Located high above the deep blue waters of Hallstätter See in the Salzkammergut region of Austria lies the Dachstein Krippenstein, home to amazing hikes, spectacular alpine views and mysterious caves. This stunning area includes the fairytale world of the Dachstein Giant Ice Cave, the Mammut and Koppenbrüller caves, the spellbinding viewing platform at 5fingers and the extraordinary hike to the Heilbronner Cross where you can see panoramic views of the Austrian Alps, the historic town of Hallstatt and the Dachstein Glacier. There is also a nature park for children, a cave museum and many educational exhibits to keep young ones and old alike entertained.
You can spend an entire day or two exploring the Dachstein Krippenstein which is located not far from the charming town of Hallstatt, another must-see destination in the Salzkammergut region of Austria. For those adventure junkies, you could probably spend even more time by taking a whirl at paragliding, rock climbing or doing long distance hiking way up high atop the Alps. Whatever you desire to see or do, you will certainly find it at the Dachstein Krippenstein.
For us, since it was a rainy day and I have never been in an ice cave before, we opted to explore the Dachstein Giant Ice Cave and save the hiking for a nicer day. The only downfall is that we had to pay the rather pricey cable car fees twice since we couldn’t do it all in one day. But it would have been a tragedy to not come back on a nicer day and see the extraordinary views from high above. The benefit of having poor weather is that it kept the crowds away and it also meant beautiful views like this one below along the way to Obertraun.
We arrived at the Dachstein Krippenstein Cable Car station to find the parking lot empty. The rain had kept people away and we had a relatively short wait to catch the cable car up to the middle station Schönbergalm (section I). There are three different cable stations that bring you up the mountain and for the cave visit, we only visited the first. As we moved up the mountain, we suddenly busted through fog and clouds to reach the first stop at the mountain restaurant where we purchased our tickets for the Ice Cave tour and ate lunch. Unfortunately we didn’t have the incredible, panoramic views that day that really sells this eating venue and our meal was a little disappointing after all of the delightful dishes we have eaten so far on our trip. But on a gorgeous day, I bet it is a fantastic to sit and eat out on the terrace even if the food is not the best.
After lunch, we purchased our tickets for the tour and followed the short 15 minute trail up to the Dachstein Ice Cave. Along the path, we saw lots of lovely wildflowers dripping with dew and water droplets from the mornings rain. Despite how pretty it all looked, I prayed it would clear up soon and we would get an idea of what it truly looks like in The Salzkammergut. We had been there two days and had seen nothing but thick clouds and rain. Not the summer weather we had expected.
Yet the promise of what the view would be like when it was uncovered from the clouds was enough to keep us filled with hope.
We reached the cave just in time for our 50 minute tour. When we entered the cave, I was immediately glad I had on warm clothing. It was wet, damp and dramatically cooler inside. We would soon find out that the temperature would continue to drop down to just below freezing at 26 degrees F (-2 °C ) once we were deep within the depths of the cave. So words of wisdom when visiting the cave: Wear sturdy supportive shoes and brings lots of warm clothing.
The Dachstein Ice Cave was discovered in 1910 by explorers. It is one of three caves (there is also the Mammut Cave which is one of the largest karst caves in the world and the Koppenbrüller cave where a cave stream plunges into a river) that can be toured. We only had time that day to see the Ice Cave.
As we slowly walked inside the cave, our guide informed us that the first part of the cave has no ice because it is the warmest part of cave. As you descend down and the temperatures drop, you begin to see patches and then entire structures of ice. Millions of years ago there was a sea over this part of Europe. The cave was formed when the water from the sea began dropping through the cracks of the ground, carving out a magically immense cave.
As you continue walking, it gets dramatically colder as you enter the ice cave where freezing water has turned into the majestic ice formations you see today. These ice formations are estimated to be roughly 500 years old and the most dramatic structure reaches a towering height of 8 meters high and looks like an enormous mountain of ice.
Our guide stopped aside the giant ice mountain to tell us a little bit more about the cave and how the ice is formed. In this part of Austria, there is a ton of snow which melts and freezes deep down into the depths of the cave. In the Spring, water runs into cave and it freezes creating beautiful structures of ice. There is over 30,000 cubic meters of ice inside the cave and the cave is estimated to be 10 million years old.
Visitors can see about 900 meters of the 2.7 km cave during their visit and the highlight of the tour is the technicolor multimedia light show which begins once you enter the ice cave. During the show, the ice turns a rainbow of brilliant colors from red to orange to pink to purple and to blue. It is absolutely incredible! (So incredible that instead of putting all he photos in the post, I pulled them together into this 1.36 minute video for your viewing pleasure:
As you near the end of the tour, you cross over a giant bridge where you can see the ice far below your feet (82 feet/25 meters down!). This was my absolute favorite part of the show as the views are extraordinary. I couldn’t help but stop and stare (while my daughter scurried across the bridge as fast as possible).
As we left the cave it was hard to imagine such a fantastical world exists and is real. My kids agreed, it was just like being in Disneyland but even better.
If you go:
There are many different tickets and prices depending on exactly what tour(s) you want to do. Each ticket includes the ascent and descent. For more information on tours and pricing, visit https://dachstein-salzkammergut.com/en/summer/summer-mountain/dachstein-in-the-salzkammergut/
For information exclusively on the Ice Cave Tours: www.dachstein-salzkammergut.com/en/summer/below-ground/dachstein-giant-ice-cave/
Details of the tour:
The Dachstein Krippenstein Cable Car station and office to purchase tickets is located at Winkl 34, 4831 Obertraun. There is free parking but it fills up quickly on a busy day. On a nice day expect very long lines for the cable car! We waited over an hour the following day.
Starting point: Middle station Schönbergalm (section I)
Walking time to the Cave: Around 15 to 20 minutes
Duration of the guided cave tour: 50 minutes
Temperature inside the cave: -2 °C (26.6 °F): It is quite cold inside so be sure to bring and wear warm clothing!