HIGH ALPINE ROAD | AUSTRIA 🇦🇹
The Grossglockner High Alpine Road ( german: Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse) is the highest surfaced mountain road in Austria 🇦🇹 nestled inside the Hohe Tauern National Park between the city of Salzburg and the Austrian border to Italy.
48 kilometres / 30 Miles with 36 bends
2,504 m (8,215 ft) above sea level
between Fusch & Putschall in Austria
inside the Hohe Tauern National Park
The road is the most famous attraction inside Hohe Tauern. By the way Europe's largest conservation area and home to more than 10,000 animal species and 1,800 plants. The 1,856 square kilometres of the Hohe Tauern National Park spans over 266 mountains surrounded by endless forests, 550 lakes, beautiful waterfalls, wild rivers and about 250 glaciers.
The mountain road was designed and built purely to boost tourism in Austria and until today serves no other purpose. The result is a spectacular alpine pass that wiggles around the pyramid-shaped Grossglockner mountain and fits seamlessly into the dramatic alpine landscape.
The sheer size and the enticing bends promise a fantastic experience all the way to the summit on a very impressive 2,504 m (8,215 ft) above sea level. Not surprising that the alpine pass ranks among the TOP3 attractions in Austria. Clearly a journey to the Austrian Alps is never complete without a drive over the stunning Grossglockner Pass.
Amidst Austria’s good 60 percent alpine terrain you will travel the highest mountains and most dramatic alpine scenery. Between countless view-points you will get the best shots of blossoming alpine meadows, fragrant mountain forests, massive cliffs and glaciers.
Each section of the road and every turn (with up to six meters road width) is in the best possible condition. Like most other roads in Austria it can be travelled safely with great confidence and in absolute comfort. In fact travellers motoring in the Alps for the first time should consider travelling the Grossglockner Pass and the surrounding region before any other alpine passes. Simply because the overall difficulty level is moderate since it was designed to welcome tourists.
The visitor centre's observatory was designed by the Austrian jewellery maker Swarovski. Of course in the shape of a sparkling diamond. Park up here at the free multi-storey car park to fully enjoy the views at Austria’s highest mountain.
The absolute highlight of the Grossglockner can be found on the main plateau on the top of the mountain and is called: “Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe” named after the emperor of Habsburg. From here you enjoy views over the longest glacier in the Eastern Alps — the "Pasterze" and a spectacular panorama into the Austrian Alpine landscapes with snow-capped mountains.
Beside viewing the spectacular mountain panorama, mother nature might even bless you with the chance to observe the most iconic wildlife animals in the region and a fair chance chance to observe marmots or even an ibex.
Along the drive numerous exhibitions about the historical construction and current operation of the road give visitors a fascinating insight about the natural environment of the Hohe Tauern mountains. Much more interesting that it might sound and in a way it makes the alpine experience on the Grossglockner complete.
A BIT OF HISTORY. It is assumed that a path over Austrias highest mountain was already in us over 3500 years ago. The road we know today is of course much younger and has always been a tourism project.
Back in 1924 when only very few wealthy people owned cars; the first plans were presented to built a road over the Grossglockner mountain. They earned only sarcasm at the time. Mostly because Austria had other problems, suffering the severe consequences from the loss of the First World War. And on top of that had shrunk by a seventh of its former pre-war imperial size.
Later in 1929 when the New York stock market crashed on Black Tuesday and was followed by the great depression; Austrias economy was struck again. The country needed projects to fight the sky rocketing unemployment.
The Austrian government reviewed the plans for the "Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse" and not only decided to go ahead with the original plans from 1924, but also extend the width of the road to six metres.
It was expected that tourism would pay off the road and generate a consistent income by toll charges. But not only that, it was also the idea to give high-end tourism in Austria overall a boost. Cars back then were a luxury only the rich could afford.
In 1930 on 30 August at 09:30 AM the first explosion shook the mountain and thanks to up to 4000 workers it was on August 3rd, 1935 (only five years later) when the road officially opened. The rich could now explore the high alpine scenery of Austria.
With the economical recovery of Austria and Germany after the Second World War; more and more cars were on the roads. And the high alpine road over the Grossglockner became a success story until today.
July 2015 marked the 80th birthday of the Grossglockner Alpine Road.
We recommend to drive the Grossglockner Pass from North to South and start either from Salzburg in Austria -or- Munich in Germany. From both destination driving the route will be a full day trip and you will need to overnight in the Austrian Tyrol.
We recommend to stay at the picturesque town of Lienz in the South — also famous for being the Austrian town with the most hours of sun per year. From here it is only a short hop into Italy and the Dolomites.
For those who need to loop back North — you can choose if you prefer driving the road again and experience this spectacular road driving into the opposite direction or if your route back via the Felbertauern Road — a scenic road of 73 km topped with a 5.3 kilometre long tunnel.
The Grossglockner Pass opens for traffic after the winter closure relatively early, sometimes as early as late April and almost certain by May. Most other alpine passes in Europe are usually closed until mid June. In early summer it is almost guaranteed the road will be framed by snow walls on each side. For many visitors the best time up there!
April/May until 15 June: 6am - 8pm
16 June until 15 September: 5am - 9.30pm
16 September until end of October: 6am - 7.30pm
Last admission: 45 minutes before night closure.
Please always be aware the weather in the Alps can change within short time. Even snow during warm summer temperatures is a possible scenario (even it is very unlikely). Therefore, we recommend think about taking some warm clothing on the trip and solid shoes to be bale exploring the many attractions along the Grossglockner Road.
Driving on Austrian highways requires a vignette - available at gas stations all over the country. This vignette however does not grand access to the Grossglockner High Alpine Road.
An admission fee of € 36,50 fee per car must be paid at the toll booth directly at the North or South entrance to the Grossglockner High Alpine Road. The fee can be paid in cash or with credit card.
To us an absolutely justified amount that helps keeping the traffic on the pass to a moderate level and the road in the best condition. Between the gates all attractions are free. When buying your ticket online before entering the Grossglockner Alpine Road you receive up to 10% discount in all souvenir shops on the pass.
The Grossglockner mountain pass is to us the most spectacular attraction the region and entire Austria has to offer. Together with Schoenbrunn Castle in Vienna it also belongs to the most visited sights in Austria. If you can avoid weekends and bank holidays because the road is also popular with the locals.