South Tyrol, Italy: Stelvio Pass

Stelvio National Park is located in the north of Italy on the border with Switzerland. The well-known Stelvio Pass is also located in this park. This pass is mainly known in the Netherlands for the Giro d’Italia cycling tour. With an altitude of 2758 meters, the pass is also regularly closed to traffic. The Giro d’Italia also had to skip this pass a few times due to the weather. In the summer it is especially busy with cyclists and motorbikes. It is also a wonderful walking area.

Table of contents

  • History of the Stelvio Pass
  • The top
  • Walks
  • Routes


History of the Stelvio Pass

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Emperor Ferdinand I wanted to build a road from Val Venosta to Milan. This road had to run via the northwest of the Ortler Mountains. The Italian engineer Donegani had to make this possible. Construction of the pass actually started in 1822. Within three years the pass was completed from Prad to Bormio. Until 1915 the pass was open all year round. Snow plows had to ensure that the road was always passable for the carriages that had to cross it. Since 1918, the pass has been closed to all traffic during the winter months (late October to early May). During the First World War there was heavy fighting on and around the pass and after the war the entire pass fell into Italian hands. The pass was no longer the transit route from Vienna to Milan. After the Second World War, the Stelvio Pass slowly changed into what it is today.
Source: Gavia26210, Pixabay

The top

At the top it has become a real tourist attraction. There are hotels and souvenir shops everywhere. A short walk takes you to the Dreisprachenspitze on the north side of the pass. Three languages come together here.

  • Italian
  • German
  • Rhaeto-Romance

For many, the top is a point that they want to reach by bike, but in the summer there are also many motorcycles. From the town of Travoi it is also possible to climb the pass on foot. You can also ski on the Stelvio Glacier all year round.


The Stelvio Pass and especially the Stelvio National Park is home to many animals. Many projects have been started to recover many animals that are no longer common. Of course there are also non-threatened animals such as the alpine marmot and chamois. Animals released here are:

  • Lammergeier
  • Golden eagle
  • Bats
  • Red deer



There are several long walks available at the top. Three of them are described below.

Stilfserhohenweg zum Dreisprachenspitze

At the town of Travoi (at the bottom of the Stelvio Pass on the east side of the pass) you can take a cable car up to an altitude of 2155 meters. There begins the hike to the Dreisprachenspitze at the top of the Stelvio Pass (route twenty). Over a length of eight kilometers, a height of 710 meters is climbed. The total walk takes 195 minutes. Once you reach the pass, you can walk back via the same route or via route sixteen. This route takes you back to Travoi at the bottom of the cable car. If the walk is too far, you can always take the bus down at the pass. The route can of course also be walked the other way around.

Stilfserjoch to Rötelspitze

From the Dreisprachenspitze you can walk to the Rötelspitze. Partly this takes route twenty (the same route as to Travoi), after which there is an exit to the Rötelspitze. Over a length of almost five kilometers, 290 meters are climbed in a time of approximately 105 minutes. To return you will have to walk the same route again.

Stilfserjoch to Monte Scorluzzo

From the Stelvio Pass you can walk to Scarluzzo. This route is a dead end, so here too you will have to return the same route. A route of three kilometers covers a height of 280 meters in approximately 120 minutes. The route number to follow is number thirteen.
Source: Airboy123, Flickr (CC BY-2.0)


The Stelvio Pass has three options to reach the top. Two from Italy and one from Switzerland. The route through Switzerland is the least known route and is also more of a tourist route than the other two roads. This road takes you to the Umbrail Pass (2503 meters high). From the east you enter the pass via Prad am Stilfserjoch (Prato Allo Stelvio) and from the west via the town of Bormio.

Route Umbrail Pass

From the top of the Stelvio Pass you head towards Bormio. In one of the hairpin bends there is a turn to the right onto the Umbrail Pass. This road was built in 1901 as an access road between the Italian Vinschau (Val Venosta) and the Italian Valtellina. This area crosses Switzerland but was the fastest route from one valley to the other. The Umbrail Pass starts at the Stelvio Pass and ends in Santa Maria, Switzerland. Until Santa Maria, the road goes down via 34 hairpin bends.

Route Bormio

From the top to Bormio it is a ride of 26 kilometers. On this route you will encounter 39 hairpin bends. This road is especially long and is less steep than its counterpart to Prad. The height difference that is bridged is 1846 meters.

Route Prad am Stilfserjoch

From the top of the Stelvio Pass to Prad it is 22 kilometers. A height of 1540 is bridged via 48 hairpin bends. This side is also called the toughest side of the Stelvio Pass. It is certainly more difficult driving up from Prad than from Bormio or the Umbrail Pass. In the Giro d’Italia this side is mainly driven downwards.

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