Surviving the World’s Largest Ice Caves: Werfen Eisriesenwelt

During my endeavors in the Austrian capital something exciting and something offbeat was what I was looking for. That’s when I came across the frozen subterranean world of Werfen, Eisriesenwelt. Perched high above the tiny hamlet of Werfen, a must do day trip when in Salzburg. However I chose to see this manifesto a bit differently. I made way to the beautiful city of Zell Am See for a 2-day spree. Already falling in love with this lakeside town I was lucky enough to be here on their local festival occasion. This lakeside town stunned me with its picturesque landscapes and the festive feel during sundowners.

Chalet in Zell Am See

The charming houses and lakeside walks was the perfect way to unwind in this Austrian Alp village. The dock port painted such startling shades of blue during the sunset that for a second you feel you are right amidst a postcard picture.

Postcard perfect scenes at the dock

Later in the evening the best way to enjoy the exquisiteness of this bantam village is by the lakeside to watch the colorful fountain show. What more when it is coupled with some great firework show too.

Zell Am See Festival
Firework Show!
Colorful fountain show

Now that’s what I would call a perfect start towards an adventure that was to follow in the morning.

Having read and researched so much about the ice caves I rested well enough to start my quest next morning. Taking a train to Werfen early morning I realized the way to the Ice Caves was going to be a long one. As you have to go all the way up to the top.

Starting the journey to Werfen

From the train station a 10 min walk was involved in getting to the bus station, which took us right up to, the visitor center. The Ice cave being open to visit only 6 months in a year this place sure had a lot of people queuing up. To my surprise being the only Indians in this place we did get a little but extra special attention from the guides and made many friends too. You can say the odds were in favor that day.

Excited to see the ice caves

Having the tickets ready and all set for the hike a twenty-minute walk along a gravel path brings you to a cable car. Trying to catch a breath while on the cable car the stunning panoramic views of the mountain and just clouds and even more clouds took my breath away once again instantly. And knowing that Salzburg and the Alps averagely have 13-18 days of rainfall per month, I was basically lucky to have a good clear weather day out of 50/50 chances.

Taking the cable car ride all the way to top
The cable car station at the mountain top

 

Making way to level 2 of the hike there was another uphill climb of 20 mins, which however took more than an hour to get there. Passing by the steep narrow hillside with the destination at an altitude of over 5400 feet now in sight the view just looked magnificent. The walk was steep. But the scenery along the way is what made everything okay.

Beautiful forest trails
Passing by through dark tunnels
The only company along the way!

Being surrounded by pristine alpine views of verdant valleys giving rise to gray limestone peaks set against an azure sky, suddenly there would be this gust of cold and calm fog brushing past you.

Entrance to the cave
With the destination getting closer

The views from Hochkogel Mountain on my way to the entrance were some of the best views I’ve seen in Austria. The quaint village of Werfen is at the foot of the mountain, and then it’s just green fields, and layers of mountains with Austrian villages scattered throughout. And it seems to continue forever.

When the sun is shining through the clouds, reflecting patches of light, there’s simply nothing as peaceful.

Getting close to the entrance of the ice giants looks like it was plucked straight from a fantasy novel and would make a great setting for any adventure story. Clouds enshrouded the entrance as I waited for my turn to go in. But the moment you step foot at the entrance a flare of icy air awaits you whenever the door to the caves is opened.

Finally arriving at the entrance of the cave

This ice cave is undoubtedly knows as the worlds largest as it extends more than 42 kms into the mountains with 1 km covered completely with ice. A natural cave discovered in the setting, is still maintained in a way to keep the surroundings natural. They hand you each a carbide lantern to be able to view the magnificent structures in the ice caves as no any artificial light into the cave are allowed as it effects the ice. Interesting!

Back to the days exploring the caves like middle age cave men!

Ready to explore

Bringing in warm clothes sweaters, scarves etc and good sturdy shoes is a must on this excursion. No matter what the weather is outside, the ice cave is always freezing cold inside. What makes it easy and tough at the same time is all the walking up and down inside the cave. With 700 steps upwards and downwards you are forced to keep moving and walking so to stay warm. And just when you decide to catch a breath what you see along the climb is just magical.

Climbing to see the marvel
First sights of the ice cave

Thick walls of ice. beautiful shapes and colors. Something that one must have never seen anything like it before.

Following the wooden walkway in the dim light of the lamps there were certain places I simply stopped to marvel the various natural structures formed within the caves.

Unearthing the secrets of the caves

The guide constantly lit magnesium strips to unearth the beautiful secrets of the cave. For bigger exhibits he had long strips that we’re hung up and lit the whole room. The ice was amazing! It is formed when the water from the melting snow leaks into the cave, which is 40km deep.

Frozen ice structures

The freezing air that blows through the cave freezes the water. Frozen into beautiful shapes, stallic mites and tites, and what looked like beautiful ginormous frozen waterfalls. It was absolutely amazing. Never had I seen anything like it!

Going further to the top
Amazing ice formations

All I could do was forget about the chilling weather down my spine and get immersed deeper and deeper into the secrets of these ice caves.

One part of the cave was extremely steep as it takes you up the side of one of the frozen “waterfalls” with the ice being 20 by 30 meters deep there. Wow.

The frozen waterfall inside the cave

Reaching mid way to the cave it became more silent and dark. The temperatures dropped further and even the handrails were covered in ice some disappearing into the ice walls. The rock walls and ceiling sparkled like glitter from all the small ice crystals. There were views of frozen lakes inside the cave. I was struck by not only the crystalline beauty of the caves but also of the sheer size of the caverns and the ice flows within.

Having seen a natural wonder like this, this is definitely one place I would get back to again as these ice formations in the caves are ever changing and every summer they are carved out totally in a new way for these eyes to marvel their beauty.

Cannot Miss:

  • Plan a complete day to visit the Ice Caves
  • Bundle up for the tour with your warmest clothes
  • Catch beautiful views of Hohenwerfen Castle along the way
  • Relax and warm up for the visit in advance to make the most out of your day trip to Werfen
GlobeTrotting365Days: Werfen 4th August 2014.  

 

Author: globetrotting365days

Dreaming and living the wanderlust life at my early 20's, I have always thrived on my long bucket list. Yes a list that counts up to more than 75 odd countries, I have been lucky enough to witness the magic of 20 awe-inspiring countries already and it still keeps me yearning for more.

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