Stelvio Pass (Passo dello Stelvio, Stilfser Joch) in Italy is one of the most famous driving roads in Europe, and the world. It is the highest paved road in the Eastern Alps with an elevation of 2,757m above sea level, and the second highest in the Alps. It is a road that many added to their bucket list after watching a Top Gear episode where they searched for a driving heaven, and Jeremy Clarkson praised Davos to Stelvio as “the greatest driving road in the world”.
Those who have driven it often want to return, and those who have not deserve to experience it. For that reason we have created the Swiss Alps & Stelvio driving tour, which takes you on a four day road trip from Switzerland to Italy in your choice of sports car or supercar, or the Italian Lakes & the Alps driving tour, where you depart from Milan and drive to the Italian Alps and lakes.
Stelvio Pass is one of the roads that we always enjoy returning to. No matter how many times you drive it, it will always look a little different. No matter how well you think you have memorized some of the 180-degree hairpin corners – and there are around 50 in total, it is always a thrilling drive.
Driving Stelvio Pass
The drive from north to south, with start in Prato allo Stelvio or Gomagoi, is the section which is first through forest landscapes and then the landscape open up. You will see the top of the pass in front of you, and can follow how many corners you have left before reaching the top by looking at the numbers in each corner. This section has several tight switchbacks and many prefer to drive this section of the road up.
However if you drive Stelvio Pass up from Valdidentro or Bormio you will instead experience several long straights, some tunnels, and also a lot of exciting hairpins. Ideally you would drive it up once from both sides, with a coffee or lunch break in one of the restaurants on top of the pass between, and then pick your favourite. That way you would experience best of both worlds.
Often we hear from people that they have driven Stelvio Pass and experienced a lot of traffic. The road can get very crowded in the summer, but luckily there are also several places where you can overtake. Especially if you are driving a fast car. If you wish to enjoy it alone your best chance is early morning or late evening. More than once we have raced up the road early morning (4-5 AM), watching rays of sunshine light up the tarmac in front, and finally parked the car on top of the mountain road to watch the sun rise behind the mountains. For a purist who wants a special experience on Stelvio Pass, this is what we recommend. A sunrise drive on Stelvio Pass.
If you are up for the challenge to wake up early and see something special, we would also be more than happy to create a custom tour so you can experience Stelvio Pass early morning, and almost have the road for yourself for a moment. 4 AM wakeup alarms are rarely on anyone’s wishlist, but in this case, it is worth it.
There are several hotels in the area. If you wish to stay right on the pass, 3* Berghotel Franzenshöhe is 21 hairpins (about 7 km) from the top of the pass on the north side. They have a beautiful location at 2188m, down in the valley and with a view up to Stelvio Pass, and also a nice restaurant. If you want to stay right on top of the pass we suggest Alpengasthof Tibet Hütte at 2800m, with only a few guest rooms. In our opinion it has the best view down on Stelvio Pass, and you can park your car right outside the guesthouse (it is also not a problem to drive up with a low supercar, their road is in good condition).
If you wish to have more luxurious accommodation we recommend our partner hotel 5* QC Terme Grand Hotel Bagni Nuovi in Bormio. More nice hotels can also be found in the nearby town Livigno, which is a duty-free area so you might also want to stop for some shopping – or to save a little money when it is time to refuel the car.
Nevertheless Stelvio Pass is a really fantastic drive also daytime. The road opens usually late May or early June and should stay open at least to October. If you drive it early or late in the season you might experience winter landscapes at higher altitudes, sometimes even walls of snow framing the road.
We have driven hundreds of beautiful driving roads in Europe, and Stelvio Pass still is one of our favourite roads. But is Stelvio Pass the best driving road in Europe? Well at least it is one of the most challenging drives!
Official site: www.stelvio.net/english