I visited the Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave and Dachstein Ice Cave in Austria and explored a world of ice and frost
When I think about Summer in the Alps, I can’t imagine visiting an ice cave in Austria. Hot and long Summer days are usually for me associated with outdoors activities and swims at the late, not exploring glittering caverns and ice tunnels. Well, during my last visit in the Alps I not only found out that Austria has the largest ice cave in the world, but also that is available for a visit all year long except during the cold winter.
A natural wonder easy to explore
There are only a few ice caves in continental Europe travelers can access to. The Ice Grotto of Mittelallalin in Switzerland and the Dobšinská Ice Cave in Slovakia are some of the most famous ones. Yet, they might not be as beautiful as the two of the ice caves you can explore in Austria: Dachstein and Eisriesenwelt.
Located only 75 km away from each other and very close to the German border, Dachstein and Eisriesenwelt became popular stops for European travelers during a weekend trip to Salzburg or Hallstatt, as well for those cruising the Alps.
A refreshing activity for the Summer
Oddly, most ice caves in Austria are not accessible on winter. Tours to Dachstein or Eisriesenwelt can be taken only between May and October, as this is the time where the route is not completely covered with ice and snow. Even though during Summer temperatures are hot enough to melt the ice within minutes, the doors of the cave are kept closed and the cold wind from inside blows toward the entrance to prevent the giant ice formations from melting. Alternatively, the entrance of the cave is kept open during winter. This is the time, when the icy winter winds blow into the cave and freeze the snow inside.
Each cave offers a completely different experience too. Due to its proximity to the idyllic town of Hallstatt, Dachstein has been lately developed to be more a tourist attraction: Cave bears, rope bridge and a light show are now part of the program. While in Eisriesenwelt travelers can do only lamp-lit tours which in some way transport you back in time.
NOTE: There are several signs stating that photography is not allowed inside Eisriesenwelt. However, some tour guides understands that this is a very memorable experience to most people and they don’t mind if you snap one or two photographs during the tour.
Dachstein in a nutshell
Planning a tour to Dachstein is not difficult at all. There are guided tours held in English and German every 30 minutes, and tickets can be either purchased online, at the ticket station in Hallstatt or at the feet of the Dachstein Mountain.
To visit the Giant Ice Cave of Dachstein you also need to take the Dachstein Krippenstein cable car and then walk around 15 minutes to the cave. Ticket price for the ice cave in Dachstein is 37,50 EUR including the cable car ride and the tour last around 50 minutes.
In 2020 the Dachstein Ice Cave will be open to the public until November 2nd 2020 and the times for the last guided tour are:
- 29.05.20 until 03.07.20 – close at 3:30 PM
- 04.07.20 until 13.09.20 – close at 4:30 PM
- 14.09.20 until 02.11.20 – close at 3:30 PM
Where to stay
The closes town to Dachstein is the beautiful and charming village of Hallstatt. This is an extremely popular spot in Austria and accommodation should be booked in advanced if you are traveling in high season.
Read more: How to plan a road trip around Iceland
Eisriesenwelt in a nutshell
Traveling to Eisriesenwelt feels more like a little adventure. It is also located on top of a mountain (next to the town of Werfen) and can get accessed by cable car or walking. However, travelers have to get first to the middle section of the mountain by car or public transportation, where the ticket office is located.
Tickets can be purchase in advance on their website or straight at the office. Furthermore, the ticket price change depending if you want to take the cable car or not (10 EUR without cable car or 28 EUR using a cable car).
NOTE: Tickets without cable car can only be purchased in person
Even though I wanted to take the first option and safe some money, the hike to the top of the mountain can take up to two hours completely uphill and then 1 hour to go down. I preferred to skip this part and safe some time for a different activity. However, if the day is sunny and you feel the desire for a short hike, this is a nice walk before you start the tour.
The Ice cave of Eisriesenwelt is open to the public until October 26th 2020 and the opening times are:
- May, June, September and October – 8:15 AM – 3:00 PM
- July and August – 8:15 AM – 15:30 PM
Where to stay
The closest town to Eisriesenwelt is Werfen. This medieval town is known for its castle on top of a hill. However, most travelers visiting Eisriesenwelt come straight from Salzburg (60 km away) or pay a visit to the ice cave as a simple stop on their way to the Alps.
NOTE: The temperature for both ice caves is around -2 °C. It is recommended to wear warm clothes or take warm clothes with you when visiting inside.
Eisriesenwelt and Dachstein are simply incredible. I felt fascinated visiting an ice cave in Austria for first time and the tour at Eisriesenwelt was totally worth it. I’m the kind of person who prefers to travel more independently and explore places like this only with a private guide or by myself. However, the information provided and the idea of exploring a cave with a lamp from the 20s really impressed me.
Between a stalactite cave and an ice cave I’m not sure which one I would prefer. They are both fascinating and exciting. Yet, when it comes to an experience that takes you completely out of guard, an ice cave definitely takes the top price.
Furthermore, between a visit to Dachstein or Eisriesenwelt, I would say each experience is completely different and depending on what you are looking for, one of these two caves definitely offers it.