Billed as the world’s largest accessible ice caves, Eisriesenwelt is a glittering ice empire spanning 30,000 sq metres and 42km of narrow passages burrowing deep into the heart of the mountains. A 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 womb-like tunnel leads to a flight of 700 steps, which descends back to the entrance. Even if it’s hot outside, entering the caves in any season is like stepping into a deep freeze – bring warm clothing and sturdy footwear.
In summer, minibuses (return adult/child €7/5) run at 8.18am, 10.18am, 12.18pm and 2.18pm from Werfen train station to Eisriesenwelt car park, which is a 20-minute walk from the bottom station of the cable car. The last return bus departs at 4.32pm. Allow roughly three hours for the return trip (including the tour). You can walk the whole route, but it’s a challenging four-hour ascent, rising 1100m above the village.