If passes could talk: This series wants to remind us of the extraordinary beauty of many a local mountain road.

The true personality of the passes - who has ever thought about it during the uplifting curve swing? Especially on mountain passes, which are among the most famous in the Alpine region and Switzerland, you should be aware of the historic terrain on which you are currently dropping your motorcycle from one incline to the other - mountain passes that for generations have connected the Land of Fog with the Land of Sun. 

The Splügenpass is such a pass: the mountain road does not have to hide behind much better known names such as the Stilfser Joch, neither in terms of difficulty nor in terms of beauty. The spectacular 39 km long route connects the Swiss village of Splügen with the Italian town of Chiavenna. The border pass lies embedded between the Pizzo Tambo (3279 m) in the west and the Surettahorn (3027 m) in the east and, like the Stilfser Joch, is one of the great challenges for motorcyclists in the Alps. A pass with a long history, because a mule track was already laid out during the Roman Empire - a Roman road map from around 300 AD proves this - but the road has only existed since 1826. 

For centuries, the transport of goods over the Alpine passes of Splügen and San Bernardino has shaped life in the villages and their appearance: Splügen's old village centre is one such example, famous for the stone slab roofs of the proud palazzi and the typical Walser houses. The prosperity did not come by chance: for a long time the Splügenpass was the most frequently travelled alpine pass in Graubünden. Only towards the end of the 19th century did its importance decline rapidly. The stage to the village of Splügen - from Thusis southwards through the Viamala Gorge - was already considered particularly arduous. 300-metre-high rock faces form the valley incision of this frightening gorge, some of which are only a few metres wide. One gets a good impression by walking down the 321 stairs. The bridge from 1739, almost 70 metres above the Hinterrhein, looks even more impressive from this perspective. 

Cardinel Canyon: The wildest stretch of road 
The route of the Splügenpass runs almost exactly in a north-south direction and is, especially on the Italian section, an outstanding example of the boldness of the engineers who have pulled a route through an almost unconquerable rocky landscape, which still amazes you today with its open mouth. From Splügen (1457 m) the route takes five hairpin bends into the Häuserbach valley. Through a scenically open high alpine pasture, 14 tightly lined up hairpin bends finally lead to the pass summit at 2117 metres. From the Swiss customs office it then goes via Pianazzo, Campodolcino and San Giacomo in a thirty-kilometre-long curve into the valley - by the way, near Montespluga is the Italian border control. 
The pass itself and the high valley are rather a barren scree landscape. But if the descent to Lago di Montespluga with its impressive dam wall is behind us, the breathtaking Cardinello Gorge awaits us as the absolute highlight. The wildest part of the route literally had to be wrested from the rock and thus leads adventurously in crisp hairpin bends at the maximum steering angle and numerous helical tunnels down to the picturesque villages of the Valle San Giacomo, where it ends in the hamlet of Isola. Unlighted tunnels and galleries, dramatic landscape, the curves do not stop until Chiavenna.

Attention: In the galleries and tunnels, damp spots, poorly visible hairpin bends and potholes as well as split in the hairpin bends often surprise you and demand your full attention. Caution is also a top priority in oncoming traffic, because on this section, even for the bikes that meet each other, things get tight. Stops in this part are a must in any case: there is hardly a pass road in the Alps where the hairpin bends are so steeply one above the other. So take your time and also enjoy the view of the road. In the morning before the hustle and bustle, the ride over the Splügen is particularly beautiful. And when horse and rider have survived the rough pass, true Mediterranean flair awaits in the old town of Chiavenna.

From Grisons to Sondrio
Splügenpass - Many of our pass roads in the Alps are among the most sought-after and attractive motorcycle routes in the world. The Swiss north ramp of the Splügen measures nine kilometres, the Italian south ramp, which is very demanding from the lake, 30 kilometres. The Splügen is a pass for adventure-hungry adventurers and is less or not at all suitable for beginners and people with a fear of heights.
The notorious Cardinello Gorge: in 1643 an impassable mule track was laid out here, which was extended from 1716 and provided with backrests, retaining walls, stairs and galleries.

A source of the Rhine
Splügen - Together with the pretty villages of Hinterrhein, Nufenen, Medels and Sufers, the village forms the Rheinwald valley at the source of the Hinterrhein.

Crestawald - Fortress Museum. With the plant the splitting was blocked.

Hotel Bodenhaus - a house with history.

Splügen - The local history museum documents passport traffic and traffic history.

Team Adventure - snowmobile excursions in the Splügen area - great tip for the winter season.

Museo della via Spluga - History of the transit route.

Old town of Chiavenna - The Bottonera Museum is located in the craftsmen's quarter of the old town, which is well worth seeing. The mill from 1867 is a rare example of the miller's craft.


Text and pictures: Michael Kutschke