It is hard to believe, but the Ice Caves in Werfen, one hour south of Salzburg, are the largest Ice Caves in the world. The first kilometer of the 42-kilometer deep cave can be explored on a guided tour. Even though the caves are only an hour away from Salzburg, there are several steps you need to take to get to the entrance but don’t worry.
I will guide you each step of the way to the cave entrance, where your tour guide will meet you. Let’s find out how to get to the Werfen Ice Caves from Salzburg!
To get to the Werfen Ice Caves from Salzburg by public transport, you have to take the train from the Salzburg train station to Werfen from where you take a shuttle bus to the visitors center. At the visitors center, you buy your ticket to the Ice caves, hike for 10-20 minutes, then take a cable car and hike for another 10-20 minutes before you meet your tour guide at the entrance of the Ice Caves.
What you need to know before you go:
- Bring some warm clothes. Even in summer, the temperature is around 0 degrees celsius.
- You must be reasonably fit. There are two hikes that must be taken in order to reach the caves, as well as 1400 steps that add up to 234 meters of altitude inside the cave.
- There is no photography allowed inside the cave. On the one hand, it’s to maintain nature, and on the other, it’s because the group is like a snake of people going up and down wet steps at a 45-degree angle, in the dark. Allowing them to take selfies would be dangerous.
1. How to get from Salzburg to Werfen by Train
The first step in traveling to the Werfen Ice Caves from Salzburg is to take the train to Werfen. Trains from Salzburg to Werfen depart from Salzburg Hauptbahnhof, the main station in Salzburg. If you purchase your ticket at the station rather than online, arrive at least ten minutes before your desired departure time so you can figure out the ticket machine and set its language if necessary.
S3, EC, REX, and IC frequently service the train route between Salzburg and Werfen. As a result, there is a train every half an hour, usually more frequently. When buying the ticket you have to choose a time but which connection you take doesn’t matter. All direct connections are the same price and all of them take between 40 minutes to an hour to reach Werfen from Salzburg.
You can also purchase the ticket online at the ÖBB website but the price at the station is the same. Train tickets in Austria don’t sell out and these particular trains, connecting Salzburg to Werfen, usually don’t fill up. It also doesn’t matter if you buy a return ticket right away. It wouldn’t decrease the overall price.
How to save money as a group by using an Einfach-Raus Ticket
If you are traveling as a group of 3-5 people, you can reduce the price of the trip from Salzburg to Werfen by buying an Einfach-Raus Ticket instead. The Einfach-Raus Ticket is a ticket for 2-5 people that allows you to take all regional trains in all of Austria for the entire day, similar to the Bayern Ticket in Germany.
The Einfach-Raus ticket can also be bought at the ticket machine or online on this page dedicated to the Einfach-Raus ticket.
In the table below, you can see that the Einfach-Raus Ticket is worth it, as soon as there are 3 travelers in your group. The only downside to the Einfach-Raus Ticket is that it’s only valid from 9 am. In addition, you can only use S3 and REX trains, but that’s not really a big problem since you still find frequent connections.
|# of Travelers
|Regular Return Ticket (2022)
|Einfach-Raus Ticket (2022)
2. Where to find the Shuttle Bus to the Ice Caves Visitors Center?
Once you get off the train in Werfen, you need to find the shuttle bus to the Ice Caves visitors center. When you leave the train station you will see a bridge in front of you. After crossing the bridge, turn right, and walk for about 2 minutes until you reach the shuttle bus stop. Shuttle buses depart from the shuttle bus parking every 25 minutes to the Ice Caves visitors center.
Every 8:18 a.m., 10:18 a.m., 12:18 p.m., and 2.18 p.m., the shuttle bus passes the train station on its way to the caves. The bus parking, however, is only five minutes or fewer walking distance from the train station. Therefore, I wouldn’t bother worrying about the pick-up time from the train station.
Return tickets for the shuttle bus cost €7,-. When paying for a return ticket on the bus, you will receive a red coupon with two corners to tear off, one for each direction.
Can you skip the shuttle bus on your trip to the Werfen Ice Caves from Salzburg? The short answer is no. It would take you 1,5 hours to walk uphill on a concrete road. Shuttle buses are necessary, but they are reasonably priced.
3. Buying the Ticket to the Werfen Ice Caves
The shuttle bus drops you in front of the visitors center. At the visitor’s center, you buy your ticket to the caves and for the cable car. It is unfortunate that the price of the Ice Caves tickets has increased sharply in 2022 with a price of €35,- at the visitors center, and a new online shop ticket of €32,-.
There used to be a €2,- discount for students and there are discounted tickets for the youth.
|Prices in 2022
|Youth 15-18 years
|Children 5-14 years
|at the visitors center
|at the online shop
|cable car up & down
|cable car one way
In the table, you can see, that there are also tickets for only the cave or just the cable car, but these aren’t very practical for most people. Cave-only tickets are not very useful since you would have to be an experienced alpinist to skip the cable car otherwise the hike is very dangerous. Cable car tickets alone wouldn’t be much use either since there isn’t much to do up there other than visiting the Ice Caves.
4. Hiking from the Visitors Center to the Cable Car
After buying your ticket you hike for an easy 10 – 20 minutes. That’s when your adventure actually begins. In the right weather conditions, the hike to the Cable Car alone can make the trip worthwhile. On the other hand, in the wrong weather conditions, it can be uncomfortable.
As the visitor center lady told me, people mistake the Ice Caves for a bad weather activity because they are inside, but they really aren’t. The day trip to the salt mines for example would be much better suited for bad weather.
There is only one way up from the visitors center to the cable car so you can’t go wrong. With the Hohenwerfen fortress in the distance and the Sound of Music meadow in the distance, the path is easy and the elevation low, but the scenery is pleasant.
5. Taking the Steepest Cable Car in Austria
After reaching the cable car, you scan your ticket and board. The cable car takes about 3 minutes to go up, and when it’s busy, it goes up and down constantly. In high season, there may still be a queue due to crowding. The Ice Caves attract about 200.000 visitors each year. We were told by the Ice Cave staff, that it’s recommended to go as early in the morning as possible in order to avoid the crowds.
6. Hiking from the Cable Car to the Ice Cave entrance
The second easy 10-20 minute hike begins after reaching the top of the cable car. You walk past the Oedl Schutzhaus restaurant continue on the path. It is a straightforward walk. There is only one way up to the entrance, which you will see on the right as you walk. The public restroom at 1700 meters above sea level was a welcome surprise for me since I forgot to use the toilet at all the other stops.
7. Joining the guided Tour inside the Cave
The Ice Caves can only be accessed by guided tour. A guide will meet you at the cave entrance. Guides are always waiting for visitors to arrive and gather them for the next tour. The tour takes 75 minutes. Before entering the Cave, every other person gets a petroleum lamp. Lamps dimly light the cave, so it’s dark except when the guide uses phosphor to point out sculptures and talk about the cave’s fascinating history and nature.
If you are interested in learning even more about the Werfen Ice Caves, you should also read this article.