Once we arrived in Austria and visited Eisriesenwelt, the largest Ice cave in the world, it was time to explore the mountains some more. High on my list was the famous Grossglockner High Alpine Road – one of the prettiest mountain roads in the world. It is comprised of 36 curves and u-turns, which makes it a dream for any vehicle lover – bikers, car drivers and even bicycle riders!
We stayed overnight at Lienz – a village, located around 1 hour drive south of the entrance to Grossglockner High Alpine Road. We found some good accommodation options with moderate prices compared to Heiligenblut, which is directly at the entrance.
About the Grossglockner High Alpine Road
The scenic route is located in the heart of Hohe Tauern National Park. Total length is 48km, offering magnificent views of the highest mountain in Austria – Grossglockener. You will find many interesting sights along the way. Among others, “Haus Alpine Naturschau” (elev. 2,260 m) – a chance to explore the highly sensitive and extremely diverse alpine world of the Hohe Tauern range. Get all the way up to Hochtor (2,503 m) – highest point of the through-road, which is also known as the provincial border between Salzburg and Carinthia. Don’t miss the Visitor Center at the Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe (2,369 m) – On four floors, you will gain all kinds of intriguing insights into glaciers and ice.
Points of interest
Our first stop was a small waterfall by the road. After some hesitation we filled all our water bottles with this crystal clean Alpine mountain water. It tastes amazing!
Next on the list was Pasterze Glacier (more on that coming up). While climbing the steep hill we made a stop at a beautiful mountain lake (looks man made). Some locals (sheep) were curious about us too. Noteworthy, the temperaturs started to decline as we kept on ascending, reaching only +5C at times! No wonder all the snow on the slopes!
After visiting the Glacier we only really made just one stop at the highest point. It was extremely cloudy and cold (+3C). To let the car rest a bit, we went for a coffee in a cute cafe and strolled through their (expensive) gift shop.
Hiking to Pasterze Glacier
You will easily find the road that leads to the Glacier – it is the only roundabout on the whole route. Just follow the Kaiser Franz Josef Höhe sign. Keep driving until you reach large parking lot and park your car at the garage for free.
Now you have a choice to enjoy the view of the glacier, explore large visitor center, take the lift down to the glacier or hike one of the many paths. We decided to hike the upper trail and observe the glacier from above. It is a good option for travelers with limited amount of time.
The trail is easy to walk, with minor elevation and many beautiful views. The park has created a small exhibition along the way. You will pass through many tunnels and get a chance to spot alpine marmots (we did!) if you are lucky.
Next time I would definitely like to hike down to the glacier. I would plan a whole day for this amazing park – it is simply that beautiful!
Prices and info
No matter how many people you have int he car, the entrance ticket is 35.50€ per car. This is a day ticket, so you can spend the time in the park for as long as it is open. Check the Grossglockner High Alpine Road for opening hours and current situation. We went in early September and got in, but today (Sept. 20th) it is closed.
Entrance ticket includes a free map and a bumper sticker. Study the map to decide the points you’d like to visit as chances are you might not have enough time for everything (depending on where you are staying). To make the trip more comfortable, I wouldn’t stay further than Salzburg or Linz.
Tips for driving
If you have never driven in the mountains (like me), following tips may be useful:
- You won’t find any gas stations on the road, so make sure to fill up before you enter through the gates. Your car may consume more gas than usual.
- If you drive an automatic, make sure to understand how the L gear works (L = low gear). You need to use it for both ascending and descending the mountain.
- Use your brakes occasionally, not all the time. Even though you might get frightened at times, don’t press the brake continuously, as this will wear your brakes off very quickly. If there is no other way, make as many stops as possible to let the brakes cool down.
- As you climb higher, there will be more fog and clouds. Consider that when choosing the right speed, as the road is narrow and visibility is very bad at times.
- There are plenty of parking spots along the road, so don’t try to take photos while you drive.