ADV Motorcycle Tours by Region: Best Routes in the Alps
As a motorcyclist, you owe it to yourself to go for a ride in the Alps, which highlight some of Europe’s most appealing landscapes—especially for adventure riders.
Here you’ll find some of the most breathtaking scenery paired with some amazing roads, interspersed between several different countries—the perfect combination to satisfy your wanderlust.
Better still, depending on your route, you can find yourself mainly traveling alone or surrounded by others.
Here, we’ve gathered seven great routes to take through the Alps on your adventure motorcycle. Generally speaking, any skill level can travel these roads, but be aware there could be some technical switchbacks that may seem tricky for inexperienced riders. When in doubt, slow down. You can even stop (in a safe place) and enjoy the scenery if you need to.
The Route des Grandes Alpes, France
We start our adventure in France and the Route des Grandes Alpes, a popular destination for cyclists as it’s used for a stage of the Tour de France. Spanning 425 miles (684km), it’s recommended to travel from north to south, staring at Thonon-les-Bains and ending in Menton.
Doing so will take you from the mountains to the sea, crossing the French Alps. You’ll climb 16 passes, including the Col de l’Iseran. At 9,068 feet (2.764m) above sea level, it’s the highest pass in the Alps.
Be mindful of the weather, as the high elevations cause the road to be closed for part of the year. The summer months give you the best chance of accessing open roads, and they are usually accessible until October.
If you want to travel the length of the Route des Grandes Alpes, budget about three days (four if you want to soak in the sights and be a tourist), and keeping the Tour de France in mind, avoid this area both a week before and a week after the famous bicycle race.
Cime de la Bonette, France
Staying in France, we come to the Cime de la Bonette. The highest road in France at 9,206ft (2,806m) above sea level, the de al Bonette loop spans 210 miles and brings some steep climbs, rising 10% for every kilometer.
Factor in the thinner air, and it’ll be a workout for both you and your motorcycle. It’s no wonder why the Tour de France bicycle race has come through here. In fact, Cime de la Bonette is the highest point the Tour competitors have ever had to climb.
Fortunately for us, our motorcycles will be doing all the hard work, and in return we get to enjoy some of the most spectacular views in all of France (and even a little bit of Italy in the distance).
Valleys, gorges, sinuous roads, old brick buildings, and even the occasional wildlife crossing, as the natural inhabitants of the land are known to cross the road every once and a while. From beginning to end, La Bonette will leave you breathless. Both figuratively and literally.
Italy is filled with excellent riding roads and the Dolomites is near the top of that list. You’ve likely heard about it, but if you’ve never been you might be wondering what makes it so special.
First, there’s the landscape. Glorious, lush, green mountainsides or limestone rock are waiting to greet you at every turn. Nearly every inch of road has a history dating back centuries, and it’s not uncommon to find lingering remains from past wars.
Then there’s the road itself. Starting in the north, near the town of Corvara, you’ll land on a series of passes — Passo Campolongo, Passo Pordoi, Passo Sella, and Passo Gardena — that are sure to excite and thrill.
These four passes are enough to satisfy the ardent traveler. Still, the adventurous among you can venture on, further south, past Santa Lucia, meandering to Fiera di Primiera, before going back north past Paneveggio, the Giau Pass, and Cortina d’Ampezzo, where you can relax and reflect on the amazing riding.
In case you didn’t already guess, the Dolomites (as well as nearly all the routes on this list) can be split among several days. Or you can pick a day ride through any of these passes before moving on.
Furka Pass, Switzerland
For a taste of the Swiss Alps, there’s the Furka pass. Movie buffs might be familiar with the area even if they don’t know it by name—it’s the pass driven by James Bond in the movie Goldfinger.
For the rest of us, the Furka pass is a 19-mile (31km) stretch nearly 8,000 feet (2.431m) above sea level. Even if you haven’t seen the James Bond movie, the terrain is likely familiar as it’s often depicted on random “bucket list” places to ride.
There are twists and turns galore, with spectacular views of the mountainside everywhere you look.
The pass links the Ursern Valley with the municipality of Goms and is Switzerland's fourth highest mountain pass. If you’re looking for something to do off the bike while you’re there, you can hike to the Rhone Glacier and see its ice grotto.
The Furka pass is closed in the winter, but no matter when you go, be sure to check the weather and ensure there’s no snow at the top.
The St Bernards Loop: France, Italy, Switzerland
This one is a relatively short loop of “just” 200 miles but packed in those 200 miles are all the curvy roads your heart could desire, plus some amazing scenery everywhere you look. If you come at the right time, you might find yourself riding in between ice walls — a novelty in itself.
This loop starts and ends in Bourg St Maurice in France and takes you through two more countries (Italy and Switzerland) before returning to your starting point. Not only is the scenery wonderful, but the road is generally in excellent shape. Yes, this route can be popular among motorists, but roads and scenery this nice deserved to be shared.
If you’re paying close attention, you might notice a stretch from Bourg St Maurice to Flumet is also part of the Route des Grandes Alpes, but here you’re traveling it in reverse.
Stelvio Pass, Italy
Are you really a motorcyclist if you haven’t heard of the Stelvio Pass? Images of the Stelvio’s 48 hairpins, built inside the middle of a valley, are as iconic as they come. But the rest of the Pass offers some great riding, too.
Spanning 185 miles, the Stelvio is Italy’s highest pass and is not for the faint of hear — or the meager in talent. The road can be narrow sometimes, which isn’t much of a problem for motorcyclists, but it can also be busy.
As in, you’ll occasionally be sharing the road with four-wheeled vehicles or swarms of other riders and suddenly you’ll find the space tight.
Nonetheless, Stelvio is worth doing at least once, and if you don’t like it, other amazing passes await you either in Italy or onwards in Switzerland.
Grossglockner loop, Austria
The Grossglockner may not be as well known to North Americans, but Europeans (and especially Austrians) consider it a treasure.
You do have to pay a toll, and Austria has a 95dB sound restriction for motorized vehicles (keep your stock exhausts on), but in return you get 230 miles of pristine tarmac with exciting curves, incredible scenery, and delightful rest stops for a quick bite or a coffee.
The route itself looks a little like a lasso when looked at on a map. Starting in Zell am See in Austria, the route meanders south towards Italy before making a loop starting at Kötschach, veering southeast towards Nassfeld Pass, continuing west towards Tolmezzo, before heading back north again to Monte Croce Carnico and completing the loop at Kötschach. Then you backtrack north towards Zell am See where you started.
You really can’t go wrong when it comes to riding in the Alps. By its very nature, the Alps will give you a lifetime of memories no matter which route you take or country you enter from.
Whether you want to play tourist and travel popular roads or get away from the crowds and take paths less traveled, the Alps has it all. You can plan motorcycle day trips or spend multiple days traversing these motorcycle routes and several offshoots adjacent. The options are plenty.