The Furka Pass, or Furkapass in German, is a high-altitude mountain pass located in the Swiss Alps. At an elevation of 2,430 meters, it connects the Rhone Valley with Andermatt and is the fourth-highest road pass in the Swiss Alps.
On the western side, the pass road passes within a few hundred meters of the Rhone glacier, the source of the river of the same name, and allows to discover it from a promontory.
On the western side, up to Gletsch, the Furka Pass route is the same as the Grimsel Pass route.
Where is Furkapass road located?
The Furka Pass rises between the Ural and Lepontine Alps in the heart of the Gotthard massif and marks the European watershed.
To the west, the young Rhone flows towards the Mediterranean, while on the other side, the water of the Furkareuss flows towards the North Sea.
Indeed, its magnificent curves attract many motorists, motorcyclists, and cyclists for beautiful and unforgettable rides.
You can locate the road on the map below:
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General info about the road:
The Furka Pass connects Andermatt in the canton of Uri to Gletsch in the canton of Valais. In fact, with an altitude of 2,431 meters (7,969 feet), the Furka Pass is one of the highest Alpine passes in Switzerland.
The pass marks the European watershed: to the west, the young Rhone flows into the Mediterranean, while on the other side, the water of the Furkareuss flows into the North Sea.
The view is over the Urseren valley, the Gotthard massif, and beyond the Valais Alps to the Matterhorn.
Before the opening of the rail link with vehicle loading through the Furka base tunnel in 1982, there was no year-round connection between the Urnerland and the Valais.
The name comes from the Latin furca, which was used to describe a two-pronged fork.
Today, several hundreds of people a year cross the pass, by bike or motorcycle, by car, by bus, or with the historic steam train.
When was Furka Pass opened?
Historically, the Furka Pass has never been of supra-regional importance, with the Oberalp Pass, it was a west-east inter-alpine link that facilitated Walser migrations and allowed various trade exchanges between the Valais, Uri, and Graubünden.
The pass was already used in Roman times. Later on, a mule track took place on the pass from the 13th century onwards, where more and more goods were transported, such as salt, wine, furs, and grain.
Also, at the beginning of the 19th century, the Rhone glacier was still descending to Gletsch.
Between 1864 and 1866, the road from Hospental to Oberwald, which is almost 40 kilometers long and at least 4.2 meters (13 feet) wide, was built. The Swiss federal government paid two-thirds of the costs for military reasons. A horse-drawn post office operated on the new road until the first postal bus crossed the pass in 1921.
In 1911, construction began on the Furka railroad, which was inaugurated in 1925 but could only be used for a few months in summer. In 1982, the Furka base tunnel, which offers winter safety, was put into operation.
How to get to Furkapass ?
The pass is situated on the road 19 that links Brig in the west to Coire in the east.
Furkapass connects the Urseren Valley (the upper valley of the Reuss River) in the canton of Uri with the district of Goms in the canton of Valais. In fact, it connects Oberwald in the Rhone Valley to Andermatt in the Reuss Valley.
The pass is the fourth-highest road pass in the Swiss Alps.
You can also situate the itinerary on this map:
Things do to near the road:
The Furka Pass area offers a variety of interesting sights to visit
The Hotel Belvedere is a hotel located on the road to the Furka Pass. It was built in a hairpin turn towards the Rhone glacier.
The Furka Pass road was opened in 1866 and the hotel opened in 1882. Converted in 1890 and 1903, it became, then, a very popular stopover, for its panorama. It also served as a departure point for expeditions.
In one century, the progress of the automobile made the crossing of the Alps a formality. And, the retreat of nearly one kilometer of the Rhone glacier made the panorama on the glacier much less spectacular.
As a result, the hotel closed for the first time in 1980 and reopened about ten years later. The hotel has been closed again since 2015.
The Furka Pass, known for its winding roads, made a lasting impression on the film industry in 1964 with its inclusion in the James Bond film “Goldfinger”.
The pass served as the backdrop for an iconic car chase scene featuring the iconic Aston Martin DB5 driven by Sean Connery as James Bond, and a Ford Mustang driven by Tania Mallet, who only appeared in this film.
The Rhone glacier (Rhonegletscher or Rottengletscher in German) is located at the northeastern end of the canton of Valais in Switzerland. It gives birth to the Rhone, upstream of Gletsch, which then flows into the valley of Conches.
The glacier extends over 8 kilometers (5 miles) and reaches a width of a little over 1,000 meters (3,280 feet). In fact, its surface area is 17 km2. Like most Alpine glaciers, it has retreated considerably since the middle of the 19th century. It is easily accessible via the Furka Pass road. A gallery dug in the ice allows visiting the interior of the glacier.
A video of the journey:
You can have an overview of the drive by watching this YouTube video:
Is the pass open?
This road is generally open from May to October. If the weather conditions are bad, we advise you to wait for the sun to come back: this road can be dangerous when it is wet or slippery.
It can also be obviously closed during spring or fall in case of snowfall. That’s why you always need to check if the road is open on the official website available in German, French, and Italian.
The road is also very busy during weekends and vacations. So it is better to avoid these days or come early in the morning.
The road leading to the pass on the Valais side, from Gletsch, is very wide with two lanes. The road leading to the pass on the Uri side. From Realp, is not very wide and sometimes obliges to stop to pass with two vehicles.
You will pass through beautiful and unique landscapes along the way, allowing you to admire the Galenstock summit, which stands at 3,583 meters (11,758 feet)! The road was built for military and strategic reasons in 1866. Today, it is a popular tourist route, with many people passing through this famous pass.
Picture credit: 1 – arianta on flickr.com / 2 – MGM/20th Century Fox / By Norbert Aepli, Switzerland, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=795414
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