Passo San Gottardo (St. Gotthard Pass) – both sides


How good is that? Leave the road bike at home as these hairpins below are 100% cobble-stone heaven.

If you like cobblestones then I have the road for you.

The St Gothard Pass (2108m, 6915 feet) is in central Switzerland and an important link between the German and Italian parts of the country.

There is an autoroute through a tunnel and another paved road over the pass to handle all the considerable motor traffic.

And for cyclists, the old/ancient cobblestone road has been perfectly preserved. This is truly cobblestone heaven.

The last 3 kms of the north side is cobbled, but it’s the south side that is truly amazing. Almost traffic-free, well maintained, hairpin paradise – and cobbled for most of the 14 kilometres and 1000 metres descent to Airolo.

I started in Andermatt – the north side is nice enough but nothing special. It’s worth avoiding on weekends in the summer as traffic can be pretty bad as many use it as an alternate to the weekly traffic jams of the Gotthard tunnel. Three kms from the pass cyclists can leave the main road and take the old cobble road. Nearing the top on the right is a large dam and Lago delle Piazza.

The north side can start much lower in Wassen or even lower in Amsteg – but these lower parts while at times spectacular can involve major traffic and include lots of tunnels – no fun in my view. I descended this stretch during the Alpen Brevet race.

At the pass make sure you stay on the cobbles and take the old road down to Airolo. This south side is truly special. The Swiss understand how to preserve their heritage and the cobbles are painstakingly maintained. The hairpins, views, waterfalls, etc. are just fantastic. Lots of cyclists and virtually no cars. As good as it gets.

At the bottom in Airolo, remember to speak Italian when buying refreshments.

For the best photos of the hairpins, you need to detour a little at the pass on the “new road” for a cliff look-out. Zoom the map below and you’ll see my wanderings.

At the top a short hike leads to a statue of Saint Gotthard:


Happiest while cycling uphill.


  1. Nice work! I started that ride on a weekend a few weeks ago in the hot sun and 1000’s of motorists and motorcyclists (not knowing about the cobbled bit) and abanoned the ride after a short while…. next time i’ll take your advice.

    I’m over at Bourg St Maurice after just leaving the swiss/german border a few weeks ago!!!!

  2. Will,
    The Tremola, with its cobblestones is amazing, isn’t it?! I did it with the road bike, as part of a two days / seven 2000+ meter pass tour earlier this month. At the top of Gotthard, you could have added two more passes, though: on the eastside of the road, directly starting at the pass, there is indeed a little paved road, that leads to the Sella Lake (and pass) and, if one goes towards the south 100m below the Lake altitude, one can cycle up to Scimfuss Pass. Good reasons to do it again in the future, isn’t it? Cheers,

  3. Hi Nicholas,

    Thanks for the great info.

    I saw the dam and thought long and hard about visiting, but was a little tired. But agreed, I’ll need to return next summer and include your ideas … many thanks

  4. Pingback: Speedlinking 28 February 2010 :: Treadly and Me

  5. Pingback: The Saint Gotthard Pass « Puglia2010

  6. Pingback: Bikerumor | All The Best Cycling News, Tech, Rumors and Reviews!

  7. The road is still for road bike. Is perfect. No problem. From Airolo are 12km at 7,5% with pmax at 10%.

  8. Just came back from riding it (just one way though from Andermatt to Airolo). I would recommend to at least do it from Goeschenen as otherwise it’s too short if you just do one side

    Did it on a road bike with 23*700 tires, no issue at all. On a thursday there was nobody around, so you could use the full width of the road to dive into the hairpins.

    Only thing to watch out, at some point the coubbles stop and there is good asphalt surface, so you think you can nail it, but the coubbles come again, a bit unpleasant at high speed.

  9. Pingback: Switzerland: Bellinzona to Zermatt « Another Header

  10. Pingback: Book Review: “Mountain High – Europe’s Greatest Cycle Climbs” : Cycling Challenge

  11. Did this pass on a long ride from Lake Como area and joked about the cobblestone road to friends who were starting closer to the climb. I thought we’d end up on the smooth road, but ended up on the cobblestone road. Beauty climb and a bit jarring on our road bikes, but keep a steady effort and find the smoothest line and it’s great. Stopped to take some great shots, with my friends in the pic on lower switchbacks. Cool at the top and some rain, so descended thru the rain to lower levels before heading toward the Furkapass and back to a farmstay. Beauty 3700m ascent day in 190km and over 8 hours on the bike.

    Love the website and valuable info! Keep it up!

  12. Pingback: Interlaken, Schweiz | Airbourne

  13. Neil Brennan on

    I am 61 years old and planning to do this in Sept ..pretty good cyclist but not that good on hills. Can get by. Training hard for the event. What should I expect. Go midweek, early/late. Road or hybrid or mtn bike.
    Food and rest locations etc.
    Maybe doing it with a groupmtomraise funds for our club

  14. Hi Neil,

    To climb the south side of Gotthard?

    You can use a road bike without problem going up. If descending, the (very good quality) cobbles are a bit of pain with road bike, but it is do-able.

    I happily used a hybrid.

    It is fairly quiet I think at any time as cars have tow other options. the very long, car-only tunnel, and a paved road that goes over the Pass beside the old cobbled road.

    One separate piece of advice: If driving to the start of south side from the north side, there are often massive traffic jams on Friday evening, Saturday morning to get through the tunnel.


    • No, the Tremola would not be open in March. I would guess it would open sometime in May. Weather tough to predict, but long descents can always be colder than expected – bring more than you thin you need.

  15. Richard Warwick on

    In August 1961 when I was 19, I crossed over the St Gotthard Pass from south to north, Airolo to Andermatt, with my second-hand 3 gear ‘Trent Tourist’ bike. It was too steep for me to ride up the 38 or so hairpins on the south side and so for about 13 km, I had to push the bike which was heavy with all my camping gear loaded on it. But it was great to freewheel down from the summit to Hospental, even though it was bitterly cold, before going on to Andermatt. Two days before, I had gone over the Simplon Pass, again having to push my bike for most of the 23 km. climb up – in those days, it was a dirt road. On the day after, I crossed the Susten Pass and again I had to push my bike for most of the 18km up to the summit, 4441 ft. above Wassen, but then there was a very welcome drop of 5428 ft. down to Innertkirchen. All hard work but I wouldn’t have missed those wonderful days for anything. The fees for the 17 different camp sites I stayed in totalled £1 16s 2d or £1.81. Richard Warwick.

  16. We just did the Gotthard Pass from north to south on 5-6 June, on our way from Amsterdam to the Italian Riviera. Climbed the pass at the end of a long day and stayed at the hotel at the pass, descended next morning. Unfortunately the Tremola was not open yet on either side, still under a few meters of snow in places, actively plowing. We ignored the closed sign, went a km+ down, then had to turn around and go back up. So we had to take the main highway (National Road 2). However, there was very little traffic (mid-week Tues-Wed), and the descent on the smooth asphalt was incredible. The main road has intermittent cobble sections further down, but man it was generally a high speed smooth thrill, even fully loaded, with spectacular scenery. I was on a road frame touring bike, 700C x 32.

    • Hi – I´m going on 20 th of may – and the road might not be open. As I understand both the national road no 2 and the Tremola is closed. When the map is indicating closed – is it only the Tremola?
      Otherwise I have to use plan B and go over Lucomango instead – but its not as spectacular.

  17. Neil Bebbington on

    Hi Guys,

    i am cycling from basel to como on may 6th- lets hope the road is open !

    do you advise a hybrid or road bike for this ?

    thanks in advance

  18. Does anyone know whether the Tremola is already open to cycling? I will be travelling next week to the region and plan to climb Tremola, Furka and Nufenen. However reading all the weather and season information, I am not sure anymore.

Leave A Reply

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

My Cycling Challenge