World’s largest Ice-cave: Eisriesenwelt
The Eisriesenwelt (German for "World of the Ice Giants”) is a natural limestone ice cave located in Werfen, Austria (south of Salzburg) and is formed by Salzach river with a total length of around 42kms. Only 1km is open for tourists and rest is a cave of limestone. It is said that the first cracks and fissures in the limestone caves began to form during tectonic elevations about 100 million years ago and also it is a dynamic ice cave and the melting water entering the rock fissures in the spring and dripping into the cooler areas of the cave will freeze, forming the spectacular ice sculptures in the interior of the mountain.
I can say that visually, I have not seen anything like this gorgeous Ice-cave. You will gape at it with an appreciation to the nature!!
Inside the Ice-cave
How to Reach
I have split the route into three.
1) Route: Salzburg -> Werfen (55kms)
Car: By own car or by hiring a car - it’s the simple way.
Train: Take train from Salzburg Hbf to Werfen and is about 40mins of travel (11€).
2) Route: Werfen -> Ice-caves (around 5-7kms)
Once you are out of Werfen station, to the opposite is the bridge. Walk over the bridge and right after the bridge there is a small narrow path to the right of you. The path is next to the stream of water and continue in that path (you will feel you have lost your way; but you have not). To the end of the path you will find a wide road towards left; once you reach you find the board and ticket-counter booth. This ticket counter is for shuttle service which takes you to the Ice-caves ticket counter. Taking this bus service is the easiest way to reach. Ensure you arrive at the right time as bus is not frequent. Timings: 8:18 a.m., 10:18 a.m., 12:18 p.m. and 2:18 p.m. Make sure you also note/ask the timings for coming back.
(I did not take below route, this is for information:
In case you missed bus service then from the bus departure point at Gries, there are bus service to the Eisriesenwelt at intervals of about 25mins).
The way from Werfen to Ice-caves is through narrow curvy roads, so in case not sure of driving on those roads you can take bus from Werfen. You have the space for parking near the Werfen railway station and also near the shuttle service.
3) Route: Ice-cave ticket counter -> Ice-cave door
Once you buy the ticket (22€) to the ice-cave. You walk 0.5km and you hop onto the cable car. It takes you up and you think you have reached the ice-cave but not! Once you are out of the cable car and walk another 0.5km you see a stretch of path you need to take. It’s a hike for around 3-4 kms. The view is just beautiful and it gets better as you move. The path is rocky and narrow at some stretches.
First view of Eisriesenwelt
Once we reached the cave, we wore all the jackets, wool cap and gloves. Excitedly, we huddle-up after getting ready for our batch to start. Our guide comes and addresses us the do’s and don’ts. He tells us that its going to be below freezing (in summer too) and there are only 1400 steps (entire tour) to keep us warm inside the cave (we all gasp!!). Then he says no photography(but on internet you get lot of photos), stay close to each other in a line and every 3rd or 4th person was handed with a cave lamp; needless to explain thats our source of light inside the cave. Lastly, he mentions that at the entrance there is a gush of cold air when the door open and be careful.
We all are very enthusiastic to get going. A few people ahead of me were screaming and few others laughing as they enter through the door. When I was entering the door of the ice-cave, I felt some huge invisible cloud pushing me aside and couldn’t stop laughing. We all stood in a line curiously and waited for our entire batch to be inside. While waiting, I noticed it was dark with few parts of ice and of course feeling cold; I pulled my cap to my ears and I forgot to take my gloves, duhh!!!
I was ready to climb 1400 steps. The wooden stairs are small and bit slippery. I climbed few hundred steps easily and as they inclined up gradually. At one point, I was feeling so cold because I hadn't worn my gloves and had to hold the railings of the staircase since it was a bit slippery. Good thing is there are frequent breaks as he shows you the formations of ice and slides through the ice and uses magnesium lamps to show us the beautiful formations and also some rest. There were formations like mammoth, lady in a veil etc and a large room with a stalagmite called 'Posselt Tower' in the centre. When the guide lights the light, these naturally formed sculptures looks incredibly enchanting.
Our guide said he works here in summers and used to come here along with his grandfather and father. Its like a generation thing. He also mentions that every year he visits and there are some changes for sure either one part of ice has melted or there is a new layer of ice formed.
I came out of the door pushing myself through the gush of air. It was an experience that will last a lifetime. We packed our warm jackets, gloves and caps in our bag and started heading to the cable car. We got down the cable and there is a souvenir shop. Quite interesting that you can buy the natural stones found in the cave or articles made of it and ice formation photos. We took a bluish back stone as a souvenir and walked down towards our bus with the refreshing ice-cave journey in our minds.
View from the Ice-cave
- The tour takes about 80mins and entire trip should take around 4 hours including waiting.
- The ice-cave are usually open from May 1 to October 26 (9:30 to 4:00).
- Useful link: http://www.eisriesenwelt.at/en/home.html
- It can be tiring for few as there is lot of walking outside and inside the cave.
- Keep a half day and would suggest you to make it to the ice-cave door around 11a.m. So that you don't have to wait.
- Make sure you take warm clothes and good sports shoes as its slippery.
- There is a restaurant at cable car junction (down).
- On the way back you can visit the Hohenwerfen castle in Werfen.