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

By dangerousroads

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 mean 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, running 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 mostly unpaved road was built as a strategic 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 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 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 4×4 vehicle is required. This road should not be traveled 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 990m in the Bukhtarma Valley up to the 2,137m high Burkhatskiy Pass. Afterwards, it runs mostly gently up and down towards Lake Markakol at 1,445m. 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 countless 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 told here. The road features many of the most spectacular bridges in the world.