Loved by some people, feared by the next, winding roads are extremely fun to drive and mostly accompanied by breathtakingly beautiful scenery. So, as we’re already planning our next road trips for the future, we want to make sure to include some of the best winding roads in Europe, including exciting hairpin bends, on our Bucket List.
Due to the spread of COVID-19, many points of interest and roads may be closed and therefore travel is not recommended. Please follow all local health authority directives before venturing off, and stay safe.
Carretera De Sa Calobra, Majorca
Named the Serpent Street in Catalan, this winding road is a dream come true. Beautiful scenery, exciting hairpin bends and at the end a crystal clear and turquoise blue bay to visit.
With 12 kilometers and a total of 800 vertical meters the road to Sa Calobra is one of the most beautiful roads in Europe, but not for the faint-hearted.
Take the junction between Soller and the monastery Luc on the MA-2141 to Sa Calobra and you’ll find yourself before the ‘Nus de sa Corbata’, the tie knot. On this 270-degree spiral bridge the street passes under itself. The engineer Antonio Paretti who planned the street in 1932, was inspired to this curve while tying his tie. After this impressive start the one-hour-long route takes 12 hairpin bends down through the Serra de Tramuntana mountains until you arrive at your destination – Cala sa Calobra.
If you don’t want to share the route with several coaches, take the drive in the afternoon, when it is less frequented. Otherwise, it sure is an extra kick of adrenaline. And very important: don’t forget to bring your swimsuit and a picnic.
Oberjoch Pass, Germany
The road B 308 ‘Oberjoch Pass’ is the second-highest street in Germany and is known for its impressive hairpin bends located above the town of Bad Hindelang. With a total of 100 curves and 9 of these fun turnaround bends, this road leads 300 vertical meters up to the Oberjoch Pass. After the exciting hairpin bends, you should stop at the viewpoint ‘The Kanzel’ with a breathtaking panoramic view over the mountains and the valley of Ostrach. The Oberjoch Pass, located right next to the Austrian border, is a part of the popular, and really recommendable German Alpine Road and was already used in the 16th century as a salt and smuggler route. If that doesn’t add to the flair?
Col de Turini, France
Known as a centerpiece of the famous Rallye Monte Carlo, the Col de Turini pass is notorious for its many, many hairpin bends and scenic landscapes.
The most exciting route connects Lantosque over La Bollène-Vésubie to Sospel. This narrow pass road in the French maritime alps offers 31 kilometers of exhilarating twisting bends through the Turini forest. You get all of 34 hairpins as you climb up to 1,607 vertical meters with a maximum of 12%. The D2525 is a great experience, but you really need to be concentrated on this roller coaster ride. As a beautiful balcony road it is partially cut into the cliffs of the Mountains, with rock on one side and drops on the other – resulting in breathtaking views of wonder (or fear).
All in all this route is one of the most scenic, and one of the most treacherous roads in the world. No wonder: it has been the arena where the best drivers in rally history have demonstrated their skills for the assembled fans. Drive with care!
Oberalp Pass, Switzerland
The road between Andermatt and Disentis has not one but two exciting parts full of twisting hairpin bends to both sides of the ‘Oberalp Pass’. Called Route 19, this route consists of 23.5 kilometers pure driving pleasure and less traffic compared to the other passes in the region.
Starting in Andermatt the road directly winds itself upward in 5 hairpin bends and quite a few tunnels. The twisting road is steep, hitting a gradient of 10%. Once at the top you can make a stop at the Oberalp Lake, or take a break at the restaurant and beer garden, with breathtaking views of what’s to come. Nice to know: the red miniature lighthouse is a replica of the 14-meter tall original that was standing in Hoek in the Netherlands at the mouth of the Rhine. But why? The spring of the Rhine river is not far away and so it marks the beginning, and compliments the end.
Once you have passed the top of the pass, which has an elevation of 2,044 meters above sea level, going towards Disentis you will be rewarded with glorious views of the surrounding mountains – and nine more hairpin bends for your enjoyment. It’s best to drive this route in warmer months, as the pass is closed during winter.
Timmelsjoch High Alpine Road, Austria
The ‘Timmelsjoch pass’ is sometimes called the “secret passage” for driving from Austria to Italy, because it is little used compared to the much easier and lower Brenner Pass, which is always full of transit traffic. So, take the scenic route less traveled and marvel at the breathtaking views this road has to offer: the dramatic scenery of the Ötztal Alps and the picturesque landscape of the Passeier Valley in South Tyrol.
The Timmelsjoch High Alpine Road overcomes 2,500 meters in altitude in over 60 spectacular bends. With its numerous serpentines this drive is definitely worth it and one of Austria’s most beautiful roads to drive. It is one of the highest asphalted roads of the Alps.
Starting from Sölden in Austria you’ll get to drive up 1,000 vertical meters in 23.5 kilometers with 13 twisting hairpin bends and past steep rock faces, small lakes and the stunning mountain landscape, all with a maximum gradient of 13%. From the pass the road takes you through 14 twisting bends with a maximum of 13% gradient on 30 kilometers down to St. Leonhard in Tyrol.
On the route you get the full ‘Timmelsjoch Experience’ – Architectural sculptures located at several stopping places along the road, enlighten travelers about the natural surroundings, the history, the culture, the communities and the economy of the region.
Due to its elevation, steepness, and narrow road, the Timmelsjoch pass is closed to trucks and vehicles with trailers. The Timmelsjoch pass is open to traffic from approximately the first half of June to the second half of October. The Ötztaler Cycling Marathon takes place on the last Sunday in August, so better to avoid this weekend when traveling.
Lysebotn Road, Norway
The small village of Lysebotn was only reachable by boat – up until 1984, when the work road was built into the mountain for supplying the construction site for the Tjodan hydroelectric power station down in the Lysefjord valley.
Nestled in the high mountains of Rogaland and Vest Agder this route boasts 27 hairpin turns and a tunnel at the end, which challenges even the most experienced driver.
The popular tourist road Lysevegen in Forsand in Ryfylke (FV500) consists mostly of a single track with passing places. Its highest point is the Andersvatn lake at an elevation of 932 meters above sea level.
The first 32 kilometers of this mountainous road greet you with tight corners and reverse chamber bends until you reach the pass. From here it goes relatively gently downhill to the restaurant Øygardstøl, boldly built into the cliff at 950 meters above sea level. If you want to stretch your legs a little before heading into the depths, you can hike to Kjerag, the famous jammed boulder.
After your stop, the road slowly gets you nearly 1,000 meters down with an average gradient of 9.4% offering thrilling hairpins alone, before finishing off with an impressive tunnel that turns 340 degrees before you emerge in the quiet town of Lysebotn. With all the twists and turns the driver needs to be extremely careful, but therefore is rewarded with impressive scenery. This narrow road is only open for 5 months of the year.
Transfagarasan Highway, Romania
The Transfagarasan Highway is unique and easily tops the lists of the most scenic roads in the world, with beautiful hairpin turns, long s-curves and sharp descents inclusive breathtaking scenery. The Transfăgărășan (Trans + Făgăraș, means Făgăraș crossing) or DN7C is a paved mountain road crossing the southern section of the Carpathian Mountains of Romania and is the second-highest paved road in the country. Its 90 kilometers have more tunnels and viaducts than any other road in Romania – 833 small bridges and 28 viaducts.
Fully open only from June to October, the road’s highest point is at 2,042 meters: the tunnel which links the northern and southern sides of Lake Bâlea.
Start from Căpățânenii Pământeni, which rather fittingly translates as ‘The Ends of the Earth’ and is home to the ruins of the real Dracula Castle, Poenari, (‘real’ in the sense that Vlad Dracul actually lived here for a time). From here a series of thrilling hairpin turns and tunnels bring you to the next landmark, the Vidraru Dam, one of the largest hydroelectric plants in Europe. It offers fabulous views of Lake Bâlea.
On you go over the dam, to the 890 meters long Capra Tunnel, after which the landscape changes starkly and gives you a great view: a wide open valley with the road serpentining its way down visible as far as the eye can see. From Lake Bâlea the 25-kilometer drive down is the most spectacular part of the Transfăgărășan to Cârțișoara.
Stelvio Pass, Italy
As many as 60 thrilling hairpin turns, 48 numbered on the northern section (the famous North Face), are waiting for you on the Stelvio Pass road. It is an uphill adventure road to an elevated height of 2,743 meters and there are only short concrete barriers standing between you and the wide-open, marvelous Alpine countryside – goosebumps guaranteed. The road zigzags 46 kilometers up and over northern Italy and mere meters from the Swiss border. It was built in 1820, not by Italians but by Austrians to connect their empire. Today it satisfies every petrol head’s driving fantasies. It is the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps and the ‘Three Languages Peak’ above the pass is named like this because the Italian, German, and Romansh languages meet here. On a map you’ll find this iconic street as Route SS38, it connects the towns Prato allo Stelvio in South Tyrol with Bormio in the Sondrio region, only a stone’s throw from the border to Switzerland. It is not the most stunning but one of the most dramatic passes in the Alps, due to its incredible wall of switchback turns. And the alpine pass is an absolute masterpiece of road engineering – often referred to as ‘Queen of Pass Roads’. Say hello to your Majesty.
Silvretta High Alpine Road, Austria
Silvretta High Alpine Road – the alpine Road of your dreams. Sounds like a bit much? This road lives up to it. Running over the Bielerhöhe with 2,032 vertical meters, its roughly 22 kilometers are going to be one of the best you’ll ever drive in the Alps.
The popular excursion route with the fantastic mountain scenery and the two picturesque reservoirs Vermunt and Silvretta is actually another service road for a hydroelectric power station. But winding road lovers are drawn to it, for its 34 exciting hairpin bends and the incomparable view of the Piz Buin, which is considered to be the highest mountain in Vorarlberg with 3,312 meters. Depending on the weather, the Silvretta High Alpine Road is open from about May to October and offers inclines of maximal 12%. The road runs from Partenen in the Montafon to the 2,032 meter-high Bielerhöhe as far as Galtür in the Paznauntal. It is a unique adventure of curves, hairpin bends and the most beautiful panoramic views. No wonder that it is the stage for the popular Silvretta Classic Rallye every year.
Furka Pass, Switzerland
Timing is everything: ‘Furka Pass’, with an elevation of 2.431 meters, is one of the snowiest regions in Switzerland, but if you’re in Switzerland at the right time of year prepare for one of the world’s most iconic, exhilarating and scenic drives.
It gained fame after it was featured in a car chase scene in the James Bond movie ‘Goldfinger’ from 1964. An Aston Martin DB5 and a Ford Mustang climbed this scenic driving road, located in the Uri / Valais region of Switzerland. More than 50 years later the landscapes have remained almost the same, boasting a unique mountain panorama.
You will experience the most exciting climb if you are driving it from west to east, since this is where the tightest hairpins are located. Once you have reached the bend where the now closed Hotel Belvedere still stands, you should stop to enjoy the scenery and take a walk inside the Rhone Glacier Ice Grotto. The road twists on with views of glaciers, craggy mountaintops, and scenic forested areas at a maximum of 11% and is one of the highest roads in Europe. At least the road is wide and perfectly surfaced – this is Switzerland, after all. One curve on the east side of the pass is even named ‘James Bond Strasse’. At the sign is a lookout point with a small parking area. All the switchbacks on this route are scary and exhilarating, worthy of a thrill-seeking Agent.
Story by Jessica Dobrig