Are you one of those people who always wanted to go up into the mountains and see the views, but didn't want to bother with all the pesky walking? There aren't many places in the world where just about anyone can get over 2500 meters above sea level, but thanks to a lot of effort from some hard-working Austrians, you can now do just that.
Cycling enthusiasts, keen drivers and motorbike fans, along with nature lovers are surely acquainted with the Grossglockner High Alpine Road. This wonder of engineering is nested in the mountains bordering on the regions of Carinthia and Salzburg, right under Austria's highest mountain, the 3798 meters high Grossglockner.
For thousands of years, people of all cultures have passed through these parts looking for natural resources and shorter trade routes. But mountains were always dangerous and injuries were common. In the early days, travellers turned to divinity to help them on their way, and then as technology progressed, efforts were made to make the trip easier. Then the advent of the motorcar triggered interest in building a proper road – work began in the early 1930s and in just a few short years, it opened in the summer of 1935. Easy access to the stunning mountain world quickly grabbed people's attention. A race was organized a day after the opening and in the years to come, the road became one of the top tourist destinations in Austria.
So it remains to this day. Almost a million people drive on this road each year and since the road is closed for much of the year due to weather conditions, you can expect a lot of traffic. Entry tickets cost 35€ per car, which will gain you free access to many museums and exhibitions on the history of the road and the surrounding area. The road is worth visiting for the nature views alone, but a lot of credit has to go to the tourist workers as well. The road itself, and the accompanying restaurants and resorts are very well maintained, which is surely not a small feat, given their location.
The only downside to the experience would have to be the crowds of people who regularly flock to the area. Of course, it is to be expected given its reputation. Many people surely seek driving pleasures when visiting, but your trip should be carefully planned if you wish to enjoy the open road. In high season, the road and adjacent parking lots can get quite crowded and in that case you are left to crawling along to the top in a slow-moving motorcade. You might have to execute a hill-start on occasion and as the hill can get quite steep, that can present a challenge to the less skilled drivers.
Crowds might annoy those seeking solitude, but everyone will surely be satisfied by the mountain views. A number of 3000+ meter high peaks are within reach, which will prove a real treat to those who have never gone this high before. Words can hardly describe the feel and beauty of the place, so be sure to check out the official web page for more pictures and background information on the road and the surrounding area. It can be taken as a standalone trip destination or as an alternative route on your way somewhere else. If you enjoy nature and outdoor activities, you should absolutely put the Grossglockner Alpine Road on your list.
Should you wish to spend more than one day in the road's vicinity, why not choose the Youth Hostel Heiligenblut as your overnight stay. It features typical local hospitality and modern amenities, which will surely meet all of your expectations.