One of the world’s largest ice caves, this network of frosty caverns and tunnels extends for more than 25 miles (40 kilometers) through the Tennen Mountains in the Austrian Alps. Discovered in 1879, this subterranean wonderland encompasses vast blue-tinged chambers, sculptural ice formations, and frozen waterfalls.
Access to the Werfen Ice Caves (Eisriesenwelt), nicknamed the World of Ice Giants, is by guided tour only. During the cave tour, visitors are led through the interior to sights including the gigantic Eispalast (Ice Palace) chamber and the sculpture Frigga's Veil, also known as the Ice Organ, formed by rows of icicles.
Visitors often explore the ice caves as part of organized excursions from Salzburg, which typically include transfers as well as entrance to the cave. Some full-day tours combine a visit to the caves with a trip to Golling Waterfall (Gollinger Wasserfall), the Salzwelten Hallstatt salt mines, and the medieval-era Hohenwerfen Castle.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Werfen Ice Caves is a must for nature lovers and the adventurous.
- Though the tour takes just 1 hours 15 minutes, allow at least 3 hours for your visit as the journey to the cave’s entrance takes additional time.
- Wear sturdy hiking shoes and warm clothes. The temperature inside the caves will be below freezing.
- Getting to the ice caves involves an uphill hike, and tours include ascents up many steps, so this attraction is best suited to reasonably fit travelers.
- Leave your camera behind—photography is not allowed inside the caves.
How to Get There
To get to the caves, drive or take the train to the town of Werfen, Austria, situated about 24 miles (40 kilometers) south of Salzburg. From there, follow the 3.5-mile (6-kilometer) signposted access road to the parking lot near the visitor center. If you don’t have a car, buses are available, departing from Werfen Station and more frequently from the Gries parking lot, a 5-minute signposted walk from Werfen Station. From the visitor center, it’s a 20-minute uphill hike to the cable car. Once you disembark, it’s a further 20-minute climb to the cave entrance.
When to Get There
The caves are open May–October and are busiest during July and August. To avoid the busiest times, go in early morning (8am–9am) or later in the afternoon (3pm–4pm).
The History of the Caves
Because of their remote setting, the caves remained largely unknown to outsiders up until the late 19th century when explorer Anton von Posselt-Czorich entered them. Posselt-Czorich only got about 650 feet (200 meters) into the caves, but his research inspired further exploration in the early 20th century. The addition of wooden planks, climbing aids, and an access road—followed by an aerial cable car in 1955—granted access to more and more visitors.