If you are looking for a scenic drive through incredible mountain scenery, you should take this route at least once. Since you are not on a highway you will always find a posibility to stop and take some pictures. And there are quite a few places where you will be tempted to stop. The scenery really is breathtaking. So take your time when travelling this road. Here the route becomes the destination.
Last day of an incredible vacation
My short trip was coming to an end and I did have to leave and go back home. I really would have liked to stay a couple more days and do one or two more hikes. I console myself with the knowledge that I can always come back and climb a few more peaks. So for now: goodbye Carinthia.
To keep the holiday feeling alive a bit longer I decide not to take the fastest route but travel unhurriedly over the „Felbertauernstraße“. Starting in Spittal an der Drau I follow the river upwards. The Drau has bulit a rather broad river valley between those towering peaks. I could stop for a photo break every five minutes. But this would mean that I’d be at home very late tonight.
Passing the Drau Valley
Small villages are bordering the route. The expressway mostly circumnavigates them and so I just cross a few of them. The ones I do see, though, are very nice. The tourism centers in Austria are often completely destroyed by putting modern and ugly houses in the middle of an old center ignoring the charme of old times. Here in the middle of nowhere this is different. Neatly groomed and new buildings follow the traditional way and look of building. This makes for a nice overall picture. Soon I reach the state of Tyrolia and Lienz. This town supposedly has a nice old center which I will explore another time. Today I am planning to explore another town.
In theory I could take a turn and cross the mountains via the Großglockner. Wouldn’t make sense since I just crossed it on may way coming to Lake Millstatt. So I follow the signs direction Mattrei and will be crossing the „Tauern“ a bit further to the east. A last look back into the Dolomiten of Lienz and then I am leaving the Drau valley.
From Lienz to Mattrei
The road rises slowly towards Mattrei. The weather is at its best and there aren’t many people taking this road today. So my trip becomes more and more a cruising ride and I do enjoy it a lot. Who knows how long we will be able to profit from such great weather. It is already mid-October and the next snowfall can’t be that far.
I am passing Mattrei as well and continue direction Felbertauerntunnel.
The tunnel crossing the Felbertauern
A short time before I reach the tunnel I take another break on a parking lot. I want to enjoy the scenery for a couple more moments. Isn’t it beautiful here?
Finally I do reach the entrance of the tunnel. A last photo stop and short walk before I enter the darkness of the mountain.
The tunnel opened in 1967 and is about 3,3 miles long. It connects the states of Tyrolia and Salzburg, precisely a region called the Pinzgau. The southern entrance is on 5,350 feet. There is a parking lot but no gas station or restaurant. So make sure you have enough gas since after coming out of the tunnel it’ll take a while before you reach the next gas station.
Tunnel exit to Mittersill
Once you are coming back to daylight on the northern side you are still at an elevation of 5,270 feet. And again there is no gas station or snackbar only a few administrative buildings. But you can take a short break and shoot some pictures.
For the next ten miles you will be driving through a lonesome but beautiful mountain valley before you reach a town called Mittersill. I am once more fascinated by this breathtaking scenery and just hope that future generations will still be able to enjoy this.
I am stopping every now and then to take a few more shots to take home. This way I can share these great views with you and collect a few more memories for me.
Coming to Mittersill you will have two options. Either you take the route via Zell am See and Salzburg or you cross another pass and take the route via Kitzbühel which is the way I will be going since I am planning to visit this famous town during a short walk.
So I follow the signs towards „Pass-Thurn“ and Jochberg forest. Soon I have crossed the valley of the Salzach and the road rises again into the mountains.
From Mittersill to Kitzbühel
Standing on top of the pass I take a last look back into the „Hohe Tauern“. Farewell for now but I’ll be back.
Shortly after crossing the highest point on the pass I get a first climpse of the mountain mass of the „Wilder Kaiser“ which dominates the region with its remarkable peaks. Very impressive. Soon after I reach Kitzbühel.
The small town is known for being a second home for the rich and famous from Munich. On any weekend you will meet them in abundance in this pittoresque town. So don’t be surprised if you meet a star while you are doing your shopping. This is my first visit and I am keen to find out what makes this place so special.
I have to admit that after those quiet days where I met only a handful of other people the crowds here do overwhelm me. It is rather easy to find a parking lot but this is filled with huge amounts of tourist coaches. Wow! It takes a bit to get used to this traffic again. What I do like is this cute well kept old town. A bit of a mixture of alpine tradition and Disneyland. My plans were to find a nice terrace to sit down and let my vacation decay slowly. But there are definitely too many people around and I feel tired after my hikes of the last days. Today I am not in the mood to stroll too long along this main road. It’s nice here, yes, but not my kind of thing today. Guess I will have to come back another day.
So I am just buying a grilled sausage at one of those food trucks, take a few pictures and return to my car. The final stretch of my drive takes me along the bottom of the Wilder Kaiser to Kufstein and so I can enjoy once again the great mountain scenery before I return to Germany. A drive on the „Autobahn“ would be too strenous today, so I take the smaller byways to get back to Munich.
So this is the end of 5 relaxing and great days in Carinthia. This surely wasn’t my last visit to the Lake Millstatt.