Austrian Road is a brutal drive in the Altai Mountains of Kazakhstan

The Austrian Road, so-called because it was built by Austro-Hungarian WW1-prisoners in 1915, is a marvel of engineering located in the Altai Mountains of East Kazakhstan. Its remoteness and lack of other traffic means you should be able to take care of yourself.

Austrian Road

Where is the Austrian Road?

Tucked away on the boundary between Kurshim and Katonkaragay districts of East Kazakhstan Region in the eastern part of the country, the road is totally unpaved across the Sarym-Sakty Range.

How long is the Austrian Road?

The road is 108km (67 miles) long, running north-south from Enbek (on Highway P-163) to Moyildy. The road climbs up many mountain passes, including Burkhatskiy Pass at 2.137m (7,011ft) asl and Alatajsky Pass, at 1.792m (5,879ft) asl.

When was the Austrian Road built?

This unpaved road was built as a strategic then transport corridor through the territory of modern East Kazakhstan region. It was built from 1915 to 1917 by Austro-Hungarian WW1-prisoners (Czech, Slovak, Austrian, and Hungarian) captured on the Eastern Front. With the help of nothing more than shovels, saws, pickaxes and cables, they created a legendary track through a remote wilderness in the far northeast of Kazakhstan, under highly unfavorable climatic conditions. This road can be considered as a memorial to the heroic labor of man, who at that time managed to create this monument with only the help of simple tools. The Austrian road is a unique natural historical treasure.

Is the Austrian Road difficult?

A 4x4 vehicle is required. This road should not be travelled alone. Before setting off make sure you have enough food and water. Since the area is very remote, be ready to spend the night in a tent. Surrounded by the stunning nature of the Altai Mountains, the road is famous for its beauty. The track features bridges and fords and climbs from 990 m in the Bukhtarma Valley up to the 2.137 m high Burkhatskiy Pass. Afterwards, it runs mostly gently up and down towards Lake Markakol at 1.445 m. Please don’t attempt to ascend the pass when it’s raining – the road can be extremely dangerous. Traffic is absent.

Do you need to cross rivers on the Austrian Road?

Set high within the Katon-Karagaisky State National Nature Park, following the Sorvenok Valley, it’s a really difficult road, crossing 16 bridges and fords and never ending hairpin turns. The path climbs through a picturesque ravine, crossing the Kara-Koba River several times over small bridges. But some bridges collapsed the last times and it’s necessary to cross the river. Wading through rivers or crossing risky bridges, this road has proven its worth in the last almost 100 years. Please remember dilapidated bridges regularly fall into disrepair, making the route frequently impossible. The conquest of that Austrian Road by Michael Richter, a lone, 67-year old plant geographer with a 17-year old Pajero and no technical knowledge whatsoever, is the memorable tale that’s told here. The road features many of themost spectacular bridges in the world.