The St Gotthard, Oberalp and Furka are three of the most spectacular mountain passes in Europe. And the new Holiday Village Andermatt Reuss is the perfect base from which to explore them, discovers Emma Love
Anyone who has watched the car chase scene in the James Bond film Goldfinger will be familiar with the Furka Pass. As Sean Connery sped round the hairpin bends of one of Switzerland’s oldest passes in his Aston Martin DB5, surrounded by dramatic mountains on one side and the Rhône glacier on the other, it wasn’t just the slick driving that gripped viewers attention but the stunning Alpine landscape, too. One of Andermatt’s ‘big three’ passes – the other two are the St Gotthard Pass and the Oberalp Pass – the Furka is a must for any thrill-seeking adventurers looking to explore the Swiss Alps, whether in a classic car (albeit at a more leisurely pace than Bond) or on two wheels.
Follow LUX on Instagram: the.official.lux.magazine
Mike Cotty, who specialises in endurance cycling and is behind The Col Collective, an online resource for cyclists wanting to tackle the world’s greatest mountain passes, believes that these are some of the greatest peaks in Europe for mountain bikers. He recently set himself a 105km cycling challenge that featured a trio of three of the toughest climbs in Europe: Furka, Nufenen and St Gotthard (Furka alone has an average 7.3 per cent gradient and an altitude of 2436m). “The way the peaks are positioned in this area makes it an exciting prospect to link up two or three mountains in a loop like this,” says Cotty, who also hosts cycling tours around the world. “With three mountain passes above 2,000m elevation, the sheer amount of climbing is what makes this route a toughie and on a par with some of the premier mountain stages of the Tour de France.”
To this end, he advises any cyclists thinking of tackling the route to have some mountain experience. His highlight, he says, was summitting the Furka and seeing the valley ahead. “The road to the Grimsel Pass looks like it snakes off to heaven, which is pretty surreal, as are the cobblestones of the old Tremola Road at the end of the ride. How the road was built all those years ago, and the history that has gone before it, is hard to comprehend. It’s a very special place.” Unsurprisingly perhaps, the Furka Pass is included on the Ultimate Drives ‘Greatest Driving Roads’ app (it’s described as “a stunning pass, with an amazing combination of sweepers, tight switchbacks, dramatic views and a drag straight at the end”), which was launched last year by Mark Heather.
Heather is also behind Ultimate Drives, a Zurich-based company that rents sports cars and supercars, and provides personally tested driving tour itineraries. “The Furka is so dramatic because it’s a mountain road that is driven entirely above the tree line. For most people, they never get this high unless they are skiing, and then the valleys are covered in snow. These lunar like landscapes are something really special,” he says, adding that these are the roads that cars such as a Porsche 911 4S Cabriolet or Mercedes AMG Roadster were designed to be driven on: “Smooth tarmac and sweeping corners, combined with the most dramatic, jaw-dropping backgrounds of the peaks of the Alps. Add to this the soundtrack of a V8 engine reverberating off the valley walls, and the stunning performance and handling of these cars, and it’s really something you have to experience to believe.”
Someone else who has vast experience of these roads is Jan Baedeker, Editor-in-Chief of Classic Driver magazine and editor of several books on the subject, including Porsche Drive: 15 Passes in 4 Days. “The diversity of this region is just incredible. In just one day behind the wheel, or a couple of days on your bicycle, you can experience some of the world’s most exciting roads through breathtaking landscapes,” he says. He advises anyone thinking of driving here to start early to avoid the crowds. “The Gotthard Pass is one of the most dramatic and important historic alpine crossings and it’s still my favourite pass in Switzerland.”
A new luxury base for exploring the three big passes in the heart of Switzerland
When it is completed this winter, the latest addition to Andermatt’s Piazza Gottardo, Apartment House Alpenrose, will have 20 exclusive apartments. The exterior matches the architectural style of the Holiday Village Andermatt Reuss; inside the apartments range from those with one- to three-bedroom maisonettes (the largest are 146sq m, but for anyone wanting even more space, two flats can be converted into a single unit on request).
The joy of the design is that each one can be customised; buyers can choose from two looks (‘modern rustic’ and ‘modern light’) or opt for a bespoke build-out. Most of the apartments come with a corner picture window looking out onto the mountains while all the rooftop maisonettes have their own sauna. Other benefits include use of the fitness studio, spa and swimming pool in the nearby Radisson Blu hotel, and an excellent concierge service which can help with anything from travel plans to stocking the fridge and car hire, making Apartment House Alpenrose an ideal all-year holiday base. And non-Swiss nationals need not worry about the real estate purchasing laws. Andermatt Swiss Alps is exempt, so international buyers can purchase here without special permits (and sell with no minimum holding time).