Following a winding Gerlos Alpine Road (25 km) from the Durlaßboden Lake by the biggest Austrian waterfalls to the valley of marmots and a powerful glacier, you can experience many breath-taking landscapes of Salzburg and Tyrol. But, let us take one step at a time not to miss something.
We begin our journey at the Seestüberl, a small restaurant located at the artificial lake Durlaßboden, directly next to the big earth dam, which stopped the water from the powerful mountain streams and created this magnificent lake. This man-made beauty is located at 1,400 metres above the sea level, and it is relatively cold due to the fact that the water is running down off the mountains. However, in the summer months, the water warms up to the comfortable 21°C, and the lake becomes a popular destination for swimming, water sports and scuba diving. The Durlaßboden Lake is home of Austria's highest sailing and surf school. Also, among the hikers and cyclists, the 10 km long tour around the lake is extremely popular, because it provides great panoramic views of the impressive Zillertal Alps and the Reichenspitz mountain range.
From the lake Durlaßboden, we take a winding Gerlos Alpine Road. This 12-kilometre, two-lane road with eight serpentines and a maximum slope of nine percent, takes us through the most beautiful areas of the Hohe Tauern National Park, and it is a great way to experience the alpine landscape. Today, the route is a modern asphalt road built on the spot of an old mule track in order to transport the gold that was found in the Ziller Valley, over a "domestic" terrain to Salzburg. Until then, the only road led through the foreign countries Tyrol and Bavaria. The entire route was built on the 40 to 60 cm thick anti-freezing layer to make the road absolutely winter proof. Therefore, it can be used all year round. The Gerlos Alpine Road leads directly through a holiday area - Zillertal Arena. Around 400 km of well-marked hiking trails await you in the summer, and in the winter, it becomes one of the most visited ski area in Austria and a part of the world’s largest skiing valley. The absolute highlight of this alpine road is the 380-meter high Krimml Waterfalls that are also the next stage of our journey and can be seen from each car park of the road.
A natural wonder, the highest Austrian waterfalls with a total height of 385 m - Krimml Waterfalls have been a magnet for tourists for ages. The waterfalls are formed by the Krimmler Ache River, that is fed by 17 glacial streams and falls from the Ache Valley in three cascades, close to the village Krimml. The upper waterfall is 145 m high, middle waterfall 100 m and the lower one 140 m. For the visitors, there is a waterfall trail leading through a beautiful spruce forest with thick moss and lichens from the bottom all the way to the top of waterfalls. This path has 33 serpentine and 7 observation platforms, from where you can experience magnificent views. The visit to waterfalls is not only good for the soul but the body as well because the medical researches proved that a daily one-hour visit to the Krimml Waterfalls significantly and sustainably improves asthma and allergies in children and adolescents.
When you climb up the waterfalls path, you will reach a high and isolated Krimmler Achen Valley. The U-shaped valley scraped out by the glacier is characterised by the wonderful alpine landscapes, beautiful thick pine forests, and small continental raised bogs. At its end is the Krimmler Kees glacier, the second largest in Salzburg. Here, you can also find one of the area's many rock glaciers, a mix of rubble, rocks and ground ice. Besides beautiful nature, the area is known by its marmot population, and all around you can see the marmot burrows in the deserted alpine soil. And if you are lucky, you can even spot these rather shy animals.
The valley is the only passable connection of this area to South Tyrol and Italy. Historically, this connection had a special significance as a part of transalpine traffic routes, used already by the Roman legions and later to transport the goods such as wine, brandy and salt. However, the Krimmler Achen Valley is known as it was used after the end of the World War II to smuggle 8000 Eastern European Jewish survivors of the Holocaust to the Italian ports, from where they left for Palestine. An important role as the place of refuge and rest in this event played the Krimmler Tauernhaus.
The final stage of our journey is the Krimmler Tauernhaus, a six centuries old mountain inn located at 1622 m above the sea level. For centuries, it served as a rest station for travellers and traders on the route from Southern to Central Europe. It served as one of several hospices and rest stations along the mule tracks for travellers and samers, people who transported loads on the back of pack animals over the mountains. The duties of a Tauern house owner were the maintenance of the roads and keeping them open all year round. Also, they had to provide accommodation for the travellers, where poor travellers had to be accommodated and fed free of charge. For their services, they have received an annual grain allocation. Since the transport on the pack animals had lost its importance and tourism became important, the Krimmler Tauernhaus became an important stopover for the hikers and mountain bikers.
After the fifth stage, we have finished our journey on the winding road that connects beautiful Salzburg and Tyrol - from a man-made beauty the Durlaßboden Lake to the isolated Krimmler Achen Valley with its marmots and a glacier.
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