One of the ‘tourist’ sites to do in the Salzburg area is to head to the outskirts of a small town called Werfen to check out the ice cave in the mountains combined with a cable car ride and fantastic views. The journey by train between the two towns takes between 45 minutes to an hour depending on what service is caught.
The Eisriesenwelt (which means ‘World of the Ice Giants’ in German) is a cave which is like a maze inside, over 40kms worth of tunnels inside but only a small section open to the public. The natural limestone ice cave is located inside the Hochkogel Mountain and is the largest in the world. The cave was first discovered in 1879 by explorer Anton von Posselt-Czorich. As the caves are located in an isolated area in the high mountains (and also the lack of explorers who wanted to go into the caves around that time), the cave was unknown until this point. Anton checked out about two hundred meters into the cave before publishing his findings. Then the cave got forgotten about until the founder of the Salzburg Cave Explorers, Alexander von Mork noted Posselt’s documents and then carried on with the research in 1913. After the First World War, the cave became well known and started to become a tourist attraction as people grew interested in what had been reported on the findings from cave explorers.
Visitors will need a few hours to visit the site or even spend the whole day here as there is plenty to do. From the train station in Werfen there is a bus to take visitors to the lower cable car station. The first time I came here, I walked up the mountain alongside the road and it’s a bit of a drag but there are some amazing views on the way up. At one point I saw the Hohenwerfen Castle on an opposite mountain which was used for the famous 1968 film ‘Where Eagles Dare’. I always thought it was used in a James Bond movie but how wrong was I!
At the lower cable car station is where visitors need to buy tickets to go further up the Hochkogel Mountain. There is a choice of just doing the cable car and taking in the views or buying a combination ticket which also includes a tour of the ice caves. We did both and within minutes we were being whizzed up into the car inside the cable car which is probably the fastest one we have been on in Europe. At the top station there is a fantastic restaurant which sells the perfect meat and potato hotpot. We loved it plus we also had a beer here whilst sitting here at the balcony terrace taking in the breathtaking views. This is certainly a great place to have lunch or dinner before or after the tour.
There is a long 30-45 minutes walk from the cable car to the caves but the views will make the time pass by. There is a huge hole in the mountain side which is the entrance to the ice caves and where the tour begins. We were given an lantern and then followed the guide for the next hour which includes taking in a large room with a stalagmite known as the Posselt tower in the centre (see photo – which I must also point out is not allowed on the tour but I managed to get in a few sneaky photos). Next part of the tour took the group to see the Great Ice Embankment, a massive formation that rises to a height of 25m and is the greatest ice growth in the cave system. There are also plenty of stalactites to see on the way whilst also taking in a cathedral and an ice palace. The tour takes around 1h20.
The trip is worth going on, set in beautiful mountains, alpine air smells and great views. The caves are only an hour's journey by train or car from Salzburg and it is worth adding an extra day to the trip to check these caves out (but only between May and October and remember to take a jumper/pullover!). Anyone needing further information on the caves, please visit here.