8 best cycling routes in Switzerland: what you need to know Back to top
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8 best cycling routes in Switzerland
(+ the 8 best climbs)

Cycling in Switzerland remains something of a mystery to those of us who have not yet visited this fabled cycling paradise. 

We know Cancellara is Swiss, we know there are huge mountains and Swiss engineered roads, but where to start planning a trip? What are the best cycling routes in Switzerland? 

Here we put that very question to Anthony Walker, a Brit who has called Verbier, in the Valais region of Switzerland, home since 2014. He and his partner run Kudos Cycling, specialising in bike trips from Verbier.


Switzerland's best cycling routes

Since Anthony is based in the Valais, this is an intentionally Valais-centric view of the best Switzerland cycling routes (though we do venture into the neighbouring regions of Vaud, Uri, Ticino and Bern).

This south-western area of Switzerland is home to most of the country's most famous passes and riding. The Valais focus also means you’ll get a great idea of the kind of cycling you can expect if you visit on a single centre stay. 

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Introduction to road cycling Switzerland’s Valais region

Cycling in Valais is one of the best kept secrets in cycling. The region has a stunning variety of cycling terrain available, from undulating vineyards to high alpine cols. There's something for everyone. 

You’ll find quieter roads compared to some of the better known European cycling locations; you can expect stunning views, beautiful lakes and challenging gradients.

The Valais region (or canton, as they’re known in Switzerland) boasts a rich heritage of cycling and is filled with iconic mountain passes. It hosts some of the most recognised sportives in the world including the Tour des Station or the Gran Fondo Valais depending on the distance, Haute Route Crans-Montana and the Alpen Brevet. It has truly become the home of Swiss cycling with its unique location bordering France and Italy, both of which are accessible in a single day.


Map of switzerland

Map of Switzerland

Map of the cantons of Switlzerland

Map of Switzerland with administrative divisions into regions and cantons. Valais in the bottom left.

What is the Valais like?

The region of Valais is a popular destination for winter skiing enthusiasts; you may be familiar with the famous resorts of Zermatt, Saas-Fee and Crans-Montana in the Valais region. 

The valley floor sees the glacial melt water of the River Rhone flowing through the valley into Lake Geneva which creates the ideal growing conditions for the vineyards and orchards full of the famous apricot and pear trees. The region has its own microclimate and is the sunniest region in Switzerland which also makes it an amazing cycling destination.

With flat valley rides or steep climbs through vineyards, forests and open alpine meadows with cow bells ringing and snow capped peaks, it is a cycling paradise just for the variety of the terrain.

Valais region, Switzerland

Cycling through the vineyards of Valais

Cyclists cycling through ski resort of Grimentz, Switzerland

Quaint Swiss mountain villages like the ski resort of Grimentz

 

8 best cycling climbs in Switzerland

Switzerland isn’t that high on many cyclist’s must-visit lists, probably due to the fact the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia hog the limelight.

Switzerland’s climbs are less well known than others in Europe but that doesn’t mean they are less impressive; I always think they’re for the connoisseur cyclist, the one whose likely already visited the French Alps and Pyrenees and is now looking for new mountain passes to test themselves against. 

That said, the region of Valais has seen the Tour de France visit on three occasions over the years. The Tour de Suisse and Tour de Romandie also make annual visits.

But the best cycling climbs in Switzerland are ones you haven’t heard of.


Within 50 kilometres of Verbier


1. Barrage du Mauvoison, Valais region - 1,841m  

A local favourite. A dead-end road to the top of the dam, the route is the best of what cycling through Switzerland has to offer: snow-capped peaks, dramatic landscapes and quiet roads. Expect to see lots of nature on this route. 


2. Emosson Dam, Valais region - 1,956m 

The finish of the 2016 Tour du France. The names of local cycling legends and heroes can still be seen graffitied on the road. Incredible views of Mont Blanc all the way to the summit of this challenging route. This route below incorporates the climb.


3. Col du Sanetsch, Valais region - 2,242m 

A dead-end road to the summit makes it a quieter road than some of the more well known French or Italian equivalents. It’s a stunning climb with 27km of ascent from the valley floor. Add in a cable car ride from the top down to Gstaad and this loop is a must (more info on the loop below).


4. Col du Grand St Bernard, Valais region - 2,469m 

The third highest paved road in Switzerland and steeped in history. The Col du Grand Saint Bernard is one of the highest cycling cols in the Alps at 2,469 metres (8,100 feet). It's also one of the longest at 45kms from the Swiss side. It featured in the 2009 Tour de France.  This route below incorporates the climb.

Cyclists climb the Sanetsch Pass, Switzerland

Sanetsch Pass. The best climb in Valais at 28km to the summit.

On the Derborence cycling route in Switzerland

Lac de Derborence. Dead end road through stunning landscapes and tunnels.


Further afield


5. Col de la Croix, Vaud region – 1,778m 

A beautiful climb that starts in the vineyards and climbs through small villages and the ski resort of Villars. A popular Tour du Romandie climb. Part of a number of great loop options in this region of Vaud. This route below incorporates the climb.


6. Grimsel Pass, Valais/Bern border - 2,164m

The Grimsel Pass is a classic, high alpine cycling pass, one of many incredible climbs in this region of Switzerland. It featured in the 2007 Tour de Suisse as a mountain top finish at Stage 7, on June 22, 2007.

Starting in the town of Meiringen, famous for its connections with Sherlock Holmes, the climb to the summit is a steady 32km and 1,693m metres at an average of 5.8% of incredible wild scenery and rugged terrain. You can avoid the tunnels with small side roads cut into the rocks. At the summit, you'll be greeted with high lakes and a nice restaurant for a coffee. To finish the climb off do the 7km descent to Gletsch in the Canton of Valais, for 6 incredible switchbacks. 

This route below incorporates the climb.


7. Nufenen Pass, Valais/Ticino border - 2,478m 

The second highest mountain pass road in Switzerland. A punishing and spectacular climb, part of the best 100km loop in Europe as voted for by Cycling Plus magazine. It’s a tough start before the road flattens off and the valley opens up revealing the snaking pass to the summit ahead of you.

This route below incorporates the climb.


8. Furka Pass, Valais/Uri border - 2,429m 

The fourth highest paved mountain pass in Switzerland and the scene of the James Bond movie Goldfinger. It’s also the start of the River Rhone glacial meltwater. You will be surrounded by incredible scenery with gorgeous views of the impressive Grimsel Pass snaking its way to the top for the pass. A photo on the iconic corner with the famous closed Hotel Belvedere is a must. The climb is gradual and the road surface well maintained.   

This route below incorporates the climb.

View from the top the Grimsel Pass looking over towards the Furka pass

From the top the Grimsel Pass looking over towards the Furka Pass, the Rhone glacier and Hotel Belvedere.

Two cyclists climb the Nufenen Pass, Switzerland

Nufenen Pass. The second-highest paved mountain pass in Switzerland.


8 best cycling routes in Switzerland

Switzerland offers an incredible amount of variety for cyclists. 

From a cycling tour of Switzerland using the well signposted cycling network, to staying in one location and exploring the local region, there is plenty of choice for all cycling abilities. However, if you want to explore Switzerland’s mountain passes, strong road cyclists will have the most fun; there's a lot of climbing around here! That said, if you want/need a bit of extra gas, you can always consider hiring an e-bike to help you up the mountains.


1. Col de la Croix Loop

Distance:

64 kilometres

Elevation gain:

1,540 metres

Start town:

Bex, Vaud region

Region(s):

Vaud/Valais border


Best for

Col de la Croix is a stunning climb that isn’t too difficult but you are rewarded with amazing views at the top. Part of a couple of many great loops.

Overview

The Col de la Croix is a 22km climb starting from the valley to the top of the col at 1,778m with an altitude gain of 1,333m. 

The ride is steady, the hardest part is climbing the steep sections out of the valley floor through the vineyards. 

The road passes through charming villages where you can stop and grab a drink and enjoy the views. As you enter the ski resort of Villars, the road is quieter and more forgiving with sections of 1% where you can enjoy the breathtaking views. The descent to the ski resort Les Diablerets is a fast descent which continues to the valley floor. 

This is an exhilarating up and down route.

How to ride it with Kudos Cycling

This route can be included in a 3 or 5-day Switzerland cycling tour for those whose fitness is of a good level. The sort of package we offer can be found here, but the specific routes will depend on what climbs you want to do and in which region. 


2. Emosson Dam

Distance:

63 kilometres

Elevation gain:

2,400 metres

Start town:

Martigny, Valais region

Region(s):

Valais region


Best for

Following in the wheels of your Tour de France heroes, the road to the dam has two mountain passes to conquer, the Col de la Forclaz at 1,528m and the Col de la Gueulaz 1,956m. 

Overview

A route with Tour de France history and for good reason!

The Emosson Dam was the finish of one of the stages of the 2016 Tour de France.

From the Roman town of Martigny, the route starts in the vineyards with two options, the classic gradual road following the Tour de France or the steep road earmarked for the 2020 UCI World Road Cycling Championships (that never happened due to Covid-19), towards the Col de la Forclaz. 

There’s a short descent before a climb up the Col de la Gueulaz and the Emosson Dam, also famous for the dinosaur tracks imprinted into the rocks. The landscape becomes wild and the road is unrelenting to the top of the Col. From the top, views over Mont Blanc and the Aiguilles du Tour are breathtaking. 

It’s back the same way to Martigny on the main Col du Forclaz road.

How to ride it with Kudos Cycling

This route can be included in a 3 or 5-day Switzerland bike tour for those staying in Valais. It can be used on our Alpine Cycle Training packages or bespoke tours. 

The sort of package we offer can be found here, but the specific routes will depend on what climbs you want to do and in which region. 


3. Grosse Scheidegg loop

Distance:

80 kilometres

Elevation gain:

1,500 metres

Start town:

Meiringen, Bern region

Region(s):

Bern region


Best for

In my opinion, this is the greatest Alpine cycling climb; riding your bike in the Alps doesn’t get any better than this. Waterfalls, cows, lakes and snow capped mountains. This ride has them all. 

Overview

The Jungfrau region is not a well known cycling destination, but it is home to the Grosse Scheidegg, the climb which ticks every cyclist's wish list. Car free road apart from the iconic Swiss yellow Post Horn public bus, waterfalls, incredible views of snow capped mountains and glaciers dominated by the famous Eiger North Face, endless cows and a couple of coffee stops along the way. 

It is also quite steep! 

A long descent from the top through the ski resort of Grindelwald towards the shores of Interlaken and Brienz back to Meiringen and the home of Sherlock Holmes. 

How to ride it with Kudos Cycling

Part of a bespoke 3 day or 5 day Switzerland cycling holiday which would include some of the best Swiss climbs in the area. 

The sort of package we offer can be found here, but the specific routes will depend on what climbs you want to do and in which region. 

Cyclist through a rock tunnel on a cycling route in Switzerland

The tunnels of the Derborence loop

Cyclist descending a Swiss mountain pass

Views of Mont Blanc and Emosson Dam, and the Tour De France 2016 route.

4. Col du Grand St Bernard

Distance:

83 kilometres

Elevation gain:

2,000 metres

Start town:

Martigny, Valais region

Region(s):

Valais region


Best for

This is an iconic cycle ride to the summit with the last 6-7km providing a tough challenge. It’s a high alpine pass where the altitude is as much of a challenge as the gradient. With so much attached history it should be on your must-do list. 

Overview

High and long, the route only gets really tough for the last 7km where it ramps up to 8%. The last section is off the main road so you can enjoy the breathtaking scenery which is wild. 

At the summit you roll into Italy for a proper Italian coffee or descend a bit further and visit a refugio. 

Take some warm clothes for the descent and a rear light for the tunnels just to be on the safe side. 

How to ride it with Kudos Cycling 

Staying in Verbier or Le Chable, this route is an ideal part of a family weekend package/cycling holiday in Switzerland. 

The sort of package we offer can be found here, but the specific routes will depend on what climbs you want to do and in which region. 


5. Derborence

Distance:

86 kilometres

Elevation gain:

1,350 m

Start town:

Martigny, Valais region

Region(s):

Valais region


Best for

A beautiful ride through a natural paradise. A personal favourite. 

Overview

A quiet dead end road to a naturally formed glacial lake along a road with a series of tunnels cut into the rock offers another incredible cycling experience.

An easy start along the valley floor through the vineyards and wine caves that make this region so special. The route ramps up but is short and steep before the incredible road through tunnels carved out of the rock. The valley opens up with an easy climb to the glacial lake of Lac de Derborence.

How to ride it with Kudos Cycling

Part of a bespoke 3 day or 5 day bike tour of Switzerland which would include some of the best Swiss climbs in the area. 

The sort of package we offer can be found here, but the specific routes will depend on what climbs you want to do and in which region. 


6. Nufenen Pass, San Gottardo and Furka Pass Loop

Distance:

99 kilometres

Elevation gain:

3,100 m

Start town:

Ulrichen, Valais region

Region(s):

Valais, Uri and Ticino regions


Best for 

The best 100km loop in Europe. A stunning cycling loop that typifies cycling in Switzerland. 

Overview

Starting from Ulrichen the climb starts immediately. The Nufenen Pass has a punishing average of 8.5% with a series of hairpins snaking up towards the summit. It is short and sharp, made harder with the altitude. 

Prepare for all weather conditions! 

The long descent towards Airolo and the incredible bucket list climb of the famous cobbles of the San Gottardo pass, a Swiss monument. 

There’s a little time to relax before the Furka Pass, and a nod to James Bond Street, the filming location of the James Bond classic Goldfinger in 1964. A beautiful descent to the start is your reward for all the climbing.

How to ride it with Kudos Cycling 

You can ride this as part of the Gran Fondo San Gottardo sportive or a bespoke tour. This is the link to our San Gottardo trip. If you have any events planned that need serious altitude training, having a training camp based here would be ideal.


7. Col du Sanetsch loop

Distance:

120 kilometres

Elevation gain:

2,400 metres

Start town:

Sion or Conthey, Valais region

Region(s):

Valais and Vaud regions


Best for

One of the finest and most demanding road cycling routes in Switzerland’s Valais. An incredible loop that has everything a cyclist would wish for.

Overview

Covering a total elevation gain of 2,450m, the Col du Sanetsch route is testing but beautiful. 

Starting off in the valley floor through the vineyards, the road winds its way through the larch and spruce forests before opening up to the cow-filled alpine pastures. With cow bells tolling and sights and smells of forests and meadows, you won’t notice the road climbing up towards the Tsanfleuron glacier. 

Your efforts are rewarded with incredible views of the Rhône valley and snow-capped peaks. From here the adventure starts with a small cable car down to Gsteig, a small village. 

There’s then a short climb up the Col du Pillon at the cable car up to Glacier 3000. 

Enjoy a long descent through the ski resort of Les Diablerets towards Aigle, home to the UCI headquarters. Then it’s along the valley floor back to the start. Depending on the direction of the wind, the train is also an option.

How to ride it with Kudos Cycling

This route can be included in a 3 or 5-day cycling tour in Switzerland for those whose fitness is of a good level and can be part of a bespoke trip.

The sort of package we offer can be found here, but the specific routes will depend on what climbs you want to do and in which region. 


8. Furka Pass, Susten Pass and Grimsel Pass loop

Distance:

142 kilometres

Elevation gain:

4,100 metres

Start town:

Ulrichen, Valais region or Andermatt, Uri region

Region(s):

Valais, Bern and Uri Regions


Best for

Taking in the Furka Pass, Susten Pass and Grimsel Pass, the most impressive passes in Switzerland. Long climbs, high mountain passes, with incredible Swiss engineering that makes cycling in Switzerland so special.

Overview

An incredible Triple Crown of high mountain passes to challenge anyone. The route includes three of the best climbs that can be experienced in Switzerland. 

The route can be used as a one day loop or over two days depending on the fitness of the group. It can also be part of other local climbs to create an incredible few days of climbing the best road cycling climbs Switzerland has to offer. 

How to ride it with Kudos Cycling 

You can ride this as part of the Gran Fondo San Gottardo sportive or a bespoke tour. If you have any events planned that need serious altitude training, having a training camp based in this part of Switzerland would be ideal - and with so many other epic Swiss passes nearby it is a must do.

Cycling in Switzerland along a balcony road

Spectacular Swiss roads on stunning mountains roads

Two cyclists in Switzerland

Feeling on top of the world!


Swiss National Bike Routes/Eurovelo routes

The Swiss National Routes are the national cycling route network of Switzerland. There are currently nine such long-distance cycling routes criss-crossing the Swiss nation and these were established mainly to promote biking in Switzerland and bicycle tourism. 

Like Eurovelo routes, the cycle routes are signposted with red signposts and can be found on the My Switzerland website or the Swiss Mobility app.


Are there any National Bike Routes through the Valais region?

The Rhone Route runs through the magnificent mountain scenery of the Valais on charming, quiet paths along the Rhone. 

It leads along the famous palm-lined promenades of Lake Geneva and the picturesque Lavaux vineyards and ends at cosmopolitan Genève.

The first stage from Andermatt over the Furka Pass to Goms is a tough one. 

That’s why leisure cyclists would be better advised to start in Oberwald and follow the Rhone through the sun-drenched high valley. The route then continues down towards Brig with its Stockalper Castle. 

The Rhone brushes the Pfyn-Finges Nature Park, the wine-growing village of Salgesch, the castles of Sion and leads along Lake Geneva’s promenade of palm trees, past the vineyards in the UNESCO World Heritage Property of Lavaux until it ends in the cosmopolitan city of Geneva or continues as Euro Cycle Route 17 to the Mediterranean.


Highlights

  • Furka Pass/Belvédère, walk to the Rhone glacier and its source
  • Brig, Stockalper Palace dating from the 17th century
  • St. Maurice, the oldest monastery in the Abendland (1,500 years)
  • Lavaux, the vineyard terraces of the UNESCO World Heritage Property
  • Geneva, International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum
  • Do you recommend the National Bike Routes?

The routes are well signed, there are often fantastic views and if you are looking for an adventure on your bicycle to explore Switzerland I would highly recommend these routes. 


Anything to be aware of?

Some of the routes use natural surfaces so it is worth planning ahead and being aware of this to avoid any surprises! You can usually plan to avoid these sections.

Gravel cyclist in Switzerland

Loads of gravel cycling opportunities in Switzerland

National cycle routes in Switzerland

Easier valley cycling also available!


Gravel cycling in Switzerland


Gravel biking is hugely popular at the moment and for very good reason.

If you are feeling adventurous and you would like to try some gravel rides on quiet gravel roads to incredible remote places, we offer a number of different packages based from Valais, Switzerland. 

From point to point tours to staying in one location and experiencing local gravel routes make for more of a relaxing experience. 


Practical information on cycling Switzerland

What are the best town(s) for single centre bases Switzerland cycling holidays?

The “best” depends on what kind of experience you would like and if you are travelling with family. 

The towns and villages of Valais have been influenced by the Romans with old Castles and ruins such as Martigny or Sion, the capital of the region of Valais. They are convenient to get to from Geneva Airport by road or by car with cycling routes in every direction. 

The ski resorts of Verbier or Crans-Montana offer plenty of activities for non-cyclists and are fun destinations to stay.


Why do you love Switzerland?

Switzerland offers so much variety for activities during the year, and being an outdoor person, it suits me! 

From skiing in the winter to hiking and biking in the summer. It was the winter sports that originally brought me to Switzerland but the summers that made me stay. The seasons are so pronounced it is an amazing place to call home.


What should we eat while in Switzerland?

The local regions each have their own food speciality and, as you can imagine, cheese and chocolate are high up on the list. Whether that is cheese fondue or raclette, you have definitely earned it after riding here!


How do you get to Switzerland?

Geneva or Zurich are the best airports. From here it is easy to hire a car or use the incredible bicycle friendly train network.


A big thank you to Anthony for sharing these insights on the best cycling routes in Switzerland. If you're looking for some support with a trip, be sure to get in touch with him!


More about Kudos Cycling

Established in 2014, Kudos Cycling are experts on cycling holidays in Switzerland. They're based in Switzerland and don't run trips anywhere else. Check out their website: kudoscycling.com.

Drop Anthony an email at anthony@kudoscycling.com or give him a ring on +41 791 350 321.

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Meet Anthony

“Hello,

Anthony here! I’m the founder of Kudos Cycling and back in 2014 I followed my passion and started what is now the premier cycling holiday operator here in Switzerland.

Kudos Cycling was created to share the finest cycling experiences Switzerland has to offer - all in the place that I call home. 

Anthony Walker of Kudos Cycling, Switzerland

Our goal is to provide your dream cycling experience. Combining ultimate adventures and professional service to cyclists from around the globe, we cater to everyone’s individual abilities, ranging from pure cycling holidays to those wanting to conquer their ultimate personal challenges. This is why we deliver the best holidays in the Swiss Alps.

My team and I can’t wait for you to join us and we hope to see you on the road soon!”


What are your favourite cycling routes in Switzerland?

Are they on our list above? Have you got some more tips to share?

Comment below and let us know!


Looking for more information on cycling in the Alps?

You might find our tips for cycling in the Alps handy, together with our packing list.


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