The trek getting to the Eisriesenwelt Ice Caves is an experience on its own, an epic journey of awesome proportions involving walking up a mountain, and cable cars. Every step you take is a photographic moment as civilization gets foggier and foggier until all you see is the sun and mountain, it’s incredibly gorgeous.
Eisriesenwelt ice caves: History
Before talking about the Eisriesenwelt Ice Caves in Austria, I’ll touch on a bit of history for those unaware of this beautiful site. Eisriesenwelt was formed by the Salzach river, the water eroded passageways into the mountain. The formations of ice in the cave were formed by thawing snow which had drained into the cave and froze. During the summer a cold wind from inside of the cave blows towards the entrance and stops the formations from melting. Eisriesenwelt’s first official discovery was in 1879 by a natural scientist from Salzburg, named Anton Posselt. Before Anton’s discovery the cave was only known by the locals who believed it to be an entrance to Hell. These caves are the world’s largest accessible ice caves and are nearly 48 km deep (or 30 Miles for all you Americans).
Eisriesenwelt Ice Caves: The bus ride
We took a bus tour Werfen Ice Caves Tour (one of Viator’s awesome tours) from Salzburg to the site. Our tour guide shared some interesting history on Austria, and thought us how to yodel properly. It’s actually quite easy to yodel. At the site we started our long walk (not that long but when you’re constantly taking pictures it feels really long). We soon lost track of our group as everyone had spread out. After walking a bit (10 minutes) and looking over at the view (very often) we reached our first stop.
Cable Car Ride
The cable car station takes you higher up on the mountain, which saved us several hours of walking! As the lineup was ridiculously long, we went into a little gift shop and enjoyed a big pretzel and hot chocolate. When the lineup eventually cleared, we went for a ride; which had nice views but was a bit cramped.
At the top it was super foggy. We walked for another 10 minutes and observed the fogginess. We walked across bridges, through open sided tunnels, and caverns, explored a bathroom inside a cave, and finally reached the entrance.
Note: Before heading into the cave, safety rules were explained, which included no photography. The photos from this point on are official Eisriesenwelt Ice Caves commissioned. Photography is strictly prohibited inside, which we abided by. You need total concentration while trekking through. Stopping to snap a photo, would endanger both your fellow visitors along with potentially damaging the fragile ice formations. It is important to be respectful of the preservation of natural sites; the longer they are around to view, the more our ancestors can revel in the same delight we have today to see the past.
Eisriesenwelt Ice Caves – The tour
A cold wind greets you at the entrance, a stark reminder that this is an ice cave. I really regretted my clothing choice at that moment (tee shirt and shorts). The employees give every other person a lantern (not electronic, it was the real deal). Sadly I did not receive one as I was too young. I was pretty upset; until we got inside. Inside we walked across a bridge until we reached a really big steep set of stairs heading up.
I needed both hands to hold onto the railing because it was pretty damn scary. Inching my way up to the top of the stairs, I turned around for a look: down below was a big ice slide ending in a pitch black deep abyss. This was my least favourite thing on the tour. Another downside to this trek were the steps; that were slanted and way too small for my big feet (size 11 at the time).
At the top I pried my hands off the railings. We walked through “Narnia-esque” hallways of beautiful ice formations. In a few of the more darker areas, our guide used a Mission Impossible type flare to showcase the caverns. Stunning ice formations were illuminated as the flare slowly burnt. Once it reached the end, pitch darkness enveloped us momentarily as our eyes readjusted to the slight glow of the lanterns. The only difference was a) it didn’t blow up and b) it had nothing to do with Tom “couch jumping” Cruise.
This was a very adventurous walk, and quite informative. The Eisriesenwelt Ice Caves are definitely not for young children, as you need to be on full alert, and it is quite terrifying. They have a threatening beauty to them. I definitely would do this again if I ever visit Austria another time. Hopefully the stairs won’t bother me (as much).
Please read more about our adventures in Austria:
This was my first cave adventure. And certainly will not be my last.
- Have you been to a cave? Which one?
- What did you enjoy the most about it?
- Which one do you recommend I head to next?