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When we were in Hallstatt, our short visit meant we had to choose between visiting the salt mines or the nearby Dachstein Ice Cave. Hallstatt is known for its long, prosperous history of salt mining, so I almost felt obligated to go tour the mines. Once I tuned into my instincts, instead of the guidebook hype, I realized I very much wanted to go to the ice cave. I do not regret our choice one bit!
The Dachstein Ice Cave was the first ice cave I have ever visited, so it completely blew my mind! The giant cave was an impressive mixture of ice and stone, all beautifully illuminated with coloured lights. I was captivated by this underground world and would never have guessed by looking at the mountain that this was inside.
About the Dachstein Ice Cave- Interesting Facts and History
The Dachstein Giant Ice Cave is located near Obertraun in the Dachstein Mountains, a mountain range in the Austrian Alps.
While it can’t be said for certain when the ice cave was discovered, one legend is that a local found the cave in 1897, when he was searching for his lost cattle. The cave was further investigated in 1910 when Austrian cave explorers Hanna and Hermann Bock and Georg Lahner managed to go deep inside the cave for the first time.
A few years after this exploration, the Dachstein Ice Cave was opened for tourism. Guided tours started in 1912 and in 1928 the cave was outfitted with electric lighting. The show cave area where tours take place is approximately half the total length of the cave, which measures 2 km long.
As for the frozen water inside, the Dachstein Ice Cave contains about 13,000 m³ of ice covering a surface of 5,000 m². In some places the ice is 20 m thick. According to pollen analysis, the ice could be around 500 years old.
The Dachstein Giant Ice Cave is protected as a natural monument and as part of the UNESCO World Heritage area of Hallstatt- Dachstein/Salzkammergut Cultural Landscape.
Dachstein Ice Cave Photos
Here are some of the photos I took during our guided tour of Dachstein Ice Cave. I’ll admit, this was not an easy place to photograph. The cave was really dark so I had to bump up my camera’s ISO to 6400, shoot with my lens wide open at f/2.8, and still try to handhold the camera at super slow shutter speeds (some as low as 1/20 of a second!) I couldn’t lag behind the group to try and get a good shot because as the guide got further ahead, the lights behind the group would turn off. I got left behind in the darkness more than once, and it was a little scary!
I hope you enjoy this peek inside Dachstein Ice Cave!
Tips for Visiting Dachstein Ice Cave
Getting There: To get to the ice cave from Hallstatt, drive or take the public bus from the nearby suburb of Lahn. The tourist information office (at Seestrasse 99) can advise you about what bus to take and stop to get off at.
- Obertraun and the Dachstein Ice Cave can also be reached by car, bus, or train from Salzburg.
Cave Access and Operating Hours: To get to the Dachstein Ice Cave you will have to take the Dachstein Krippenstein cable car part way up the mountain to the Schönbergalm middle station. From there the ice cave is another 15-20 minute uphill hike.
- The cable car operates daily from May to the end of October. See an up to date cable car schedule and cave opening times here.
Dachstein Ice Cave Tour and Tickets: You must register for a Dachstein Ice Cave tour at the office in the middle/Schönbergalm station on the mountain. The office will assign you a tour time. For current ticket prices, see here.
- Tours are conducted in German and English and are about 50 minutes long.
- There are some stairs inside the ice cave and they can be a bit slippery, so make sure you wear shoes with good grips.
- Dress warmly- the temperature inside the ice cave is about -2 degrees Celsius.
More Caves: There are also two other caves you can explore further up the mountain- the Mammuthohle and Koppenbrullerhohle.
* Information was updated July 2021 but can change without notice. Please confirm directly with service providers.