Climb to the Dachstein caves (Dachsteinhöhlen) and you’ll find yourself in a strange world of ice and subterranean hollows, extending 80km in some places. The two caves, the Dachstein Eishöhle and the Mammuthöhle, take about 15 minutes to reach by foot, each in different directions from the Schönbergalm cable-car station at 1350m. Tours of each cave last an hour.
The ice in the Dachstein Eishöhle is no more than 500 years old, and forms an ‘ice mountain’ up to 8m high – twice as high now as it was when the caves were first explored in 1910. The formations here are illuminated with coloured light and the shapes they take are eerie and surreal. This cave can only be seen on a guided tour; if you ask the tour guides they will offer the tour with English commentary as well as German.
The ice-free Mammuthöhle is among the 30 or so deepest and longest caves in the world. Tours offer insight into the formation of the cave, which also has installations and artworks based on light and shadow to heighten the experience.