Otztal Glacier, Austria 5-7 days
Austria has some magnificent Alpine passes – but for the real highlight, you need to head for a dead-end road. The Ötztaller glacier road twists its way into the mountains above Sölden, passing beneath cable-cars and clambering past the treeline, to a pair of ski centres.
There is a small toll to be paid (€5 in 2015) and I don’t know if that puts people off or it it’s just that this is a wellkept secret, but the road is quiet. Really quiet. There are dozens of bikes hurrying along the valley below, on their way to the famous Timmelsjoch pass, but only a handful turn off to come up here. Their loss.
Shortly before the top there’s an ornamental arch built across the road, proudly boasting “Hochster punktstrasser in Europas” (highest paved road in Europe). Carrying straight on round another couple of hairpins, there’s a parking area with another sign repeating the claim – undermined ever so slightly by the precision of the Austrians. You see, they put the height on it… which is a mere 2798m. Lower than France’s 2802m Cime de la Bonnette.
The fact is, this parking area isn’t the highest bit: that’s the spur road leading to the second ski centre. It emerges from a long, steep tunnel to hug a cliff and post an altitude of 2830m… but there’s no space there for a memorial arch where visitors can gather to take a picture.
Frankly, the numbers don’t matter. What counts is the quality of the road, which is sublime – dozens of brilliant corners with majestic views and no traffic. It’s a great place to ride: definitely the highlight of a trip to the area.