Austria’s landscape is very much defined by its forests and peaks. In fact, almost half the country is covered by forests. And even this pales in comparison to the three fifths of its landmass which forms part of the Eastern Alps. The Austrian section is known by many names, including the Austrian Alps and the Central Eastern Alps. This is itself divided into numerous ranges, including the Tyrol Central Alps, Hohe Tauern and Niedere Tauern. And there’s more. Austria’s northern region is home to the Bohemian Forest mountain range, a lower granite massif.
The question is, what are the highest mountains in Austria? We’re going to find out. But before we begin our ascent, it’s worth noting that the answer isn’t always straightforward. As well as measuring mountains being a notoriously difficult task, the numbers can change. The best example of this is due to snow melt, which can lower a peak, both in height and ranking. With that said, let’s explore Austria’s highest mountains.
Top of the list of the tallest mountains in Austria is the enormous pyramidal peak of Grossglockner. Its name translates as “the great bell ringer”, but it’s often referred to simply as Glockner. Spread between the southern federal states of Tirol and Kärnten, it rises to a summit of 12,460 feet in Austria’s largest national park. There it looms over the Pasterze Glacier, the longest in the Eastern Alps and roughly three times the size of London Heathrow Airport.
Grossglockner is a member of a 70-mile long Hohe or “High” Tauern range. Indeed, this section is the highest part of the Eastern Alps, with hundreds of peaks exceeding 9,500 feet. Its surroundings and slopes are home to marmots, chamois, ibexes and numerous other animals, while its avifauna includes golden eagles and vultures.
At 12,369 feet above sea level, the taller of Wildspitze’s twin peaks earn it the second spot on the list of Austria’s highest mountains. Located 70 miles west of Glockner, it’s also the highest point in the region of North Tyrol and of the Otztal mountain range. Set within Oetztal Nature Park, the mountain is bordered by glaciers and sits on the Weisskamm or “white ridge”, aptly named for its snow cover. It’s sometimes said that the only thing which limits the view from its top is the Earth’s curvature itself.
There’s not too far to travel to find the next of the tallest mountains in Austria. Weisskugel is the second highest mountain in the Otztal Alps and this rugged, rocky, icy giant sits alongside Wildspitze on the white ridge. But while its neighbour is solely within the boundaries of Austria, Weisskugel straddles the border with Italy.
The fourth of Austria’s highest mountains is… up for debate. Some say it’s the snow-covered summit of Glocknerwand, whose wide, jagged line of peaks is often described as “fan-shaped”. Part of the High Tauerns, Glocknerwand is linked to Grossglockner by a ridge depression known as Untere Glocknerscharte. And herein lies the controversy. Some argue that Glocknerwand is not sufficiently independent of its larger neighbour to count as a separate mountain. And, as if that wasn’t enough, there’s a bit of debate as to the height of Glocknerwand. Some sources put it at 12,209 feet high, but the Austrian Federal Office for Metrology and Surveying cites it as 12,212 feet.
The next of the highest mountains in Austria is a peak mysteriously named Great Venice. Grossvenediger is a glacier capped mountain on the border of Tyrol and Salzburg in Hohe Tauern National Park. Some think its moniker, thought to date back to at least 1797, might allude to its use as a trade route by Venetian merchants.
The Biggest Mountains of Austria Listed in Order
At least 150 mountains in Austria exceed a height of 9,800 feet, with the top being:
- Großglockner – 12,460 feet
- Wildspitze – 12,369
- Weißkugel – 12,268
- Glocknerwand – 12,212
- Großvenediger – 12,028
- Hintere Schwärze – 11,903
- Hinterer Brochkogel – 11,903
- Similaun – 11,808
- Vorderer Brochkogel – 11,697
- Großes Wiesbachhorn – 11,693
- Rainerhorn – 11,677
Without exception, the very tallest mountains in Austria are in either the High Tauerns or the Otztal Alps. In fact, the first to venture beyond these two ranges is Hochfeiler. With its elevation of 11,515 feet, it’s the seventeenth highest point in Austria and a member of the Zillertal Alps. Number 18 is Zuckerhütl, part of the Stubai Alps at 11,505 feet above sea level.