HIGH ALPINE PASS IN AUSTRIA
The Grossglockner High Alpine Road, is the highest surfaced mountain pass in Austria nestled in the Hohe Tauern National Park between the picturesque city of Salzburg and the southern Austrian border to Italy. It wiggles around the pyramid-shaped Grossglockner mountain and reaches peak on very impressive 2,504 m (8,215 ft) - a road so spectacular that it even has an official website.
48 kilometres / 30 Miles
2,504 m (8,215 ft) above sea level
between Fusch & Putschall in Austria
Check out the Austrian Alps Driving Tour to enjoy effortless navigation with a pre-programmed GPS.
The road is 48 kilometres / 30 miles made of pure driving pleasure, has 36 turns and up to six meters road width in the best possible condition. The sheer size of the pass and the spectacular never ending panoramas are an absolute highlight of every trip to Austria. As you wind your way up the 30-mile long road, you find that with each bend, the views become more enticing. Stop at the multiple view-points to get the best shots of blossoming alpine meadows, fragrant mountain forests, massive cliffs and glaciers.
The main plateau on the top of the mountain is called: “Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe” and 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. Beside a spectacular mountain view, mother nature lets you observe marmots, some sort of large squirrel and with a bit of luck maybe even an ibex will be close.
There is a visitor centre with an observatory designed by the Austrian jewellery maker Swarovski - of course in the shape of a diamond. Park up here at the free underground car park to fully enjoy the views at Austria’s highest mountain.
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. Anyone 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.
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 into 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.
Usually the road opens in first days of 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.
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 sight that Austria has to offer. Together with Schoenbrunn Castle in Vienna it also belongs to the most visited sights in Austria. Yet traffic is moderate if you can avoid weekends and bank holidays.
For people motoring in the Alps for the first time; we highly recommend travelling the pass and the entire region as all roads are in very good condition and the difficulty level is moderate.