This is the excursion over the longest and most spectacular highway through the Alps. The road was completed in 1935, after five years of labor by 3,200 workers. From Heiligenblut the climb begins up the Carinthian side of the Grossglockner Mountain. The peak itself—at 12,470 feet the highest point in Austria—is to the west. The Grossglocknerstrasse twists and turns as it struggles to the 8,370-foot Hochtor, the highest point on the through road and the border between
Carinthia and Salzburg Province.
A side trip on the Edelweiss-Strasse leads to the scenic vantage point at the Edelweissspitze. It's an unbelievable view out over East Tirol, Carinthia, and Salzburg, including 19 glaciers and 37 peaks rising above the 9,600-foot mark. The rare white edelweiss—the von Trapps sang its praises in The Sound of Music—grows here. Though the species is protected, don't worry about the plants you get as souvenirs; they are cultivated for this purpose. It is strictly forbidden to pick a wild edelweiss (or several other plant species), should you happen to come across one.
You can get somewhat closer to Grossglockner peak than the main road takes you by following the highly scenic but steep Gletscherstrasse westward up to the Gletscherbahn on the Franz-Josef-Plateau, where you'll be rewarded with absolutely breathtaking views of the Grossglockner peak and surrounding Alps, of the vast glacier in the valley below, and, on a clear day, even into Italy.