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It's easy to feel on top of the world, which you almost literally are, if you take the Grossglockner High Alpine Highway—the most thrilling pass over the Alps. Nestled in a nearby valley is Heiligenblut, a town commemorated in a thousand picture postcards. Everywhere, breathtaking Alpine vistas and centuries-old castles dot the landscape. For many travelers the Eastern Alps, concentrated around the Grossglockner peak, represent not only the most fascinating part of Austria's mountainous landscape, but its most unspoiled region as well.
If You Have 3 Days
Start in the charming villages of Hermagor and Kötschach-Mauthen, stopping at the Geo-Trail, which traces 50 million years of geological history. Then spend the afternoon exploring the East Tirolean capital of Lienz. Castle ruins, churches, and more spectacular landscapes are in store on your second day as you visit St. Jakob in Defereggen and Matrei in Osttirol before returning to Lienz. On your final day, crown your trip with a visit to that Alpine jewel Heiligenblut, making stops at Döllach-Grosskirchheim and elsewhere along the imposing Grossglockner Highway.
If You Have 5 Days
Begin your trip in East Tirol's capital, Lienz, before heading to picture-perfect Heiligenblut. As long as it's not wintertime, your second day can be spent taking the scenic Grossglockner Highway through the Hohe Tauern National Park to the lake resort of Zell am See. In winter you'll have to use the Felbertauern tunnel route, which runs between Mittersill and Matrei in East Tirol. On Day 3, make a day trip to the mountain resorts of Saalbach-Hinterglemm and Saalfelden, and descend into the depths with a tour of the Lamprechtshöhle (cave). On your fourth day, travel to Bad Gastein and "take the cure." Then use your last day to visit the Domkirche (cathedral) in St. Johann im Pongau and the Liechtensteinklamm, the deepest, most dramatic gorge in the Eastern Alps.
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