The largest Ice Caves in the World, the Werfen Ice Caves, are only 38 kilometers from Salzburg, and everything is set up to reach them. They are the main attraction in the town of Werfen and easy to reach on your own by public transport. Let me tell you in this article how to get from Salzburg to the Ice Caves.
Beware that the Ice Caves are not open in winter. Before considering a visit, check their website to find out if they are open while you are visiting Salzburg! Beware also that you need to be more or less fit for a visit to the Ice caves.
To reach the Ice Caves from Salzburg, you take a train from the Salzburg train station to Werfen. From the station in Werfen, you take a shuttle bus to the visitor’s center and buy your ticket for the caves. You then hike for 20 minutes, take a cable car and walk for another 20 minutes to the entrance of the caves, where your guide will wait for you.
Sounds complicated, right? In this article, I will guide you step by step, and you see that it’s much easier than it sounds and that you will be fine to go on your own.
The Train from Salzburg to Werfen
The train to Werfen leaves from the central train station in Salzburg. Departures are frequent. The S3 leaves every half an hour, and the regional train REX also almost every half an hour. You get your ticket for the train from the machine at the train station. The process is straightforward, and you can change the language on the ticket machine to English, but it may take a few minutes to figure out how it works, so don’t arrive just on time.
Get to the Salzburg train station ten minutes before your desired departure to find out how the ticket machine works and to buy your ticket. You need a ticket before you get on the train.
The Shuttle Bus from Werfen to the visitors center
The shuttle bus to the Ice Caves leaves from the shuttle bus parking every 25 minutes. At 8:18 am, 10:18 am, 12:18 pm, and 2.18 pm the same shuttle bus, on its way to the caves, also passes the train station. The bus parking, however, is only 5 minutes or fewer walking from the train station. There is no need to stress about getting to Werfen on train station pick up time. Let me explain how to find the shuttle bus parking.
Leave the train station! You will face the bridge over the Salzach river. Cross that bridge! On the other side, turn right and walk along the river. In no time you will see the bus parking. There is a container that sometimes serves as a ticket office, and maybe there is even the bus waiting for you. Otherwise, you have to wait for a moment. The bus leaves every 25 minutes.
The return ticket for the shuttle bus is €7,-. You will get a red coupon with two edges to tear off. One for each way. The shuttle bus is required, and the price is reasonable. Walking would take 1,5 hours uphill on a concrete road. The shuttle bus drops you in front of the visitors center where you go on and buy your ticket to the Ice Caves.
The shuttle bus driver is friendly and helpful. During our visit in October 2019, we were the last guests on the way down from the caves. We asked the shuttle bus driver how to get to the Hohenwerfen fortress from the bus parking. Because there were no other guests on the bus, he offered to take us there for free.
The Visitors Center – How much is the Ticket to the Ice Caves?
First, a little tip. We talked to the staff at the visitors center of the Ice Caves, and they told us it would be best to visit the Ice Caves as early in the day as possible if you want to avoid the crowds.
At the visitor’s center, you buy your ticket to the caves and for the cable car. The cable car with the entrance fee to the Ice Caves and the required guided tour is €24,- for an adult. If you are a student, there is a €2,- discount. There are many combinations of discounted family tickets, and there are discounts for youth under the age of 18. The Ice Caves, including the cable car with €24,- or €22,- for students offer a fair price value compared to other tourist destinations and day trips around Salzburg.
To only take the cable car, a regular ticket is €14,- but the cable car without the caves wouldn’t make much sense. A hike from the visitors center to the caves would only be recommended, if you are an experienced alpinist, not afraid of heights, up for a serious effort, and equipped with proper hiking gear. In that case, you would only pay €12,- for a visit to the Ice Caves. But again, only if you meet the requirements above!
The hike from the Visitor Center to the Cable Car
Once you got your ticket, the adventure begins. You hike for an easy 15 – 20 minutes. Depending on the weather, it can be a gorgeous hike. Look at this picture from our last visit.
You see, the fortress of Werfen from the train, the train station or the bus. However, the last time we visited, we saw nothing in the beginning. Only when we were on the way to the cable car, the fog lifted and the fortress appeared.
There is part of the way where you could walk inside a tunnel. Don’t do that! I don’t know why anyone would do that. The sign says “Beware of falling rocks”, but rocks could fall anywhere on the way up, and in many years in tourism in Austria, I have never heard of anyone who got hurt by a falling rock while visiting the Ice caves.
The Cable Car to the Ice Caves
On your way to the cable car, you can’t go wrong. There is only one way up, no intersections except for the tunnel which leads you on the same path again. Once you reach the cable car, you scan your ticket and get on. There are two cars. They have renewed the cable car in 2015. A ride up only takes 3 minutes and when it’s busy, the cable car goes up and down all the time. It can, however, still get crowded and there could be a cue in high season.
About 200.000 people visit the Ice Caves every year. In summer there can be queues at the cable car. As mentioned above, it’s recommended to go as early in the morning as possible.
The Hike from the Cable Car to the entrance of the Ice Caves
Once you reached the top by cable car, you begin your second easy 20-minute hike up to the entrance of the caves. You walk past the Oedl Schutzhaus restaurant and keep going for about another 15 minutes. Again, you can’t go wrong. There is only one way up to the entrance which you will see in the distance while you walk.
I was not expecting to find a public restroom at 1700 meters of altitude. This came in handy for me because I forgot to use the toilet on all the other stops. There are restrooms all along the way. At the visitors center, at the lower and the top station of the cable car and even here on top of the mountain.
Meet your guide for a tour of the Ice Caves!
Once you reach the entrance to the caves, your guide will wait for you. The guided tour is the only way to visit the inside of the Ice Caves. It’s included in your €24,- ticket for the Caves and the cable car. That’s the reason I wouldn’t recommend taking a tour from Salzburg to the Ice Caves. Inside the Caves, you will have a guide, anyway. Tours take 70 minutes and start about every half an hour.
Once the tour starts, every 4th person gets an oil lamp. The guide will divided groups into English and German speakers, and off we go into the darkness and cold of the largest Ice Cave in the world.
While you are in Werfen, you might also consider a visit to the Hohenwerfen fortress. In my honest opinion, it is not a must. From the outside, it looks more interesting than from the inside. Read this to find out about the Hohenwerfen fortress and to find out if a visit is worth it for you!
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