The Furka Pass (in German Furkapass) is a mountain pass in the Swiss Alps at an altitude of 2430 meters (7969 feet). It connects the Rhone Valley to Andermatt. The pass 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 bellow:
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Information 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 243 meters (7969 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. Also, this is one of the snowiest regions in Switzerland.
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, more than 250,000 people a year cross the pass, by bike or motorcycle, by car, by bus, or with the historic steam train.
History of the road:
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 4,20 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:
You can visit some interesting things in the area:
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 and 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.
In 1964, the sharp bends on the Furka Pass road made film history thanks to the James Bond movie “Goldfinger”.
The pass was the scene for the pursuit between the Aston Martin DB5 of James Bond (Sean Connery) and the Ford Mustang driven by Tania Mallet whose only role as an actress was in Goldfinger.
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 1000 meters (3280 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.
All along the road, you will drive through beautiful and unique landscapes, which allow you to admire the Galenstock summit, located at 3583 meters (11758 feet)! The road was opened in 1866 for military and strategic reasons. Today it is a tourist route with more than 250,000 people per year crossing 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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