Travel

The ice caves and salt mines of Austria

A visit to Austria is not complete without a trip to the world’s biggest ice cave: Eisriesenwelt in Salzburg. The cave is a long trek uphill but once inside it cannot be beaten. As you discover a prehistoric cave where you walk on and around beautiful ice. Combine this natural wonder with a walk around the salt mines to complete your day off.

When you think of tours, you think of long walks through a city, all being narrated by an informative tour guide.

A trip to the Ice Caves in Austria is somewhat different. Instead of a wander around the cultural hotspots of a town, you deck on your walking boots and venture into the world’s largest ice caves. The walk is long and the air is cold and the journey is steep. But as you venture into one of nature’s hidden wonders, you really feel as if you are on your own personal adventure. The cave is open in the summer months from 1st May to 26th October.

Completely unknown until the 19th century due to its remote location, the cave is wonderfully preserved and essentially untouched by the trials of tourism. The whole experience of visiting the cave is an adventure not for the faint hearted. The steep steps and walks both outside and in the cave itself are tiring and trecherous. The air is unsurprisingly crisp due to the large amounts of ice around the place so dress warm and be prepared.

Inside the cave, no cameras are allowed so you can really experience the caves without the blinding flash of tourist’s cameras. The cave is dark so every fourth or fifth person gets to hold an oil lantern to light the way.

As you walk through the cave, you walk across pathways and ice steps and go deeper and higher into the ice caves. The walk is long and narrow with most of the journey in single file up a tiny chasm into the ice. Inside the cave you can see the sheer height of the ice. A large geolocial formation called The Great Ice Embarkment that rises to 25 metres high.

Once you have finished climbing the insides of the cave you turn back around and make your way back to the entrance to leave. The round-trip tour takes just over an hour to complete and is well worth the visit.

A short drive from the ice caves is the Salt Mines of Saltzberg called Salzwelten. The caves are old salt mining caves. The tour is slightly over an hour and covers one kilometre. You are asked to put on some white overalls to protect your clothes throughout your visit to the mine. Once inside the mine there is a train ride and two wooden slides in which to go deeper and deeper into the salt caves.

Salt used to be considered ‘white gold’ ,which explains the vast structure that is the salt mine in Salzburg. Whilst not as naturally beautiful as the ice caves down the road, the salt mines show a wonderful handmade crevice which takes visitors underground.

Whilst a visit to Austria is not complete without a trip to Vienna, a trip to the natural wonders of Austria is not to be missed. Hidden from view within caves and underground, these two attractions are wonderful choices on any Austrian trip.

28/04/2015

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sarahmichaels



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