Austria and Germany Travel Route by Car

Jul 3rd, 2019, 10:00 AM
  #1  
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Austria and Germany Travel Route by Car

Revised Itinerary from previous post!

We will be flying in and out of Vienna end of May 2020 as we have good flights from Eastern Canada and it’s an easier process for car rental pick-up and return.

We are slow travellers and plan to rent bicycles and do some walking. With that in mind, can anyone suggest a better route than provided below trying not to backtrack any more than necessary or even changing the lengths of our stays in the suggested stops. We have only booked our flight and the Washau Valley (Dürnstein) so far.

Having 19 full days leaving Vienna travelling to Washau Valley staying in Dürnstein for four nights. Second stop for two nights in Zell am See via Liezen (Grossglockner High Alpine Road). Third stop via Innsbruck to Mittenwald (Garmish-Partenkirchen) for two nights. Fourth stop Füssen area for three nights then to fifth stop Berchtesgaden via Rosenheim (Saltzburg, Eagles Nest) for three nights. Sixth stop St. Wolfgang for 4 nights. Last stop somewhere along the Romantic Road for night returning to Vienna.

We have never been to Austria so this is what we have come up with bu using maps! Any revisions or help would be greatly appreciated!
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Jul 3rd, 2019, 10:18 AM
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To whet your appetite: https://flic.kr/s/aHsjoZSqFF
Most of the pictures are geo-tagged which might help in working out an itinerary. You might want to skip the western most part of Austria and view the pictures starting here:
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Jul 4th, 2019, 11:10 PM
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The Romantic Road starts/ends in Füssen. It's not anywhere near St. Wolfgang or between there and Vienna. Maybe you mean a different "XYZ Road"?

The Grossglockner Alpine Road in May? That's a bit of a gamble. Would you have a plan B or rather a "reason B" for staying in Zell am See if the Alpine Road was closed?

When you need to be back in Vienna? If you return flight starts in the morning hours, you may want to stay at/near the airport or in/near Vienna?
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Jul 5th, 2019, 02:18 PM
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"The Romantic Road starts/ends in Füssen. It's not anywhere near St. Wolfgang or between there and Vienna. Maybe you mean a different "XYZ Road"?"

The OP meant the Austrian Romantic Road, not the more famous German one.


https://www.romantikstrasse.at/en/
BDKR is online now  
Jul 5th, 2019, 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by BDKR View Post
"The Romantic Road starts/ends in Füssen. It's not anywhere near St. Wolfgang or between there and Vienna. Maybe you mean a different "XYZ Road"?"

The OP meant the Austrian Romantic Road, not the more famous German one.


https://www.romantikstrasse.at/en/
Oops, my bad. Sorry.
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Jul 5th, 2019, 05:30 PM
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Thanks for the replies.
Yes......it would be the Austrian Romantic Road we hope to travel!
So......we can certainly do a Plan B as far as the Grossglockner Alpine Road.......would it be better to do it at the end of our trip say around June 13 or so? Also.....I understand that if it raining we cannot drive the road so would it be better to stay an extra day in hopes if it does rain we can do it the next day? Is it better to stay in Zell am See or Heiligenblut to do the road? Also can you recommend anywhere to stay......a pension or family run hotel would be great!
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Jul 5th, 2019, 09:43 PM
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Again, sorry for not knowing that Austria had also "invented" a Romantic Road.
I doubt that I have ever seen any road sign designating the route (even though I usually stay in one of the towns on that RR), so for practical reasons you should print that map and take it with you.

The Grossglockner Alpine Road will be open in rain, though not exactly a massive joy to drive it then.
I had the general opening date in mind (because of snow, not rain), which is "usually" in early May. I doubt that there will be a high probability for snow-related closure when you will travel. But just to be on the safe side, you could think of an alternative activity if that should happen.

Unfortunately, I would not know of any places to stay in Zell or Heiligenblut. But I think that many Fodorites have at least stayed in Zell, so suggestions may pop up later in your thread.
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Jul 6th, 2019, 06:42 AM
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Thanks cowboy! Actually, from a website sponsored by Austria I ordered a map, which I have received, of the Austrian Romantic Road and it is very detailed! Any other suggested changes as to our posted Itinerary above? Any help is appreciated.
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Jul 6th, 2019, 03:44 PM
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"Having 19 full days leaving Vienna travelling to Washau Valley staying in Dürnstein for four nights. Second stop for two nights in Zell am See via Liezen (Grossglockner High Alpine Road). Third stop via Innsbruck to Mittenwald (Garmish-Partenkirchen) for two nights. Fourth stop Füssen area for three nights then to fifth stop Berchtesgaden via Rosenheim (Saltzburg, Eagles Nest) for three nights. Sixth stop St. Wolfgang for 4 nights. Last stop somewhere along the Romantic Road for night returning to Vienna."

You might likely die of boredom if you base in Dürnstein for four nights, unless you plan 3.5 days of activities. Since you mention cycling, the trail from Melk to Krems along the Danube (~42km in total) will be at your disposal, as will many hiking opportunities. Consider visiting Stift Gottweig while basing in Dürnstein, too.

Others are correct in that a May opening of the Großglockner Hochalpinstraße is weather dependent. Lienz is absolutely lovely, but if the weather renders your Großglockner drive a no-go, perhaps add the days to Innsbruck proper instead? Nearby Seefeld in Tirol offers numerous hiking opportunities; you can take the Rosshüttebahn up to the top and wander down amongst the cows that will be alpine grazing. If the weather is good, maybe a Lienz-Großglockner-Krimml Wasserfälle-Garmisch route would be scenic. (I might even cut the Wachau Valley portion short for the alpine part of Austria).

On your return to Vienna from the Salzkammergut, perhaps Steyr and the monastery at St. Florian as an overnight or even simply a long lunch break. The drive from St. Wolfgang to Vienna is but 3-ish hours, so there really isn't a need to break it up.
fourfortravel is online now  
Jul 7th, 2019, 04:22 PM
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Fourfortravel thanks for all your insights. We realize the Washau area is small but we will be coming to Dürnstein directly from Vienna having had an overnight Atlantic crossing and will probably require a day and a half recuperation having had no sleep! We plan on doing the biking trail along the Danube for another day and see a few other spots (thanks for mentioning Stift Gottweig) as well! I think we may do our route in reverse in order to accommodate the Großglockner Hochalpinstraße drive, weather permitting of course. So, I think we will also look at the route you suggested and visit Lienz. Would it be feasible to do the Großglockner Hochalpinstraße from Lienz? Seefeld sounds good too!

Thanks for for your Help! Even though I have done a fair amount of reading and have several maps when you know nothing of the country it is a massive undertaking to plan!
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Jul 7th, 2019, 04:48 PM
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Fourfortravel.....also if you take the Rosshüttebahn at Seefeld, how long would it take you to walk back down!
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Jul 7th, 2019, 09:26 PM
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I think I did not really understand your very first post.
I thought that you were trying to change as little as possible with regard to your initial itinerary.

Since you have still a lot of time until May 2020, maybe just some very basic thoughts re. an "Austrian itinerary".
If you took a map of Austria and drew a line from Vienna to Innsbruck with a textmarker pen, this would probably cover most tourists' itinerary but also marks the Northern ridge of the Alps.
While weather has become even more of a gamble these days, the Alps are still seperating Northern from Southern weather.

In a nutshell, Austria has four weather zones:
The East, i.e. Vienna and that bit what is East of it to Lake Neusiedl is still part of Pannonian flats and is more dry with hot summers.
The South, Graz-Klagenfurt-Villach, has a more "Southern" climate, influenced from the Adriatic/Mediterranean.
The North, again that line Vienna-Innsbruck, is cooler and wetter, especially when weather systems come from the North, bump against the Alps and drop any amont of rain or snow they have, sometimes for days in a row. All the major ski resorts are in the higher elevations on the Northern ridge.
In between, there are the Alps, which can have any weather. That's why the Austrians dug so many tunnels ;-)

If you look at your itinerary, you will spend your time almost exclusively North of the Alps or in the Northern ridge of the Alps.
The destinations you have chosen are by no means "wrong" and cover all the sights and areas most visitors from North America or UK spend their time at.
But weatherwise you put almost all your eggs in one basket.
And having in mind that you have a decent number of days to play with, I was wondering if you could eliminate the issue of back-trekking by chosing two different routes instead of moving West, then back East through the same Northern corridor?

For example:
Northern route: Vienna - Wachau - Salzburg / Berchtesgaden - Innsbruck / Garmisch / Füssen
Unless you want to, I see no necessity to change places and hotels a lot in the two latter regions. If you based yourself in one smaller place (not necessarily directly in Salzburg or Innsbruck), you could decide each day on the spot what you want to do.
Southern route: Innsbruck / Garmisch / Füssen - Zell am See / Grossglocker / Lienz - Villach / Klagenfurt - Graz - Vienna.
If there was a road closure on the Grossglocker Alpine Road, you'd still have the Felbertauern tunnel from Mittersill to Lienz as an "always open" alternative.
Or in reverse order: Southern route going West first, return to Vienna via Northern route.

I guess this adds more choices and confusion to your planning, but before you skip the Southern part of Austria, just google "Carinthia" and "Styria" and see what you're missing if you stick to the Northern corridor exclusively.

And, finally:
I don't know if I wanted to pick up a rental at Vienna airport after a red-eye flight from Canada to drive to the Wachau in the morning rush hour (assuming that your flight from the US should land at around 7/8 am). You will have to drive on the most crowded bits of the Austrian freeway system, and your drive time should be much longer than what Google maps tells you (unless you arrive on a weekend).

Last edited by Cowboy1968; Jul 7th, 2019 at 09:32 PM.
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Jul 8th, 2019, 03:53 AM
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Cowboy1968 makes a good point about renting a car at VIE fresh from a transatlantic crossing. I would take the train (or taxi, at higher cost but possibly worth not having to "think") to your hotel and spend a day in Vienna, and then rent a car the following day. There are several car rental offices around the Ringstraße.

We drove the Großglockner Hochalpinstraße from Lienz; the city is a very good base for that. If your budget allows for the Grand Hotel Lienz, do so. Breakfast on the terrace with the river Drava bubbling beneath you in the morning is luxurious.

The Rosshüttebahn opening will also be weather/season dependent. Starting from the terminus at the Bergrestaurant, the walk down is "Austrian easy." I can not recall exactly how long it took to descend because we stopped at Hochegger Alm for lunch and to snap photos of the grazing cows, and then paused to snap more photos of cows as we continued down. You won't need an entire day, that much I can write.

As Cowboy1968 also suggests, do look into Steiermark (Styria) and Kärnten (Carinthia). The Hochsteiermark and its trails are within striking distance of Vienna for a long day trip; plus there's Graz, Stift Admont and much more to explore, too. Kärnten was more of a weekend outing for us; we only managed one visit to Wörthersee, but from there we were able to take a day outing to Bled. The weather will likely be more cooperative in these parts, too.
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Jul 8th, 2019, 05:21 PM
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Cowboy, thanks so much for your “epistle”. I certainly appreciate all the help. Although we have been to Europe from Canada about 15 times we have never dealt with mountains and related weather. So, I think with your advice we will look to take the two routes, North and South. Which route would be advisable to take first (beginning of June) keeping weather in mind? Also when you say we could pick a smaller central spot to base ourselves for Salzburg / Berchtesgaden - Innsbruck / Garmisch / Füssen, did you have any particular places in mind as it would be easier for sure not moving so much. Not knowing roads and traffic it’s hard to plan how much time is needed to get from place to place.

Our flight arrives in Vienna at 8:30 AM, but by the time we do customs, pick up our luggage, get our car rental it will probably be 10:30 or so at which time we hope to avoid the early morning commute! And on return to Vienna for departure we have set aside a night to stay there separate from our 19 days. We have been to Vienna previously thus the reason we are not visiting this trip.

Once again thanks for all your help......Fodors is always a great asset when planning trips and we have never been disappointed!





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Jul 8th, 2019, 05:39 PM
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Fourfortravel. Thanks for letting me know it’s possible to do the Großglockner Hochalpinstraße drive from Lienz. We may just do that. Also for the information on the Rosshüttebahn at Seefeld. As long we don’t come down in the dark we should be OK! I will certainly check out all the towns mentioned and also the hotel in Lienz. I am sure there will be lots more questions I will have and its a great help to get so much help from here!
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Jul 8th, 2019, 06:09 PM
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Having just spent 3 nights in Finkenberg, Austria, I can highly recommend a visit to the Zillertal Valley. While I stayed in in Finkenberg, close to cable cars running to the top of the mountain and its beauty, I would rather recommend a night in Zell am Ziller at the Hotel Brau. We ate lunch there twice, wonderful.

Activities might include the narrow gauge train, Zillertalbahn runs from Jenbach to Mayrhofen. You can also easily reach the Krimmi Waterfall from this location. This is very close to Innsbruck which is good for a few days visit. I would allot no more than 2 days for a visit to the waterfall (wasserfalle) and the valley.

After Finkenberg, we proceeded into Germany and the Black Forest.
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Jul 9th, 2019, 01:13 AM
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If you wanted to start your trip on the Southern route (and do those bike trips in the Wachau at the end, which would also put you in comfortable proximity to Vienna Airport), I would check:

1) Can you get an open jaw flight TO Graz and BACK from Vienna, and how does it affect airfare.
2) If option #1 is too costly, you could take a train right from the airport station to Graz (direct every two hours, via Vienna Central every other two hours). Flexible tickets which allow you to jump on any next train cost bit less than €50 per person.
3) Rent car from Graz on day 2 (drop-off eventually at Vienna Airport - national one-way rentals usually do not incur extra fees, but you must check the fineprint).
This would also resolve the issue of driving after a red-eye. Plus you have the afternoon of day 1 to see Graz which is a really nice compact city to explore.

Otherwise I would choose accomodation in areas which are easily accessible by car.
So, for example, any place like Berchtesgaden is good to explore the whole region incl. Salzburg (also possible by bus or commuter train from Berchtesgaden). But staying in Salzburg Old Town would raise the question of where to park the car, and having to navigate traffic to get in or out.
Unfortunately, I would not know any specific hotels or vacation rentals in that area - but I guess others will be happy to chime in.
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Jul 10th, 2019, 08:04 AM
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Thanks Huggy..........I will make a note of that. We are now going into the south so may be able to work that in!
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Jul 10th, 2019, 08:20 AM
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Hi Cowboy!
We have reworked our route to include southern Austria as you suggested. I do get that most tourists to Austria would spend the majority in the northern half as that area is promoted so well! We have decided to spend several days based in Lienz as it gives us the opportunity to see many spots of interest to us. We have also looked at Seefeld as a base to see Innsbruck and do the trek down the mountain using the Rosshüttebahn as suggested earlier. Thanks for your help so far......I expect I will have lots more questions as there is so much we do not know.......so,would appreciate continued support!
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Jul 10th, 2019, 07:34 PM
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Hi Barbara, glad that you were able to include also Southern Austria.

Lienz is a great base and, unless you already noticed, the Grossglockner Alpine Road comes with a steep toll but there are several discounts in case you plan to drive other roads in the vicinity. Check the prices and options at https://www.grossglockner.at/gg/en/index
The basic toll is a one day pass, so you could, for example, drive from Lienz to Zell am See and back without paying twice.

In the prices section of the Alpine Road you also find a combo ticket with the Felbertauern (tunnel) Road called "Round Trip Ticket" for €43.
Caveat: This ticket is no day pass for both Roads but you are limited to doing a loop drive, i.e. using each road only once/ in one direction.
As the Felberntauern Road is not in the same league as the Grossglockner Alpine Road (well, the vistas aren't ugly but it's major feature is a tunnel, not a panoramic drive) I would much rather drive the Grossglockner back and forth than buy this loop drive ticket.
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