one time in their lives, chances are they’ve never even heard of the last one in our list: the Passo dell’ Agnello - which translates to Pass of The Lamb rather than Pass of the Angel.

Which is rather strange, as with its 2748 meters of altitude, it is the second highest mountain pass in the  Italian Alps, only being surpassed by the Stelvio, ànd in sheer beauty it offers at least the same experience as the latter.

But whatever the reason might be, this road is not nearly as popular as some of the others, and therefore it’s not nearly as busy or congested as the others either. You’re not hearing us complain about that. 

The rather narrow, single track SP251 passes from north-east Italy to France. Ride the SP251 from Casteldelfino to Passo Dell’ Agnello  at the right time of year and there’s no doubt you’ll have your breath taken away.

The demanding part of the ride kicks off immediately after the height of Casteldelfino, when the road climbs with a series of rather demanding hairpin bends through the largest forest of European pine trees, towards Pontechianale. 

From that point on, the road climbs frantically upwards, taking you to the summit of the Passo dell'Agnello in a waltz. The panorama that presents itself on arrival at the top of this motorcycle tour leaves you gasping, as the look sweeps from the French mountains to Monviso to the underlying valleys of Cuneo and the distant plains.

A truly stunning setting, never to be forgotten again.

See the Passo del Angelo.

 

Where next?

Explore the best roads & POI's around and plan your next trip based on those roads.

 


 

 

More stories

Five places to visit when riding in Greece

Five places to visit when riding in Greece

Round-The-World Paul: 8 years on the road and counting…

Round-The-World Paul: 8 years on the road and counting…

7 scenic roads in United Kingdom you wouldn’t want to miss

7 scenic roads in United Kingdom you wouldn’t want to miss