Col de l’Iseran – both sides


Col de l’Iseran is the highest paved Col (mountain pass) in Europe – Cime de la Bonette is NOT a pass. 🙂 Last weekend this beautiful road was closed to motorized traffic on both sides. Iseran is on the Route des Grandes Alpes and a popular summer road for motorcycles, so banning them for several hours was just paradise for a cyclist:

For more Alps bike-only days see here.


The north side from Bourg St.-Maurice is the longest climb in France (47+ kms), but honestly it’s only interesting above Val d’Isére where the bike-only stretch started. Below has more traffic and a set of terriblly lit, dark, wet tunnels near Tignes. So I was happy to to skip the lower slopes.


Similarly, I climbed the south side from Bonneval-sur-arc which is where the road turns up – for details of a longer version of this side starting from Lanslebourg see here.

Bike-only days means cheerful cyclists. I started with the first pack and the roads where wet after some early morning rain – but the weather was perfect for the remainder of the day. Honestly, about as good a day of high-altitude cycling as possible.

Col de l'Iseran

Some more photos:

Col de l'Iseran

Col de l'Iseran

Col de l'IseranCol de l'Iseran



About Author

Happiest while cycling uphill.


  1. Hi Will,

    Thanks so much for all the info. Planning a trip at the moment to tackle some of the cols and your information and opinion is really helpful. Sounds like you’ve had a busy month or so!

    Just a quick correction for this article though. You mention climbing the north side from Bourg d’Oisans… I think you mean Bourg St Maurice? So many Bourgs, so little time!

  2. Pingback: Tour d’Enfer Day 3 – Col de l’Iseran and Col du Mont Cenis : Cycling Challenge

  3. Pingback: Array : Cycling Challenge

  4. Pingback: Cycle the Alps Traffic-Free: Here’s How (2013 Edition) : Cycling Challenge

  5. Pingback: Col de l’Iseran — Car-free Day : Cycling Challenge

  6. Hi Will, Great information on the site. A group of us are down in September to do the Marmotte route. I am coming down a day early and was wondering if I could manage the Iseran and the Madelaine in one day. We are staying in Maurienne and I was planning on getting the train to Modane and starting there. Garmin Connect suggests I can cut across to Moutiers via Tignes. On Google Earth the route looks stunning but wondered about the suitability for a road bike. Thanks for your help.

    • Hi Steve,

      Careful, there are only two paved roads that go over the Alps here, Madeleine and Iseran. There is NO short cut between Tignes and Moutiers. The Loop from Modane would be –> Lanslebourg –> Bonneval-sur-Arc, then climb south side of Iseran, descend north side past Val d’Isere (and past turn off to Tignes) all the way to Bourg St. Maurice. Ride through Aime on way to Moutiers. then up the valley to Feissons-Sur-Isere (base of Madeleine) then up Madeleine, then down into Maurienne valley at La Chambre. There is no other paved option.

  7. will

    quick question. we are going to be coming towards iseran in late june. we can either do iseran or make the turn and do cenis. Which do you prefer?



  8. Hi Will, love the blog!

    I’m staying in Tignes for a week in July (my son is doing a rugby camp so I’m can pedal all day!) but I really don’t know the area or how easy/difficult it is to get around. I will have my car so can drive to suitable start points. I’m keen to take on the iconic climbs in the area and wondered if you could suggest an itinerary of sorts?

    Would really aprreciate a bit of help 🙂



  9. Hi again Will,

    Just wanted to let you know that I had a great week in Tignes with my son and got stuck in to your suggestions for which I’m most grateful.

    On Day 1 I ran into L’Etape du Tour so ended up tagging along for a while and included Cote de Longefoy. The following days included Roseland, Petit Bernard, and Iseran (the day before TdeF) which were all challenging and spectacular, as well as some hiking.

    Thanks again and keep climbing!


Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!