the World of the Ice Giants


Eishöhlenstraße 30, A-5450 Werfen, Austria

GPS: 47.47773878207, 13.193161239759

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Nestled in the Tennengebirge mountains and beautifully overlooking the charming little town of Werfen south of Salzburg, the Eisriesenwelt cave means “the World of the Ice Giants” in German. This gigantic cave is home to a remarkable natural and geological spectacle created when the water of the Salzach River meets the karst rock of the Salzburger Alps. The formation of the Eisriesenwelt cave dates back to the Tertiary era, several tens of millions of years ago, well before the prehistoric period.

The Eisriesenwelt cave is located at an altitude of more than 1,600 metres and contains sprawling labyrinths that run deep into the Prealps. Water from melting snow manages to flow into the mountain through cracks and crevices before dramatically refreezing. Guided tours offer the opportunity to admire impressive natural ice formations (ice chambers and walls, ice waterfalls, ice sculptures, giant stalagmites, ice crystals…) enhanced by a clever play of light. This abyssal network of galleries gives the Eisriesenwelt the title of the largest ice cave in the world.

The cave was revealed to the public in 1879 by the Austrian naturalist Anton von Posselt-Czorich, who ventured to walk the first 200 metres. However, it was not until the beginning of the 20th century that the 42 kilometres of underground passages in the Eisriesenwelt began to be explored (only the first kilometre of the cave is accessible to the public today). It was thanks to the research work of Anton von Posselt-Czorich that the speleologist Alexander von Mörk, together with other pioneers, became interested in this little-known site in 1913. As the Eisriesenwelt began to gain regional importance, the first visitor facilities (including primitive climbing routes and a refuge) were built. An unpaved road was built in 1953. Two years later, a cable car was laid out by the Austrian authorities to make it more accessible. Today, the Eisriesenwelt is one of the most visited attractions in the Salzburg region, along with the nearby Hohenwerfen Castle. As the cave is owned by the Austrian Federal Forests, part of the revenue generated from visits is used to preserve and protect the surrounding forest area.

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  • The entrance dome of the Eisriesenwelt cave (18 metres high and 20 metres wide) and its network of abyssal tunnels running into the mountain
  • The many ice formations (columns, walls, sculptures, waterfalls, stalactites…) including: Posselt Hall (a large room with a huge stalagmite in its centre), Eispalast (the “ice palace”), Great Ice Embankment (a massive 75-metre high ice formation), Hymir’s Castle (a giant ice sculpture), Frigga’s Veil (a series of stalactites in a row) or Alexander von Mörk’s Cathedral (the largest room in the cave accessible to the public)
  • The complex of underground labyrinths and layers of ice nearly ten metres thick
  • Visual effects during the illumination phases
  • The fabulous aerial view of the Salzach Valley and the Austrian Central Alps
  • The ascent which is possible by cable car or on foot (1.5 hours of rather steep walking)
  • A safe visit with an experienced guide
  • The nearby medieval fortress of Hohenwerfen (built in 1077)
  • The geographical location of the Eisriesenwelt cave, located one hour by train from the city of Mozart (Salzburg)
  • For a long time, the local people who knew about the cave refused to explore it for fear that it would lead to the gates of hell.
  • When Alexander von Mörk died, his body was buried in the cave in 1925 in accordance with his wishes as expressed in his will.
  • Since the 1920s, the volume of ice in the Eisriesenwelt cave has increased by a third.
  • An underground lake is hidden inside the mountain where the Eisriesenwelt cave is located.
  • The lights illuminating the ice formations in the Eisriesenwelt cave are based on magnesium lighting (whose bright characteristics are perfectly suited to the location).
  • Ice caves, like the Eisriesenwelt, are formed exclusively in stone structures (bedrock) and contain ice all year round, in contrast to glacier caves which are formed exclusively within a glacier.
  • The title of the longest cave in the world goes to Mammoth Cave in Mammoth Cave National Park. According to the latest survey, this cave located in the American State of Kentucky has 676 kilometres of explored underground galleries.
  • The town of Werfen (3,000 inhabitants) is 42 kilometres from Salzburg. The two towns are connected by train, and a bus from Werfen takes you to the foot of the mountain range where the cave is located.
  • The Eisriesenwelt is open to the public from May to the end of October (9 am to 4 pm). Be sure to dress warmly and wear good walking shoes when visiting (the interior of the site is subject to strong draughts of cold or even freezing air).
  • A minimum of physical fitness is required to climb the 1,400 or so steps, but a cable car makes the climb to the Dr.-Friedrich-Oedl-Haus refuge (dating from the 1920s and now a restaurant) in just 3 minutes.
  • Guided tours, led by experienced guides, are organised by the local tourist office.
  • Cameras were recently installed in the 42-kilometre-long network of the Eisriesenwelt cave to allow visitors to discover its depths without any risk.

Where to eat

  • Restaurant Feinspitz
    (classic dishes)
  • Wenger Alpenhof
    (family atmosphere)
  • Panorama restaurant Auszeit
    (privileged framework)

Where to go

  • Lammerklamm
    (beautiful natural gorge)
  • Museum Burg Golling
    (interesting museum and castle)
  • Gollinger Wasserfall
    (great waterfall and hike)

Where to stay

  • Gasthof Pension Schontal
    (peaceful and spacious)
  • Elisabeth Ferienhotel
  • Gasthof-Pension Barbarahof
    (well-kept guest room)