Last Updated on 05/04/2023
Werfen has long attracted my attention with its castle and the Werfen ice cave Eisriesenwelt. On my first journey in Austria, I prefered an ice cave in Dachstein. But I always doubted – what if the cave in Werfen is more interesting? Now I can say that the choice was correct. Not because it is not interesting in Werfen, but because the visit is made with too much effort.
About Dachstein Eis Cave.
About castle Hohenwerfen
Dachstein, Tennengau, Pongau. Karte
It is definitely better not to visit the cave with small children under 6 years old. The locals seem to know that the cave is not easy. Therefore, all Austrian children were teenagers, and fools with small children (including babies and dogs) were foreigners. Not a single ticket office does not warn of further difficulties. The website only warns that it is tiresome for children under 3-4 years old. It’s not so much tiring as it is simply dangerous! The path to the cave itself and especially the cave is dangerous.
How to get to Werfen Ice Caves from Salzburg
Where do we want to get to? There – where the green cross (view from the parking lot at the Hohenwerfen fortress).
This is the lower (!) station of the cable car. No, well, I read that it is better for drivers who do not have experience driving a car on mountain roads to leave their car in the parking lot below. But I did not think that they have a lower station where in other places the upper or at least intermediate one. The road looks like this.
By public transport:
by train to Werfen,
then by bus from the station (4 times a day) or from the parking lot (you need to walk there for about 10 minutes, but the bus runs more often).
buy a ticket,
walk 20-30 minutes on foot along the serpentine,
then stand in line for the cable car (40 minutes),
then for another 15 minutes we go along the serpentine above abyss (the description of the route is detailed on the cave’s website).
By car: we reach Werfen, then we
drive along a steep serpentine almost to the green cross.
Further, all the same as for public transport
This is if during the season you started from the hotel at 9 am.
If you started after 10, or if you are the inexperienced (that is, smart, in fact) driver, then you will be asked to leave the car downstairs.
The free parking is located in Werfen not far from the train station (follow the sign for the cave).
A shuttle leaves the parking lot every 20-30 minutes. It is paid separately. For 2 adults and a child it cost about 12 euros round trip, a 3-year-old child was free.
Hohenwerfen castle from this parking lot
To the Werfen ice cave
We were unlucky with the weather in Austria, so such lovely views awaited us on the way from the ticket office of the cable car, where the bus arrives, to the cable car itself.
There is a queue at the cable car, as the wagon is small – only 15 people. But the travel time is only 3 minutes along the steepest ascent in Austria. Thank goodness it was almost completely in the clouds and I didn’t have to look at it.
Those unwilling to stand in line and pay for the cable car can only pay for the cave and go back and forth on foot. The path partially runs under the cable car, and I personally did not like what was seen in the fog. I think that for this climb you need very good shoes and a stick will not hurt either.
From there we go.
Gradually the weather improved slightly. This is all the way to the cave entrance. If the weather is nice, the views will surely be great. On the left, you can see the road on which we came.
And now the entrance.
At the entrance, on steep stone steps and a small platform, there is a decent crowd of people, which is divided into two streams: German and English. Since German is larger, groups are sent out more often and it moves faster.
In the season with so many people, excursions begin much more often than it is written on the website and on the poster at the cable car. Not once an hour or half an hour, but at such an interval that the previous group had time to move a little from the entrance.
In the cave
You cannot film in the cave. It surprised me before. Now it is not surprising. With the security inside, everything is not very well organized. So they let you through the gate, checked your tickets – and gave out carbide lamps to every fourth person. These are the lamps, who does not know: look here. The fire in them is open.
Further the door to the cave opens. And you are almost blown away by a stream of cold air. The lamps, of course, have blown out, they are lit again. And the ascent begins on the iron steps inside a huge cave. One steep iron staircase up, the other down, in the middle there is a glacier 10-15 meters wide and with a slope of 60 degrees.
Here my youngest started yelling and refusing to go any further. We got stuck somewhere on the hundredth step out of more than 500 (this is one way!). People from our group were propping up from below, and two or three more groups behind us. That is, the way back was cut off. Can you imagine a picture? Cold below zero, screams echoing like in a large cathedral. Those who were overtaking periodically try to set fire to our clothes with their lamps. Lamps burn, steam rises from the breath of many people. The child hits me with his hands and feet, and I grabbed him like an octopus so that he would not roll down. I had to drag the child in my arms until his hysteria ended.
Finally, after 500 steps (the last 80 are exceptionally steep) all those beauties that are presented in the photographs on the site begin, and the excursion itself. The photographs do not convey the enormity of the cave, there are no photographs of the ascent at all. The guide uses magnesium cords for lighting, which quickly burn with a white flame, leaving white ash on the ice. Bypassing the ice halls along wooden walkways and stairs, we descend back 500 steps all the same.
It is also dangerous with a child because the height of the railings is not always designed for children. Having slipped on the steps and slipped under the railing, he can so gloriously drive 120 meters of a vertical ice slide. Since there are no intermediate stations where he can be caught. Thus, given the equivalence of the ice part, the cave in Dachstein does not have such difficulties and dangers, therefore it is for families, old people and people with health problems preferable.
The way back
We went back down faster than we went up. On the cable car, people are distributed more evenly. Some stay to dine at the restaurant at the upper station.
On the way back from the cable car, the weather improved so much that we even managed to see the castle. In the original photo, however, it is almost impossible to distinguish it – the image had to be heavily processed.
The total time spent from arriving at the parking lot to descending to it is about 4 hours. We did not wait for the bus either there or back, and practically did not wait for the excursion.
10 + 10 minutes by bus,
15 minutes in line at the ticket office,
about 40 minutes in line for the cable car,
1 hour 15 minutes excursion,
the rest of the time is on foot.
Considering the number of people in the season, I think that both the cave and the cable car work a little longer than it is written on the website. On the way back (it was already after 15 o’clock) people were still queuing at the cable car to go up. And from the castle after 17.30 we could see that the cable car was still working.
Now let’s go to the castle.
All the sights of the region are on the map.
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