My “Essential Alps” tour is geared towards those riders looking for a shorter tour that includes the best of the “Must Ride” routes and passes. This tour includes the routes, passes and places that I would personally ride if I only had 8 days and wanted to maximize my time with the best variety of great riding. Most Alpine motorcycle experts, including John Hermann (“King of the Alps”) consider the Andermatt region in Switzerland and the Dolomites of Italy to be the “must ride” roads of the Alps. We ride over three of the highest passes in the Alps including the famous switchback laden Passo di Stelvio, the wild and beautiful Passo di Gavia and the Umbrail pass. This tour really is all about the riding.
This tour also does a great job at double duty – you have the option to link this tour to the French Loop Tour as part of the TOP 10+ Highest Passes Tour.
|DATES 2023:||September 1 – 8|
|DATES 2024:||September 6 – 13|
|TOUR LINK OPTIONS:||French Loop after – when combined = TOP 10+ Tour|
|DURATION:||8 Riding Days|
|DISTANCE:||200 kms – 350 kms per day (120 miles – 210 miles) – Asphalt roads|
|DIFFICULTY:||4 out 5|
|COUNTRIES VISITED:||Switzerland, Austria, and Italy|
|LAYOVER DAYS:||1 – Corvara, 1 Pontresina = 2 Total (Can ride every day or rest)|
|ACCOMODATIONS:||2 to 4 star hotels – family run Alpine style|
|MINIMUM # OF RIDERS:||5|
ESSENTIAL ALPS TOUR
- Day 1 – St Gallenkirch (A)
- Day 2 – Bruck an der Grossglocknerstrasse (A)
- Day 3 – Corvara (I)
- Day 4 – Corvara (I)
- Day 5 – Pontresina (S)
- Day 6 – Pontresina (S)
- Day 7 – Andermatt (S)
- Day 8 – Thun (S)
- Special Places – The Grimsel Pass – one of the most photographed vistas in the Alps looking towards the Furka Pass
- The Grossglockner High Alpine Road – home to Austria’s highest pass and a motorcyclist’s playground
- Lunch at a high Dolomite Mountain Hut (via 5 minute cable car ride) with unforgetable panoramic views of the Dolomites
- A snack on top of one of the highest cable cars in Switzerland with panoramic views of St Moritz and surrounding area
- Major Passes – (#10), (#9), (#8), (#7) and the incomparable Passo Stelvio (#3) + more
- Smaller Passes – Pragel, Glaubenbulen and more
- More than 35 passes in total
NOTE – Essential Alps/Awesome Austria Routing
Astute readers of this page will notice that some of the passes and route description are similar to the Awesome Alps tour. That is because both tours are designed to make sure we hit 5 of the TOP 10 passes not in France in case Tour Members are looking to combine this tour, or the Awesome Austria tour, with the French Loop in order to complete the TOP 10+ tour. Any duplicate passes are ridden in the opposite directions, which all Alps riders know provides a very different feeling going over a pass one way vs the other. The majority of the riding and passes per tour are definitely different by design so that Tour Members who do both the Essential Alps and Awesome Austria tours get to enjoy a very different ride, visual feast and cultural experinece.
MOTO-CHARLIE reserves the right to alter the exact route at his discretion.
The cost for this tour at the current exchange rates will be:
- Single rider in a single room
- $4,040 – ESSENTIAL ALPS
- Passenger sharing a double room
- $2,440 – ESSENTIAL ALPS
- Couple riding two-up sharing a double room
- $6,480 – ESSENTIAL ALPS
These cost numbers should cover your direct tour costs including motorcycle rental, all hotels, all meals, gas and my fee.
This tour focuses on two main areas with some spectacular riding in between. The first area focuses on central and eastern Switzerland, including the Andermatt area (6 great passes), the high classic passes north of St. Moritz and the lesser traveled passes near our tour base in Thun. In between Andermatt and the Dolomites we ride the quintessential standards like Stelvio, Gavia and the Timmelsjoch, all in the top ten highest alpine passes. We then head east for three days in the Dolomites (my favorite area by a whisker) with their unique look, great twisty roads and multitude of passes. The Dolomites are biker favorites because of their density of high, twisty passes, variety of pass types and that unique combination of German and Italian culture. It is a very special place.
Most people like to arrive at least one day ahead of time to help with jet lag, see the local sights or get acclimated to their motorcycle, the roads and Euro riding in general via the free 1/2 day ORIENTATION DAY offered to all Tour Members. I’ll be more than glad to help you plan whatever activity might be of interest to you.
- Day 1 – Today is a blend of smaller one-lane passes and back-country roads complimented by high, sweeping passes like the Susten and Klausen. We have a wonderful lakeside lunch before continuing our journey along the high Filzbach road with it’s own a great lake view and then on into Austria to ride the Furkajoch before reaching our welcoming hotel in Sankt Gallenkirsch.
- Day 2 – Every day provides options and today’s no different. We can either continue along the road from Sankt Gallenkirsch to the Silvretta Strasses (high alps road) and the popular Bielerhohe pass at the top. Or, we can take several smaller but equally beautiful and enjoyable Austrian passes as we head towards Imst. From here we continue west over the Kuthai high Alpine road at over 2,000 meters while riding past the highest ski resort in Austria. We continue west playing up and down smaller passes and high valley roads until we reach our hotel in Bruck an der Grossglocknerstrasse.
- Day 3 – Today it’s all about riding the Grossglockner High Alpine Road. This absolute gem of a road is one of the most famous in the Alps and is one of the top three tourist attractions in Austria. It runs for almost 30 miles up and over the highest pass in Austria, the Hochtor Pass (#8) at 2,504 meters (8,215 feet). There is a side road that goes to a famous glacier that is melting rapidly, a small short side road that goes even higher than the Hochtor with panoromic views of the Austrian Alps and lots of switchbacks and viewing areas. After we exit on the southern end of the road we cross into Italy and head for the Dolomites. Along the way we will cross over several passes and stop to enjoy the special roadside view of Lago di Misurina, a small beautiful emerald colored lake set against a spectacular Dolomite massif. Then it’s on to our hotel in Corvara – one of my very favorite towns to stay in.
- Day 4 – There are more passes in this area than we will be able to ride. So, we mix it up. Today we ride my favorites including the classic dolomite passes which look like a figure 8 on the map. We’ll also do Passo di Giau, one of my all time favorites and view the gorge at Sottoguda. If the weather is good we can enjoy a mountain hut lunch via cable car at more than 2,700 meters with spectacular 360 degree views of the Dolomites. I never, ever get tired of these mountains.
- Day 5 – Our route toady includes a dash back up into Austria up and over the Timmelsjoch Pass (#9). The Italian side is a wild and spectacular ride up to 2,509 meters (8,232 feet). The Austrian side has smooth pavement and switchbacks near the top and then works off the rest of its altitude heading north along a long fun valley road. We head south east, bypassing the city of Landeck and then over the Reschen Pass and just beyond is the famous lake with a church steeple sticking out (see the photo at the top of my “Cost” section). Two more high Swiss passes and we at our hotel in Pontresina.
- Day 6 – Our mission today is simple – hit the 3 remaining (out of 5) top 10 passes on this tour route. Fortunately for us they are all within striking distance of each other. First we go over 3 passes from Livigno to Bormio and then the “real” fun starts. From here we will ride one of my favorite passes – Gavia Pass (#7). I love its wildness. Of course we will ride the legend that is Passo Stelvio (#3) with it unmatched views of switchbacks upon switchbacks (approx 50 to a side) not to mention the carnival like atmosphere at the top. We will also stop by the Umbrail (#10). It’s a beautiful pass in its own right but something of a forgotten stepchild to the Stelvio, which is within sight of the Umbrail and ONLY 256 taller. We continue into Italy for a quick ride before heading back up into Switzerland over the Bernina Pass – no slouch either at #19 and back into Pontresina for the night.
- Day 7 – Pontresina is a short ride away from St. Moritz. Again we are faced with choices and choices. Do we ride the Abula and Julier, two very different and yet classic Swiss passes? The Abula is reasonably brisk up one side, lunar landscape type riding across the top and then narrower and a little bumpier of the other side with wonderful views the whole way. The Julier is another pristine Swiss pass with wide open road, good pavement and lots of high speed sweepers. It’s a fun road. From there it’s on to the Maljapass, unique because the pass starts at it’s highest point at over 1,800 meters and goes down from there. Next up is the Splugen Pass, another one of those wild and wholly Italian passes. The northwest side is famous for its section of perfectly layered switchbacks – looks like ribbon candy. There’s two more wonderful passes including the Gottard, which leads us into Andermatt for a quintessential Swiss village experience.
- Day 8 – It’s our final run back to Thun. However, we’re in no rush, so stay and play in Switzerland’s premier motorcycle playground. You want fast and smooth, there’s the incomparable Grimsel. Want wild and untamed, plus the unique landscape that the Furka provides, we’ll ride this one for sure. There is also the Nufennen (#11), Germanic Swiss on one side, very Italian on the other. There is LOTS of great riding here, some of the very best in the Alps. We then head back to Thun surrounded by great Swiss mountain scenery. We go back to the hotel, unload our gear and head to the rental shop to turn in our bikes. We wrap up a great tour with a group dinner at a lively old-town riveside restaurant and say our farewells, until the next tour 🙂 to our new found friends.
- Next Day – Many possibilities – Rest day before next tour, continue on with other Euro travel plans, fly home
- If you would like to come sooner, or stay longer, hotel and motorcycle arrangements can readily be made to suit your schedule.
- When to book your reservation obviously depends on your schedule. As a rule I suggest at least 3 months in advance to ensure that you get the motorcycle that you want and to secure a place on the tour. There is a limit of 7 motorcycles or 10 people, whichever comes first, per tour.
- The final cut-off date is technically 30 days before the tour starts. If someone contacts me to sign up with less than 30 days to go every effort will be made to accommodate you. The issue will usually be the motorcycle availability.
5 riders or 7 Tour Members
Please “Contact Me” by telephone or e-mail to book your spot on this tour. I am not a paperwork intensive person. So, the process of making a reservation and getting what I need for my records is pretty simple.
Feel free to contact me to ask any questions about my tours in particular, or the Alps in general. If I can be of help in any way I’ll be glad to do so.
Final Thought – “Essential Alps” – The tour to pick if time is short and you want to enjoy the two best ridng areas in the Alps. I’ve put together my personal favorites on this tour. We ride the motorcycling paradise that is the Andermatt region, enjoy the most famous highs of Passo Stelvio and Gavia and partake in the beauty and unmatched riding of the Dolomites. All of this comes with a variety of additional passes, big and small, designed to show you why an Essential Alps ride is on every motorcyclist’s must-do list.