It seems almost impossible to take a road trip without stumbling upon yet another wonderfully scenic journey in Austria.... a country we've enjoyed visiting, especially our time in Vienna. However 'stumbling' might not quite describe it accurately... as the wonderful Gerlos Alpine Road website conjured up some exciting images that meant we simply couldn't miss a scenic drive through the raw, rugged natural beauty of the Austrian Alps.
Whilst it might not be Austria's most famous Alpine Pass', the Gerlos Alpine Road is worth every one of the 9 Euros it costs motorhomes. It's winding alpine pass through the High Tauern National Park reminded us at times of the wonderful scenery seen on the Rondane route through to our ranch style horse-riding adventures in Kvistli. Scenery that makes you 'jam' on the brakes for yet another 'must see/take' photo opportunity..
Built by the same architect as the Grossglockner High Alpine Road in 1962. Elegant sweeping turns seem to fit the terrain perfectly (maximum gradient of 9%) allowing panoramic views over snow capped peaks and alpine meadows full of early summer colour. .We picked up the route well before Krimml and Gerlos , as we'd heard the best part was from Mittersill to Zell am Ziller Well over 50km of fantastic driving experience then awaits you!
There's plenty to experience enroute (click here for more) and excellent parking opportunities too. At 1,630 m, the High Tauern can be seen to the south and the Kitzbühel Alps to the north. Families with children will love the playground with it's observation tower and an opportunity to let off steam in fresh mountain air! Or even just enjoy the panoramic view point below that offers spectacular views up/down the valley from your picnic lunch table. But if you visit one thing, spare some time to see Europe's largest waterfall (380m high) at Krimml.. you can even walk up the three cataracts towards the thunderous noise above you (see above picture)
Continuing across the Gerlos Alpine Road's, its wonderful sweeping bends create a great feeling of 'soaring' over the rugged beauty of the landscape which lays beneath you ... partially covered in places by snow or a carpet of the greenest of grass. We discussed with the girls just how bleak a landscape this must become in winter, yet there must also be a true natural beauty to this too. Whilst it's equally an impressive feat of engineering that wasn't lost on us either.
These glacial landscapes are simply outstanding places of nature's engineering on a scale that is almost unimaginable... Add in their wildlife and the panoramic views from the comfort of the motorhome's wide windows and you have a wonderful place to take a road trip. Also an easy way to also discuss today's geography 'Roadschooling Topic' (much like when we looked into coastal geography in the Algarve). As we've said before this type of 'immersive' opportunity to show the girls 'real world learning experiences' is the reason why we do this trip (see here for our article in Wales Online about Roadschooling)
If you've never visited Norway, this Alpine Pass reminded us a little of the sense of perspective you can experience at Geirangerfjord. A green carpeted valley stretching out to meet the newly tarmac road.... all overlooked by imperious snow capped peaks
Unlike the Grossglockner High Alpine Road, the Gerlos Alpine Road is also open to traffic in winter, allowing you to reach the extensive Zillertal Arena ski and winter sport region from Zell am Ziller or Mittersill. 139 km of slopes are connected with 51 mountain railways and lifts up to an altitude of 2,500m. Both girls loved seeing the wooden chalets and enormous ski hotels pass by us... all next to the most glacial green river that flows through Gerlos.
So what did we think after finishing the 69km of varying terrain on the Gerlos Alpine Road? Apparently a few years ago, Top Gear declared Italy and Switzerland's Stelvio Pass one of the best driving roads in Europe whilst others might vote for Napoleon's Route through the French Alps. For us, this was the perfect road to take the girl's grandparents across on their first Alpine Pass. Easy enough to enjoy yet hard in places.... If you like the sound of testing your driving skills then this more complete list might offer a few new ideas too (click here)
Would we repeat the opportunity? Absolutely 100%!
It proved a brilliant success as it took us straight into our next stay at Leading Camping's 'Camping Aufenfeld'... with hopefully the chance to revisit the Stubai Glacier again tomorrow!
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