This 450-km (280-mi) cycling route in the borderlands of Austria and Bavaria is a wonderfully relaxing way to unwind, dawdling along through enchanting pastoral scenery of rolling fields, mirror-like lakes and alpine meadows with the snowy peaks of the mountains always in the background. The region was once the centre of the European salt trade, which brought in huge amounts of money. Its legacy can be seen in the architecture of the old market towns and picturesque villages that you pass – quaint period buildings, beautiful churches and magnificent castles.
From Salzburg you cycle north to Oberndorf, the site of the ‘Silent Night Chapel’, where the world’s best-loved Christmas carol was first sung in 1818, and into the Chiemgau region of Bavaria. Pass the Waginger See, a pretty oxbow lake set in rolling farmland, and cycle along the shore of Bavaria’s largest lake, the Chiemsee or ‘Bavarian Sea’. The route continues past the Seeon Benedictine Monastery to the lovely old market town of Wasserburg, sited picturesquely on a bend of the River Inn, and follows the course of the river before heading back eastwards through the historic saltmining towns of Bad Reichenhall and Berchtesgaden to the cascades, sending clouds of mist into the air – a truly awesome force of nature that will impress itself on your memory.
WHEN TO GO:
June to September
TIME IT TAKES:
Seven to eight days
Salzburg – Mozart’s birthplace and UNESCO World Heritage City.
Wasserburg – historic Bavarian salt- trading town on the River Inn.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
This route is easy or moderate cycling, much of it on cycle paths. The route is well signposted with hotels and guesthouses where cyclists are welcome and there are
bike repair shops in almost every town.
meadows. Gerlos Alpenstrasse
The main road from the old gold-mining town of Zell am Ziller in the Tirol to the lakeside town of Zell am See in the province of Salzburg is a favourite amongst cyclists and motor-bikers. It is a winding route along a panoramic stretch of road, crossing the Gerlos Pass at an altitude of 1,530 m (5,020 ft) and descending through enchanting mountain countryside, with an amazing view of the famous Krimml Falls, the longest waterfall in Europe.
The history of the road goes back to the 17th century, when gold was discovered in the Ziller Valley. Rather than risk transporting the precious metal through what were then the foreign states of Bavaria and Tirol, the prospectors widened the mule track over the Gerlos Pass so that cartloads of gold could be carried into the safe territory of Salzburg for smelting. After the gold rush, the road fell into disrepair and the Salzach and Ziller Valleys were once again cut off from each other. Amidst much bureaucratic bickering, plans were finally drawn up for a proper highway in 1949 but the road was not completed until 1962.
The present road zigzags its way up from Zel am Ziller in the Ziller Valley to the high moorland at the top of the pass, then descends through the Salzach Valley alongside the innaccessible narrow wooded valleys and fissured gorges of the Pinzgau Mountains, along the edge of the Hohe Tauern National Park. The Krimml Ache River flows through just such a valley, making a sudden plunging drop of 380 m (1,250 ft). Tons of water thunder down in three great cascades, sending clouds of mist into the air – a truly awesome force of nature that will impress itself on your memory.