Last updated: 05:52 PM ET, Fri October 07 2016

Are You Up for Driving the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse?

Car Rental & Rail | Auto Europe | Kristina Rundquist | October 07, 2016

Are You Up for Driving the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse?

PHOTO: Yep, that’s a road in those mountains – Austria’s Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse. (Courtesy YouTube)

Thirty-six hairpin turns in a 30-mile stretch makes for some exciting driving no matter where you are, but add to that the stunning scenery of Austria’s Hohe Tauern National Park and it’s not surprising that the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse – High Alpine Road – is consistently ranked among the top drives in the world.

And renting a car from Auto Europe to make the drive is the best way to go.

The drive is prized not only for its dips and bends but for the seemingly endless views of the mountains that tower above.

The Grossglockner High Alpine Road may have opened as a paved driving road in 1935 but for more than 3,500 years prior, it served as the primary passage over the Alps. Celts, Romans, countrymen all traversed this trail long before people fastened their seatbelts and revved their engines to climb 2,504 meters (8,215 feet) from Fusch-Ferlkeiten in Salzburg up to the road’s end in Heiligenblut in Carinthia.

And whereas travelers of long ago scrambled over rocky outcroppings and prayed for safe passage, today’s travelers will encounter an Alpine wonderland with plenty of exhibitions, nature trails and mile markers pointing out items of interest.

READ MORE: Best Day Trips From Popular Cities In The U.K.

Of particular interest along the way is the Haus Alpine Nature Museum, which is dedicated to the mountain’s ecology and showcases the area’s flora and fauna. Drivers shouldn’t miss pulling off at the Edelweiss Spitze, which at 2,571 meters is the highest viewpoint on the drive and from whose vantage point one can see more than 30 peaks that are 3,000-meters or greater.

Other spots worthy of a visit include the Birds of Prey Information Point, where lucky visitors might catch a glimpse of the golden eagles and vultures that make the Alps their home, and Fuscher Lacke, where visitors can see how the laborers that built the road lived and worked. Bonus for families: the playground and Mankeiwirt Inn, whose owner looks after marmots, the large Alpine squirrels that inhabit the area. Interspersed along the way are nature and hiking trails that allow visitors to discover the region’s wildlife as well as plenty of playgrounds to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

The Geological Education Path not only lets visitors review what they’ve learned but this section of the road follows the path that Romans and Celts used for hundreds of years. The Hochter Pass Summit is home to bronze statues of Hercules and one of the longer hiking trails along the High Alpine Road, while the Kaiser Franz Josefs Hohe affords visitors the chance to view special art exhibitions and walk the Gamsgrubenweb panoramic paths (note that free ranger-guided tours are offered daily).

The road opens each year in late April/early May once the spring snow has been cleared and remains open for driving through the end of October or early November depending on the weather. It’s advised to get an early start to avoid throngs of tourists, and to purchase a ticket early at the online ticket shop so as to receive a 15-percent discount at all the shops along the way.

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