Col de l’Iseran – The Highest Pass in Europe


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Col de l’Iseran is one of my very favourite climbs. A perfect Bastille day, with three French friends, cycling up the more remote (and more interesting) South side.

It’s the highest road bike-able pass in Europe (yes, there are a couple of roads slightly higher, like the incredible Cime de la Bonette, but they are not passes).

Col de l'Iseran - highest pass in Europe (for road bikes) Quelle équipe Col de l'Iseran south side Col de l'Iseran south side

Not the famous Madeleine

It’s not the hardest climb (although it’s not easy) – the start over 30+ kilometres away in Lanslebourg is already at 1,400 metres.

Near the beginning is a short, steep stretch to Col de la Madeleine at 1,746 metres (this of course is not the famous Madeleine) . Then route is flat for several kms until Bonneval-sur-Arc, and then the fun begins.


After Bonneval, apart from the occasional ruin, there is nothing but mountains, rivers, cascades, and beautiful views – and the constant screeching of a Marmotte or two.

Col de l'Iseran south side

Photo by Philippe:

Col de l'Iseran south side

The hardest part of the climb is definitely the last two kilometres. Steep, high and beautiful.

Col de l'Iseran south side


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Happiest while cycling uphill.


  1. Richard Gadsden on

    Aren’t there higher passes along the Russian/Georgian border in the Caucasus? Pereval Tviber, for instance.

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    • Hi James,

      Sorry, but you are incorrect. Col de la Bonette is 2715 metres. Restefond is a little lower.

      CIME de la Bonette is 2802 metres but is NOT a pass, it is just an extra loop road built around a mountain to get higher than Iseran. But the highest paved pass in the Alps is Col de l’Iseran.



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