When Is the Best Time
The longest ice cave in the world is located 50 km south of Salzburg in Austria, close to the famous Dachstein. On the steep southern slopes of the Hochkogel mountain is the entrance located to the ice cave Eisriesenwelten which means the World of Ice Giants.
The cave has been a protected natural monument since 26.6.1928. It is a popular attraction and the advantage you do not care about the weather for this breathtaking experience. Each visit is different and unique depending on the lightning by your guide and the changing ice formations from meltwater.
I assure you the cave will enchant you, and you will leave everyday life behind in a second. I will answer all questions which may come up and all you need to know before you visit this unique ice cave in Austria.
For an overview of all topics, check out my Table of Contents
How to get to Eisriesenwelt – Ice Cave?
A 6 km steep winding mountain road with a max of 21% gradient leads from the village Werfen to the visitor and ticket centre. There is plenty of parking in front of and within 200 m distance. Parking Ice Cave Google Maps
First, you must enter the information and ticket centre building to get access to the wide and well-maintained walking path. Please, check your time slot and access the walking path in the half-hour window mentioned on your ticket (online booking).
The path offers breathtaking views of the opposite mountain range. Depending on the weather, you can walk along the viewing points path or through a tunnel. After 15-20 minutes, you reach the cable car station. Up to 18 people have space inside.
The cable car leaves every ten minutes, but in the peak season, you may line up to continue your journey. Afterwards, another well-secured path awaits you - with avalanche galleries and half-tunnels to protect you from rockslides. This part is called “Beißzangensteig” (Pliers Path).
It is excellent integrated into the landscape and makes this walk much safer. You can already see the huge opening of the cave from a distance. At the beginning of the huge cave entrance, you are able to sit and rest to wait for access.
- Walking time and cable car 45 minutes during quieter times and more than one hour in the peak season.
- Tours are offered in German and English.
- Duration Guided Tour: 1-1.15 hour
- Length: The first part, about one kilometre long, is open to the public.
- Dogs on leashes are allowed in the ice cave.
- Ice Cave Attractions and Elevations Map
- Werfen, Mountains, and Ice Cave Location Map
Photographing in the cave is prohibited for safety reasons. If visiting the cave at the beginning or end of the season and during less busy days, it is permitted to take pictures. That is why we visited the cave on its first opening day.
Up to 2.500 people visit the giant ice cave daily. The season begins in May, and from mid-September to October, it is less crowded, and tickets are also available at the ticket centre. Like elsewhere, mid-week is quieter than the weekends. Consider there are several bank holidays in May in Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands. Many spend their vacation or a long weekend here in May.
The first and last tours of the day are usually quieter.
Access With Disabilities
The path to the entrance is easy, but inside the cave, you must ascend and descend 1400 steps on the one-kilometre-long guided tour. This tour may also not suit people with cardiovascular disease.
Opening Hours EisRiesenWelt – Ice Cave 2023
- The giant ice cave is open from 29. April until 31. October 2023. Closed in the winter.
- Information and Ticket Centre 8.30 am – 3 pm
- Cable Car Rides every ten minutes 8.45 am – 5 pm
- Guide Ice Cave Tours: From 9.30 am until 3 pm every half an hour, and last tour: 3:45 pm.
Why is the Cave Closed in Winter?
The cave is closed for safety reasons. The road to the information centre may be covered in snow, and so are the walking paths. There is also a risk of avalanches in the winter, and shorter daylight hours occur. Getting to the ice cave requires roughly 45 minutes to one hour.
How Was the Ice Cave Formed?
Ice layers that appear blue, like in the picture above, are compressed ice because there are only a few air pockets. If the ice freezes slowly, the air has time to get out.
The EisRiesenWelt is located in the Tennegebirge, the northern limestone Alps. It is a karstified mountain range with more than 1000 caves. There are two reasons for this high number of caves: first, the Eurasian and African continental plates are pushing against each other, and second, this type of rock is prone to erosion. The rain washes out the cracks and crevices in the limestone, and this has been going on for millions of years.
Small cracks become cavities, and more water enters, causing continuous erosion. This process is intensified by a low concentration of carbon dioxide in the rainwater. This has a slightly acidic effect that can dissolve lime. Thus, crevices become cavities, collapse and larger and larger spaces; caves and passages are formed.
Why is There Ice in the Cave?
- The altitude is crucial. Ice caves only form between 1600 and 1680 meters above sea level. This is the climatic zone for ice formations. The entrance is located at 1,641 m. If higher, it would be too cold, and lower below 1,600, this amount of ice would not be able to form. During the cave tour, you will gain more than 100 meters elevation until a height of 1,775 m above sea level, which is free of ice.
- Another factor is the structure of the cave. The entrance is located at a lower level and connected with ceiling openings. This fact allows the air to circulate in winter and cools the temperature in the cave below zero degrees. In spring, meltwater penetrates through the porous rock and forms breathtaking ice sculptures. Due to this kind of air circulation, it is also called a dynamic ice cave.
- In order to preserve the cold and the natural spectacle for longer, the attached door to the cave is closed in spring and summer. In winter, it is open to allow the cold to enter.
- In spring, snow melts, and the water enters the cave through numerous crevices and cracks, turning into ice in myriad formations.
At another nearby ice cave, the entrance was extended at the beginning of the 20th century. This cave was famous for ice skating at high elevations, and to give visitors easier access, the hole was blasted with dynamite. This greatly impacted the climate, and the ice lake disappeared.
Entrance Fee and Tip
You can either purchase your ticket at the information and ticket centre or book it online. During the peak season in summer, I highly recommend online booking to avoid disappointment. Usually, the cave is fully booked in summer.
Online tickets are way cheaper than the ones bought on-site. No Parking fees and no fees for the cable car.
- Price for adults 39 € on-site and 35€ online
- Teenagers (age 15-17) 27€ and 25€ online
- Children (age 5 - 14) 19€ and 17,50€ online
- Online Ticket Booking Link
Is it Worth Visiting the Ice Cave Eisriesenwelt?
Yes, it is the most beautiful cave we have ever been to. Our nephew Rodrigo put it in a nutshell: It is like entering another world. You immediately leave everything behind and are fully focused on the guide and tour. They preserve the character of the cave by using carbide lamps and magnesium light. There is no artificial lighting. Without these two illumination sources, it is pitch dark inside.
They use the same lighting as in the past, but today the cave is equipped with well-maintained boardwalks and stairs to overcome more than one hundred meters of elevation. This cave will leave you in awe. IMO, the entrance price is absolutely fair. Parking is free, and the cable car ride is included in the price. This is a very well-thought-out concept.
In July 2020, a 14 years old boy was fatally hit in a rock fall. Safety is a top priority here. After the accident, the path and the Eisriesenwelt were closed for three weeks in order to erect a five-metre high and 42-metre wide protective net over the accident site shortly before the cave. But a remaining risk always exists. Therefore, longer-term measures such as completing the avalanche gallery, new tunnels or half-tunnels are still being considered. We felt very safe along the walking path.
Facts and History Ice Cave Werfen – EisRiesenWelt
- Longest Ice Cave in the world – 42 km long.
- The oldest layer of the ice is about one thousand years old.
- This was once the highest skating ground in Europe, where pair skaiters trained for the Olympics in the 30s.
- You will wonder about the strong wind at the entrance/exit of the cave. The significant temperature difference causes this.
- The cave entrance cannot be seen from the valley, one of the reasons for the late discovery.
- Discovered by the naturalist Anton von Posselt-Csorich and mountain guide and hunter Eckschlager in October 1879.
- Posselt was soon aware that this was a sensational discovery and published an article a year later.
- However, it took another 33 years until the painter and enthusiastic speleologist Alexander von Mörk founded the Salzburg cave association and explored this cave together with Benno Pehany in 1912.
- Mörk has contributed a great part in the exploration. He was aware of the significance of this natural wonder, and at that time, he already made the statement that this is the largest ice cave in the world. He named it Eisriesenwelt, which means the World of ice giants.
- Alexander von Mörk gave all ice formations names from the Norse saga world.
- Due to the outbreak of World War I in 1914, a large part of the expedition crew was sent to the front. Mörk and Rihl did not survive. Alexander Mörk's wish was to receive an urn grave in his beloved cave. He died in Galicia on October 22, 1914.
- It was not until September 1919 that the Oedl brothers resumed the exploration. They made a very accurate measurement despite the most difficult conditions. Narrow corridors were measured with a compass. This meant that only brass lamps could be used, and ice picks had to be put far away so that the magnetic needles of the measuring instruments were not irritated.
- The first official opening for the front part was already on 26.9.1920. One year later, a walking path to the cave entrance was developed. A shelter was also built in 1924, and a continuous wooden stairway was already installed in the ice cave for better accessibility to the public. Dr Friedrich Oertl was responsible for the difficult development work, after whom the refuge was named.
- As early as 1920, the first pictures of the ice giants were taken, which made the cave immediately famous.
- Until today, numerous side passages and labyrinths of the ice giant world are still being explored.
Packing List and What to Wear for Eisriesenwelt
- The temperature is constantly below 0°C/ 32°F. It is not such a shocking difference in May and October, but it easily tops 30°C/ 86°F outside in the hot summer sun. You need a warm jacket, long trousers, maybe gloves, and a beany inside the cave. Be prepared to walk one hour through the chilly cave.
- Sun protection: sunscreen, especially for your face, hat, and sunglasses.
- A bottle of water for the walk. However, you are able to get beverages, snacks and meals in the information centre after the cable car ride at Wimmerhütte and Dr Oedl-Haus at Achselkopf Mountain.
Where to Eat and Sleep Nearby?
By chance, we ended up at the Reitsamerhof. The staff was super accommodating; the food was delicious and freshly prepared. The men had roast pork with dumplings and salad, and I had wild garlic dumplings with fresh vegetables. For dessert, we shared a delicious apple strudel with vanilla ice cream. The beds were super comfy, and our room had a balcony. The hotel is fantastic and located in such a beautiful landscape.
Another nearby attraction is this more than 1000 years old fortification which belongs to Salzburg.
- Open daily from May to September
- Shorter opening hours in April and October
- Closed in winter
Best Months to Visit
Location and Tips
The giant ice cave is far from being fully explored, and more passages are suspected as above the "Mörk Dome", named after the discoverer of the cave. This is a large hall with a huge ice formation that formed from meltwater from below and above, stalagmites and stalactites.
Here the famous climbers Rudolf Hauser and Georg Sautner climbed under the most difficult conditions to figure out if there is access to the outside from up there, i.e., an opening. Because somewhere must this high amount of water or ice come from. Ice further up the shaft, however, stopped them. The cave also keeps this secret to itself further on.
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