Autumn is that time of year when Switzerland puts on its finest show. When the cows descend from the high pastures, the forests and meadows appear painted in fifty shades of gold.
The stunning scenery and harvest traditions make Switzerland road trips even more exciting. Let us whisk you on a journey traversing the most scenic roads of Switzerland during the autumn season.
From the historic Tremola road to the curvy pass featured in a James Bond movie, we have collected the best autumn road trips in Switzerland crossing mountain passes.
Some of you are driving convertibles, fancy Teslas, or fast motorcycles. But others prefer public transportation. We get that, so we have included some pass roads that can also be enjoyed aboard a Swiss Post bus.
Here are the best autumn road trips in Switzerland: 🍂
Lavaux Wine Route from Lutry to Vevey
Part of the Grand Tour of Switzerland, the route from Lutry to Vevey is short but unforgettable. On a warm autumn day, the restaurants and quaint shops in Lutry beckon for a leisurely stroll. In the later part of the afternoon, once the sunlight turns golden, start your little road trip to Vevey.
From Lutry, you will wind your way through the vineyards to Chexbres, and then onwards to Vevey. The road itself is impressive, offering magnificent vistas of Lake Geneva and the mountains. Avoid the highway in favor of the local road, A9, that skirts along the lakeshore. It's even more enchanting to navigate the narrow, winding roads that cut through the vineyards, passing by Châtelard, Riex, and Epesses.
Nestled between the charming towns of Gletsch in Valais and Realp in Uri, the Furka Pass sits at an impressive altitude of 2429 meters. (It is one of the highest mountain passes in the region, and it is reachable by Swiss Post bus.)
But it's not just the sheer altitude that makes it special; it's the rough autumn scenery of this high alpine valley that truly steals the show.
In 1965, the Furka Pass starred in the James Bond film Goldfinger. Sean Connery's Bond raced across the pass in his silver Aston Martin, chasing the villain Goldfinger and his henchman Oddjob in their Rolls-Royce.
One of the highlights along the way is the majestic Rhône Glacier, the very source of the Rhône River. A visit to its ice grotto makes for a memorable experience, especially when the region shows off those golden hues of autumn.
As of late, the Furka Pass has picked up Instagram fame because of the quirky Hotel Belvédère. This charming hotel was featured by the Accidentally Wes Anderson account - as well as by thousands of other photographers. Why not add it to your own Instagram feed?
Connecting northern and southern Switzerland, the Gotthard Pass holds a significant historical value due to its use as a trade route since the Middle Ages.
At an altitude of 2106 meters, the Gotthard Pass is famous for its cobblestoned Tremola road. This winding road is a testament to Swiss engineering, offering a thrilling drive with panoramic landscapes, especially during autumn. This is when the high-alpine bushes and shrubs start to turn yellow and brown.
The Gotthard Pass connects the rugged terrain of Uri with the Mediterranean vibes of Ticino. The stunning Lake Lucendro dam nestled by the pass is also a treat for nature lovers. Its crystal-clear water contrasts beautifully with the glittering autumn foliage, providing a magical atmosphere suitable for a tranquil picnic.
The Grimsel Pass is not only scenic by nature, but it serves as a vital link between urban centers such as Bern, and the tranquil Upper Valais. When the leaves change color but before the first snowfall of the season, the Grimsel Pass makes for a memorable road trip.
You can either join the road in Gletsch in the upper Rhône Valley, or in Innertkirchen in the Aare Valley. Along the 40-kilometer tour, you will be tempted to stop for some bucket list-worthy highlights.
How about grabbing a front-row seat on the Gelmer funicular? This remarkable feat of engineering defies steep gradients and is often fast-forwarded on social media so it looks like a roller coaster. Are you brave enough to cross the Handeck hanging bridge? Or do you prefer hiking deep inside the Aare Gorge with its waterfalls?
The Maloja Pass is a scenic road connecting Italy with the Engadine valley in Switzerland. Given that this area is known for its larch forests, this is an especially beautiful drive during autumn. The Maloja Pass road winds its way from Chiavenna, Italy, up some 45 hairpin curves to the town of Maloja.
Along the way, you can stop at viewpoints and hiking trails to enjoy the scenery. At the very least, make a stop at Lake Silvaplana. There is a parking lot just outside the town of Maloja which will allow you to take in the immense beauty of this alpine lake.
San Bernardino Pass
As you make your way to the summit of the San Bernardino Pass at 2066 meters above the sea, you will enjoy lots of eye-candy: quaint villages, deep gorges, raging waterfalls, and towering mountains.
The best time for an autumn road trip in Switzerland is typically between late September and mid-October. This is true for the San Bernardino Pass where the changing leaves create a kaleidoscope of colors, from fiery reds and oranges to golden yellows. One of the highlights of the drive is Moesola Lake. On clear days with little wind, this small lake at the top of the pass reflects the surrounding peaks like a mirror.
The Simplon Pass road is a former smuggling trail dating back centuries. It links Italy with Switzerland's southern canton Valais. In Medieval times, crossing the pass was a dangerous endeavour as there were thiefs looking out for prey. At the time, several local families from Brig made a fortune by collecting taxes on precious commodities such as spices or salt.
We can highly recommend stopping for some sightseeing and a brief roundtrip hike once you make it to the top. Simply follow the yellow hiking sign for "Rundweg Simplon - Bergalpe."
On these alpine flatlands, there is also a giant statue of an eagle, the Simplon Eagle. This stone monument stands majestically at the top of a knoll and makes for a memorable photograph. The Simplon Pass can easily be reached by Swiss Post bus, too.
The Grand Tour of Switzerland during autumn 🇨🇭
What the Grand Tour of Switzerland is all about
The Grand Tour of Switzerland takes creds for being the ultimate road trip adventure. This tour seamlessly combines scenic drives and mountain pass roads. By stringing together all the regions of Switzerland, it is more than a road trip, though: it allows you to experience the vibrant cultural heritage during any season of the year.
- Length: 1643 kilometers
- Highlights: 22 lakes, 5 mountain passes, 13 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Suggested Itinerary: To fully enjoy the route, we recommend a minimum of 7 days. Even this may be a bit tight if you don't want to be in the car around the clock.
- Route: 650 prominent road signs that often point away from major highways.
Why autumn is the best time for the Grand Tour
Autumn may just be the single best time to embark on the Grand Tour of Switzerland. There are fewer tourists in the country, including on the roads, and temperatures are comfortable.
In the best-case scenario, you might catch a glimpse of Indian summer in Switzerland. It's a time when the autumn foliage turns golden yet days are still sunny and mild. In short: the perfect conditions for a road trip in Switzerland. If you are lucky to own a van, what better time to drive up to an idyllic lookout point and spend the day?
The autumn foliage along the Grand Tour provides a stunning array of colors against the blue lakes and snow-capped mountains. The Grand Tour during fall effortlessly merges these natural visuals with a myriad of cultural encounters. Think harvest festivals, alpine cow parades, cattle shows, or food festivals.
Tips for a successful Grand Tour of Switzerland road trip
When embarking on this grand journey during Swiss autumn, ensure you allow adequate time to absorb the beauty of the autumn foliage in Switzerland. As the Grand Tour covers a vast geographical area, you must plan ahead.
Why not combine more than one region as a way of hedging your luck? While the foliage may be perfect in one part of Switzerland, it may still be too early for autumn colors in another. Use the official TCS website to double-check whether mountain passes are still passable - no pun intended!
Either way, don't forget to pack your hiking gear and enjoy some of the finest autumn hiking trails. We particularly like hiking the Bernese Alps, the Engadine, or the Glarus Alps during this time of the year.
Ready to discover the colorful side on one of these autumn road trips in Switzerland? 🍁
Experiencing the kaleidoscope of colors that autumn brings is especially exciting from behind the wheel. Given the small scale of Switzerland, you can easily take off one autumn morning and return to your base that same evening.
As you are road-tripping from one region to another, you will unravel the true essence of autumn. From the crimson vineyards along Lake Geneva to the golden forests of the Engadine, the autumn hues set the stage for your Swiss road trip adventure. Each mountain pass, each panoramic road, or each picturesque region presents a unique picture of the Swiss autumn season.
About the significance of the Swiss Alps
Once a formidable obstacle, the Swiss Alps are now a gateway to Europe. Thanks to 120 well-developed alpine crossings and tunnels, Switzerland has become the most important transit hub on the continent.
Think about it: without these passages, Switzerland would be a different country altogether. Socially, culturally, economically, and militarily, the Alps have shaped the nation in profound ways.
The Swiss have a long history of overcoming challenges. In the 19th century, they built a railway tunnel through the Alps, connecting the north and south of Europe for the first time. Today, they continue to innovate, with projects like the Gotthard Base Tunnel, the longest rail tunnel in the world.