The classic motorcycle touring destination – amazing mountain scenery criss-crossed by a network of fabulous roads. If god rides a bike, it’s probably somewhere in the Alps.

The thing is, “the Alps” is a bit of a crude label for a huge area: an arc of interlocked mountain ranges running from the Adriatic in the east to the Mediterranean in the west. Each section has its own subtly different character, reflecting not only the planet-building forces that created the peaks but also the cultures of the people that live there.

The Alps pass through Slovenia, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France, and brush up against the southern edge of Germany. You can have a very different experience, depending on where you go.

Where to stay

French Alps

The mountains with everything: high passes, deep gorges, scenic lakes, sleepy villages and mile after mile of astonishing roads. The French Alps are accessible – for UK riders, they’re two relaxed days’ ride from Calais (one-and-a-half days if it’s 50/50 motorway and good roads). There’s a full range of riding – from single-carriageway back roads to dramatic and challenging “balcony” roads cut into cliffs to broad, sweeping N-roads. For a town to use as a base, look at BriançonGuillestreBourg St Maurice or Castellane.

Swiss Alps

The high passes of the Swiss Alps are stunningly beautiful and the roads are immaculate. Slightly further than the French Alps, it’s a good idea to get the Swiss motorway vignette to get there quickly. Look at AndermattMeiringen or Davos as a base town.




The Dolomites

Are these the most beautiful mountains in Europe? Could be. This section of the Italian Alps sees dramatic grey-rock spires rising above verdant valleys, with a regular scattering of places to get outstanding coffee… Possibly the most civilised Alpine destination. So many good towns to use as bases: ArabbaCorvaraCanazeiCortina d’Ampezzo or Belluno are all worth considering.




Austrian Alps

Some of the best roads in the Austrian mountains have tolls on them – which is good. The money raised pays to keep them in immaculate condition and, better still, many are closed to lorries and caravans. Try LienzZell am SeeBad Ischl or Mariazell as a base.




Slovenian Alps

This most easterly corner of the Alps, by the Italian and Austrian borders, still feels slightly undiscovered – they’re beautiful and often quieter than other areas. Where to stay? Has to be the lakeside town of Bled.


When to go

The very highest passes usually don’t open until the first week of June and will be shut by the start of November. Lower passes should be rideable from early May… but the higher you go, there’s a chance you’ll be riding between snow walls.

The best time to go to the Alps is September: in June and July, there may be roadworks as any over-winter damage is repaired; most of Europe’s on holiday in August so it’s busy – plus it’s roasting hot; but by September, the roads are in peak condition, they’re quieter and the weather is usually perfect for touring. The weather is usually good until mid-October, though it’ll be getting chilly in the mornings and at altitude.

Must ride roads in the Alps

Here’s a selection of the absolute best motorcycle roads and routes in the Alps. If you’re planning a biking tour to the Alps, make sure you include at least one of these. 

Route Napoleon, French Alps

Retracing the dictators return from exile, this route between Cannes and Grenoble cuts through the French Alps

Route des Grandes Alpes, French Alps

Running from Lake Geneva to Menton on the Med, this multi-day ride takes in many of the best passes in the French Alps.

The Five Passes, Swiss Alps

The network of Grimsel, Susten, Furka, Neufenen and St Gotthard passes is as close to a perfect mountain ride as you’ll ever get.

The Sella Ronda, the Dolomites

Four great passes surrounding one of the most spectacular of the Dolomitic peaks – a short but brilliant ride sure to be the highlight of any trip.

The Grossglockner High Alpine Road, Austria

Perhaps the perfect mountain road: built specifically to be good for driving, scrupulously maintained and evolved as vehicles improved.