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Simplon Pass: One of the Most Scenic Drives in Switzerland

Simplon PassOne of our favorite ways to explore Europe is on road trips. We come across so many places we never would have had we hopped on a plane or even taken the train from point A to B. Simplon Pass, which connects Valais in Switzerland with the Divedro Valley and Domodossola in Northern Italy, is one of those places.

Jdombs-Travels-Simplon-Pass-3As we approached Simplon Pass, the cloudy, overcast skies from the last few days in Zermatt just seemed to melt away. The Bernese Alps stretched glistening white up toward brilliant blue sky. It was such a stunning panorama, we couldn’t not stop to take in these views.

Simplon PassAside from the beautiful views, Simplon Pass has a long history. It was even used during the Stone Age. The pass was used as a route for smugglers and mercenaries up until the 17th century because Roman architects considered the narrow Gondo Gorge to be impassible.

The Brig merchant prince Kaspar Jodok von Stockalper began using Simplon Pass around the mid 17th century to bring salt from the Mediterranean on mules backs and the trade made him very rich. It wasn’t until Napoleon wanted to bring his cannons through the pass though, that a road suitable for vehicles was built. Ironically, Napoleon’s power crumbled before his armies could ever actually use the pass. The railway followed just over 100 hundred years later in 1906.

Simplon PassWe stopped on the summit of the pass, where at 2005 meters high, the Hospiz of the Bernardine monks sits nestled amongst the snowy peaks. An eight-meter-high stone eagle, built by Erwin Friedrich Baumannover as a symbol of the mountain brigade, stands watch over the pass reminds visitors of World War II.

Simplon Pass

Would you like to live here?

Simplon Pass

A close up of the cabin in the snow

Tim jokingly asked if I thought we could snowshoe across (and we did have our snowshoes in the boot of the car). Maybe not, but the Stockalper Trail (Stockalperweg) might be a possibility in summer. It’s a 35-kilometer long, fully preserved Simplon mule-trail from the 17th century that is a culturally important, historic hiking route from Brig over the Simplon Pass to Gondo and is typically hiked in 2 – 3 days.

If you’re not into hiking, the route still makes the list of the most scenic drives in Switzerland and is indeed a beautiful spot to stop for a bit.

St. Gotthard Pass

On the car train at St. Gotthard Pass

Know Before You Go

  • Despite the best efforts of the Swiss Department of Highways, Simplon Pass is often impassible between December and May; when the pass is closed, vehicles are carried through the 19.8 kilometer long Simplon Tunnel on the Brig–Iselle di Trasquere car train.
  • The Brig–Iselle di Trasquere car trains accepts Euro, Swiss Francs, or chip-and-pin credit/debit cards. Fare is 22 CHF for a single ticket. Check the timetable for Brig–Iselle di Trasquere.
  • Restaurants can be found in the nearby village of Simplon-Dorf.

Jennifer Dombrowski

Jennifer Dombrowski is a location independent globe trotter and bases herself in Prata di Pordenone, Italy. She works as a social media and innovation strategist in higher education and is a regular contributor on johnnyjet.com. Her website, jdombstravels.com, is the 2012 Destinology Travel Bloggy Best Newcomer award winner. Google+

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12 comments

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  1. Andrea

    Gorgeous! That bridge traffic doesn’t look fun though

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    Definitely a gorgeous drive, Andrea. The photo was on the car train at one of the passes that the road was not open. Our first time ever on a car train and it was kind of fun!

    [Reply]

  2. Cathy Sweeney

    Yes, I’d like to live in that cabin — for a little while anyway. What a beautiful drive and sights along the way. Glad you shared this one with us.

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    Snow shoes are a requirement for living in that cabin in winter! It is a truly stunning location though and I hope we can make it back to hike in the summer.

    [Reply]

  3. Ali

    Gorgeous! And no I could not handle living in that cabin in the middle of nowhere! Maybe a weekend stay or something.

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    I think that cabin would definitely be romantic for a weekend. I’m not sure I could handle being snowed in for a long time in the winter either. I’d get cabin fever!

    [Reply]

  4. Leigh

    What an amazing day you had for your drive – simply gorgeous. What a lot of snow to shovel though.

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    It was a gorgeous day, at least at the pass. It’s too bad we didn’t have such nice weather in Zermatt. Ah well, just reason to go back and hopefully see the Matterhorn !

    [Reply]

  5. Harry Cadle

    I’d add the Furka Pass, Klausen Pass and the Susten Pass together with the Stelvio Pass in Italy as well worth a visit.

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    Great suggestions! We drove in the direction of the Furka Pass on the way to Zermatt and it looked like a beautiful area.

    [Reply]

  6. Bob Whelan

    Will see for myself next Sept. (2013) when returning to Ireland….
    Meanwhile….buon Viaggio. Bob Whelan

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    It should be quite green when you make the drive. Enjoy!

    [Reply]

  7. Kirsten @ Green Global Travel

    This looks like such an amazing trip. What a view! great pictures.

    [Reply]

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