Western Austria

Highly accessible roads at high altitude, that will make you feel high on life...

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Highly accessible roads at high altitude, that will make you feel high on life...

Austria’s an odd-shape, almost like a tennis racquet: there’s a large eastern area then a long, thin western section sandwiched between Bavaria and Italy and Switzerland. But despite being physically smaller, this area to the west of the A10 motorway holds some of the finest riding in the country – it holds some of the highest peaks and most astonishing roads.

This is where you find so many of the famous roads – the Grossglockner, Timmelsjoch, Nockalmstraße. It’s where you’ll find Europe’s highest paved road – the access road to the Ötztal glacier – and other amazing dead-end roads climbing high into little-visited valleys. It’s also a highly accessible area, with great links for exploring on into Italy or Switzerland.

It’s also an astonishing place: so clean and tidy, everything perfect as if even the fields are manicured. Summers are usually red hot (but if there’s a storm, the rain can be crazy). It’s not one of Europe’s cheaper destinations, but it is one of the finest, with great hotels, good food and amazing riding.

Where to stay

Kötschach-Mauthen

Tidy little town in the very south of the country – ideal for roaming over the border into the Dolomites as well as exploring the Austrian mountains. Hotel tip: Gailtaler Hof (www.gailtalerhof.com)

Lofer

The little town of Lofer is on one of the Austrian stretches of the DAS, making it a perfect base for riding in Bavaria as well as the Austrian mountains. Our preferred base in the Tirol. Hotel tip: Landhaus Eva Marie (www.eva-marie.at)

Zams

The perfect base for riding the amazing glacier roads… And Timmelsjoch… And Stelvio… A mountain-addict’s dream location. Hotel tip: Hotel Jägerhof (www.jagerhof-zams.at)

What to see

Achensee

Not so many lakes in the Tirol but Achensee makes up for it: a lovely, quiet lake with crystal clear waters and nice places to stop for a restful break.

Beer

The Starkenberger brewery’s a bit different – it’s in a castle, for one thing. And you can have a bath in the beer if you book ahead… But we’d just go for the conventional brewery tour and a few bottles in the pannier. www.starkenberger.at

Castles

Hohenwerfen was 'Schloss Adler' in the film Where Eagles Dare (www.salzburg-burgen.at), Kufstein is reached by a funicular (www.festung.kufstein.at) and Landeck has a museum and gallery with a million-dollar view(www.schlosslandeck.at).

Crystals

Ever wondered about where crystals come from? Wonder no more: Swarovski’s Kristallenwelten (Crystal World) reveals all – it’s a huge subterranean exhibition, just outside Innsbruck. www.swarovski.com

Grossglockner

It’s the big attraction: not Austria’s highest mountain or the glacier but the road named after it. A stunning ride – but an expensive toll and busy at weekends. There are some hotels on the toll, to maximise your time on it, but you need to book early. www.grossglockner.at

High drama

Think you have a head for heights? Stroll over the Highline 179 footbridge. It’s only a whisker over 400m long… but 1.2m wide, more than 100m high and you can look through the metal-grid floor at the valley below. Beautiful… but bottle-testing. www.highline179.tirol

Highest road

At 2830m, Europe’s highest paved road is at the end of the access tunnel to the Tiefenbach glacier ski centre in Ötztal (though as there’s nowhere to stop at that point, the Austrians built a photo point in a nearby, slightly lower, parking area). It’s a truly great ride. www.soelden.com

Innsbruck

Much more than just a ski town with a floral clock, the city of Innsbruck’s stuffed with history, from the Goldenes Dachl (the gold-roofed palace) to the Ambras Castle and old-fashioned historic core. Don’t miss the Kaserjägermuseum and panorama point. www.innsbruck.info

Top Motorcycle museum

Two great reasons to visit this museum: first, it’s a motorcycle museum (duh); second, it’s on the Timmelsjoch, one of Europe’s great passes. Should be on everyone’s must-ride list. www.crosspoint.tirol

Silver

Another underground adventure – a tour of the Schwaz silver mine. It's about an hour-and-ahalf long, so more than possible to fit into a day on the bike. www.silberbergwerk.at

Must-ride road

Grossglockner Hochalpenstraße

So many amazing roads… but this IS the big one. Worth crossing Europe just to ride it.

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46 Grossglockner

A fantastic ride – over one of Europe’s greatest mountain roads. Allow a full day, as you’ll want to spend a few hours just riding the Grossglockner itself. Mind you, the rest of the ride is pretty awesome, too…
Start/finish: Lofer
Distance: 195 miles
Riding time 5 hours
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47 Timmelsjoch

A full day in the saddle… but most of it in Italy, after taking Timmelsjoch over the border. A bit of valley riding (with a scenic mountain detour for lunch) before taking Reschenpass back to Austria. A lovely, relaxed ride. Using motorway at the start of the day saves 10 minutes.
Start/finish: Zams
Distance: 190 miles
Riding time: 5.5 hours

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48 Three Valleys

Three dead-end roads, one amazing day: taking in the Kaunertal, Pitztal and Ötztal glacier roads, this route is one high point after another, building up to Europe’s highest road. Take the motorway on the return leg if short of time.
Start/finish: Zams
Distance: 195 miles
Riding time: 6.5 hours
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49 Three-country hop

This route heads south from Austria into Italy, then into Slovenia to the amazing Mangart pass (actually a dead-end) before returning to Austria over the stunning Nassfeld pass. A sublime route.
Start/finish: Kötschach
Distance: 150 miles
Riding time: 5 hours
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50 Gerlos, Staller and Brenner

Three great passes on one full-day’s route, running over Gerlos Pass and then into Italy over Staller Pass, returning on the mighty Brenner Pass – but not on the motorway. The old road is fabulous (and toll-free).
Start/finish: Innsubruck
Distance: 220 miles
Riding time: 6 hours
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