The Highest Road in Europe?




Col de la Bonette is the highest Tour de France Col (pass) as it is the highest paved road in France. The road signs claim to be the highest road in Europe, although there are certainly competing claims elsewhere. 24kms.  1,600 metres vertical.  The top is at 2,802 metres (well over 9,000 feet).

North Side (Black): 23.8 kms (14.8 miles); Ascent: 1,600 metres (5,250 feet)

South Side (Red): 25.8 kms (16.0 miles); Ascent: 1,700 metres (5,580 feet)

View Larger Map      View in Google Earth

Two Austrian paved roads seem to be slightly higher: Söldener Gletscherstraße at 2,803 metres and the nearby Ötztaler GletscherstraBe at 2,823 metres in a tunnel. Still Bonette is pretty impressive.

Click for Preview of the 2008 Tour de France stage featuring the South side of Col de la Bonette

This will only be the 4th time that Bonette appears in the tour de France. Bonette first appeared in the Tour in 1962 and 1964, both times The Eagle of Toledo, Frederico Bahamontès, was the first over the Col – The Eagle was a six time winner of the Best climber Award in the Tour. In 1993 Britain Robert Millar was first over the top.

There are two primary routes up Bonette.

  • From the north, the classic Route from Jausiers, which I have climbed, also passes through the Col de Restefond at 2,680 metres.
  • From the south, starts in St.-Etienne-de-Tinée, also passes through the Col de Raspaillon at 2,513 metres.
  • And a third lesser known southern route via Col de la Moutiére.

Blog Entry Summer 2006 – Along with Izoard this was my main trip objective.  A spectacular ride up to rarified heights.  Luckily I had Doreen as driver /photographer today So I didn’t need to carry too much … every ounce feels like too much and I swore to diet at least three times. The road "only" goes to just over 2,700 metres and thus would be lower than the Col d’Iseran (July 2005).  So they build a crazy loop around the mountain peak to reach 2,802 metres.  This last 100 metres up feels exactly that … straight up — steep!. I slipped off my bike passing some people and the bastard i was riding with took off, as I got on with half a kilometre to go, I sucked every last molecule of thin oxygen and passed him to finsih gasping (I won’t say how much older he was than me as it would wreck the drama). 
We also hiked up to an observation point at 2,860.  It’s a pretty ugly hunk of rock at the top but its higher than most of the surrounding neighbours so the views are great. 


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Happiest while cycling uphill.


  1. Amazing ride, Will, and a classic climb indeed. We throw in this comment with a measure of diffidence, for we are loathe to diminish your achievement in cycling to the top of La Bonnette. But, actually, hmmm… despite the signs on the highway (proclaiming the status of this road as the highest in Europe), this is NOT actually the highest. There are tarmac roads in the Alps which are higher, and if you are prepared to take gravel roads into account, then many which are much higher. For a full account of Europe’s highest roads, you may care to look at the March 2006 issue of hidden europe magazine (, where a long feature evaluated the claims of various roads that assert an altitude record.
    Susanne & Nicky
    editors / hidden europe magazine

  2. Pingback: Tour de France Preview - Col de la Bonnette - Highest Road in Europe : Cycling Challenge

  3. Dave Davenport on

    It may not actually be the highest but when me and the mrs did it (from the south) on loaded tourers last week it seemed blinking high enough!

  4. Pingback: The Highest Pass in Europe : Cycling Challenge

  5. Richard Gadsden on

    Isn’t Peveral Tviber over 3400m? Admittedly, there’s an argument that the Russian/Georgian border isn’t really in Europe, but the East Caucasus is much higher than the Alps.

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