Eisriesenwelt

Lonely Planet review

Billed as the world’s largest accessible ice caves, Eisriesenwelt is a glittering ice empire spanning 30,000 sq m and 42km of narrow passages burrowing deep into the heart of the mountains. Even if it’s hot outside, entering the caves is like stepping into a deep freeze – bring warm clothing and sturdy footwear year-round. Photography is not permitted inside the caves.

A 75-minute tour through these Narnia-esque chambers of blue ice is a unique experience. As you climb up wooden steps and down pitch-black passages, with carbide lamps aglow, otherworldly ice sculptures shaped like polar bears and elephants, frozen columns and lakes emerge from the shadows. A highlight is the cavernous Eispalast (ice palace), where the frost crystals twinkle when a magnesium flare is held up to them. A womblike tunnel leads to a flight of 700 steps, which descends back to the entrance. The last guided tour leaves at 3.45pm.

In summer, minibuses (adult/child return €6.10/4.50) operate every 25 minutes between Gries car park in Werfen and the Eisriesenwelt car park, which is a 20-minute walk from the bottom station of the cable car, as well as every two hours from Werfen station from 8.20am to 2.20pm. The last bus down is at 5.34pm. Allow roughly three hours for the return trip (including tour). You can walk the whole route, but it’s a challenging four-hour ascent, rising 1100m above the village.