Hallstatt Ice Caves Tours - Getting To Dachstein 5 Fingers Lookout
Hallstatt Ice Caves Tours - Getting To Dachstein 5 Fingers Lookout

Hallstatt Ice Caves & 5 Fingers:



Location
:
Krippenstein Peak of the Alps’ Dachstein Mountain Range
Elevation: Ice Cave is 4500 Feet & 5 Fingers is 6890 Feet
Distance From Hallstatt: 3 Miles
Time Required: 4 hours for just the Ice Cave & 5 Fingers from Hallstatt
Fun Scale: 10 out of 10

 

There are only a few places on Earth where tourists can easily access mega-sized ice caves and Hallstatt has one of the best.  The neighboring Krippenstein Mountain of the Alps Dachstein Range (Stone Roof) provides the perfect conditions for the cave to thrive.  Beyond the main Ice Cave, the Mammoth Cave offers great trekking, the 5 Fingers Lookout will let you dangle high over mountain’s edge with a view that will make you feel on top of the world, and there is great Alpine hiking.


Seasonal Hours In Winter:

The Dachstein Ice Cave is closed for the Winter each year from late-October until May.  Depending on snow levels the 5 Fingers Lookout trail is often closed, but can still be reached with snowshoes.  Even with the Ice Cave closed, the upper sections Dachstein Mountain and Alpine huts are open in Winter.  Snow board, ski, and snow shoe rental equipment is available at the Dachstein Visitor Center.


Getting To Dachstein From Hallstatt:

By Bus 542/543: The best way to reach the Dachstein Mountain Visitor Center from Hallstatt is the local Postbus 543.  You can catch this bus/shuttle van at the main Hallstatt Bus Station (Hallstatt Lahn) just South of the village center as it does a loop between Hallstatt Gosaumühle > Hallstatt Lahn > Obertraun > Dachstein and back at least once an hour from 8am-5pm.  A current pdf schedule can be found HERE.   At the bus stop the schedule will be in German and “ruckfahrt” is when it arrives at the stop you’re at while “abfahrt” means when it will depart.

If you are arriving into Hallstatt by bus, Bus 150 from Salzburg meeting Bus 542 at the Bad Ischl Train Station.  From Bad Ischl you will ride South to the Hallstatt Gosaumühle Bus Stop just North of town and transfer to the local Postbus 543 for the last few miles into Hallstatt.  Instead of getting out at Hallstatt, ride the Bus 543 all the way to the Dachstein Visitor Center.  You can always double check with your driver that they are stopping at Dachstein, but they will.

If you are arriving into Hallstatt by train, you can stay on until the next stop at the Obertraun Train Station (Obertraun Banhhof) where you can also grab Postbus 543 on the way up the mountain.  (Printable Bus 542 Timetable).  Keep in mind that there are no luggage lockers or bag storage at the Hallstatt or Obertraun Train Stations.


By Taxi
:
Taxis are very limited in this small village so it is suggested that you book in advance.  The main companies we have used are Taxi Godl which runs 24 hours a day, and Taxi Rastl.  If you’re staying in Hallstatt, your hotel can help with taxis.  There is also a parking lot if you have your own car in Hallstatt.  If you are in a pinch you could hike as it is only 3 miles away, but the last 3/4 mile is a steep, there are no sidewalks and it ends up taking about 2 hours to hike.

The Sights On Dachstein Mountain:

1. Dachstein Visitor Center:

dachstein ice caves visitor center hallstatt
dachstein ice caves visitor center hallstatt

About The Dachstein Visitor Center: A trip to the Ice Caves and 5 Fingers starts with a visit to the Dachstein Visitor Center.  It’s here that you’ll buy your tickets for the lift up the mountain and for your Ice Cave tour.  The Visitor Center and each of the gondola lift stations will have wifi available.  Before leaving the Visitor Center make sure to keep track of the time the last bus departs the mountain back to Hallstatt (typically between 3pm-5pm) as you don’t want to have to walk all the way back.  The best way to make sure you’ll have ample time is to go to the mountain early in the morning, spending the first half of your day here with the second half back in Hallstatt.

2. Dachstein Cable Car:

dachstein mountain cable car gondola lift hallstatt
dachstein mountain cable car gondola lift hallstatt

About The Dachstein Cable Car: It’s hard to believe that visitors to the Ice Cave once had to hike all the way up the mountain.  With the opening of the gondola in 1951 the journey became much easier and the annual visitors have grown to over 180,000 people.  The 1st section of the 3 tiered cable car gondola climbs a staggering 2461 feet from the Visitor Center which seems almost unreal, but surprisingly the ride is very smooth.

At the top of the 1st cable car section is the Schönbergalm Lodge which has a restaurant, a museum, and is the jump off point for the cave tours.  The 2nd section takes you to the 5 Fingers Lookout, Welterbespirale Lookout, Krippenstein Lodge & Restaurant, the Heilbronn Cross Trail with the Dachstein Shark, and most of the Winter ski runs.  The 3rd and final section takes you to the Gjaidalm Lodge which offers great mountain top hiking between Alpine huts and all the way to the Dachstein Glacier.  Make sure to pay close attention to the gondola schedules each time you exit at a lift station so you can make to sure be back in time for your desired return down the mountain.

3. Dachstein Ice Caves:

Top 10 Things To Do In Hallstatt Austria - Dachstein Ice Cave
Dachstein Ice Cave Tours In Hallstatt - Giant

About Dachstein Ice Cave: Dachstein Ice Caves are awesome!  While there are a few other ice caves in Austria, including the World’s largest one in Werfen, we prefer Dachstein.  We like it more because they normally let you take pictures while Werfen does not, and the surround Dachstein sight offer a complete experience.  The first sections of the Dachstein Ice Cave were discovered in 1910 and tourist access began only 2 years later.  Until the cable car opened in 1951, the only way to reach the caves were by extreme mountain hiking mixed with some rock climbing.

The ice in the cave is formed by water which seeps from the Dachstein plateau down into the cave through small cracks and joints in the cliff.  When outside temperatures are above freezing the caves still contain really cold air, so the penetrating water freezes and forms magnificent ice shapes and frozen waterfalls.  Although some Summer water flow is warm enough to produce slight melting, it actually balances the winter growth some which is a good thing.  The Winter-Spring growth exceeds the Summer ice loss and the constant cycle of slight melting with growth guarantees the survival of this magnificent natural showcase and frozen waterfalls.

Guided Tour Overview We recently took the 50 minute guided tour and got submersed inside the magic of the icy landscape.  After a 20 minute hike from the cable car to the entrance, you head into the mountain through stalactite passageways and down into a large hall called Saint Arthur’s Dome.  The the huge hall, dominated by rock boulders, is where they have found ancient cave bear bones which had signs of human processing.  As you head deeper into the cave you start to feel the icy chill until your first frozen sighting.  A huge impressive wall of ice with stairs leading right up its side and into a frozen tunnel called the keyhole.  From there the sure size of the caves really begins to hit you and the fantastic formations have names like the “ice palace”, “Tristan Dome”,  “Big Ice Chapel”, and the the 30 foot tall phallic shaped “Big Ice Mountain”.  Our favorite ice formation is the called “Castle of the Holy Grail” which shimmers in colors from white to dark blue, depending on the lighting.  The caves just seem to get better and better as they go on and even have a frozen waterfall!  As an extra treat, the Alpine view as you leave the cave is one of the best in all of Austria.

Ice Cave Tour Cost: Your Ice Cave tour will be added as an option as you buy your cable car pass at the visitor center.  We suggest the package that at least includes the ice cave and ride up to the Tier 2 area. (Current Prices).  Ice Cave Tour Hours: The cave tours are CLOSED in the Winter and only run May-October.  The 50 minute tour runs daily late-April through October 9:20am-3:30pm but stays open until 4pm June through August.  You will sign up for your time slot once you reach the 1st level cable car station.  How To Dress: Because the caves rarely exceed freezing, you should wear closed toed shoes, a hat, and either a sweatshirt or coat.  Piano Concerts: In August they have 4-5 nights with special below ground piano concerts right in the middle of the cave with the frozen formations as back drop (more info).

4. Mammoth Cave (Mammut):

Dachstein Mountain Mammut Cave Tours Trekking Hallstatt Mammoth

About Mammoth Cave: Mammoth cave is quite long and a favorite among cave enthusiasts.  More than 60 km of passageways have been explored in the cave and around 1 km of them can be viewed during the standard 1 hour long guided tours. There are also really cool 4 hour long trekking tours where you strap on full caving gear for those looking get more down and dirty.   Overall, Mammoth Cave is the 30th longest and 31st deepest cave in the world.   The Mammoth Cave is cool, but most visitors on a tight schedule won’t find it very cool in comparison to the Ice Caves.   If you are in Hallstatt for two full days or more than by all means check out Mammoth while up the mountain as it’s included in your lift pass anyway.  On the flip side, if you only have one day in Hallstatt do the Ice Caves in the morning and skip Mammoth.Mammoth Cave Tour Hours: The cave tours are CLOSED in the Winter and only run May-October.  Normal 1 hour long tours run daily the second week of May-October from 10:30am-2:30pm (until 3pm June 15th-early August, until 3:30pm mid-August through October).  Check out the current schedule.  It is recommend to start your ascent no later than 2pm to make the last tour as it can take 25 minutes to walk from the cable car station up to the cave entrance.  Please note the the last cable car back down the mountain from Level 1 leaves at 5:10pm (5:40 June 15th through July).  Verify current times especially if on a tight schedule.   Mammoth Cave Tour Cost: Add the cave tour onto your cable car pass,  (Current Prices).

4. 5 Fingers Lookout:

Top 10 Things To Do In Hallstatt Austria - Dachstein 5 Fingers Lookout Point
Top 10 Things To Do In Hallstatt Austria - Dachstein 5 Fingers Lookout Point

About The 5 Fingers Lookout: The 5 Fingers viewing platform offers an adrenaline rush at the highest level.  It’s definitely one of the most spectacular viewing platforms in the Alps and reaches out like a 5-fingered hand over a 1300 foot vertical drop.  Even more impressive than then drop is that tiny Hallstatt will now be almost 5,000 feet below you!!!  The 5 platforms each have a different design, with different exposure to the heights and unique views down over Hallstatt.  One of the platforms is made entirely from glass and another enables visitors to gain their own personal view of Hallstatt through a large Baroque picture frame.  The 5 Fingers are illuminated until midnight and can be seen easily be seen after dark from Hallstatt.

Getting Here: Take the cable car up from the Ice Caves to the Level 2 Station and follow the The Experience Trail directly to 5 Fingers.  The walk time takes between 20-30 minutes each way.  The round trip walk past 5 Fingers to the predominant Pioneer Cross can easily be completed in 20 minutes by most visitors.

Lookout Hours: Basically open all day all year, however, in the Winter the trail often requires snowshoes depending on the snow levels.  Use caution around the snow covered open-air installation in Winter.  Keep track of the time as the last cable car from the 2nd Tier Station going back down the mountain leaves at 5:30pm (4:30pm in Winter; 5pm Spring & Fall, current schedule).  We usually keep track of how long it took to walk from the cable car to the lookout point so we know when we need to head back, expect it’ll take longer on the walk back as well.  Cost: Your cable car pass to the 2nd level is all you need as the sights here are free.  (Current Prices).

5. Welterbespirale Lookout:

Dachstein Mountain Welterbespirale Lookout Tower Near 5 Fingers
Dachstein Mountain Welterbespirale Lookout Tower Near 5 Fingers

About The Welterbespirale Lookout: Further Past 5 Fingers is the true summit of Krippernstien Peak and the Welterbespirale lookout point.  Welterbespirale is cool not only because of its curving, shiny metal surface, but also for the large viewing platform built by World Natural Heritage.  We also love the summit’s over-sized wooden lawn chairs, trust us you’ll love resting on the chairs too as the walk to Welterbespirale ends up being a lot longer than it initially looks.

Lookout Hours: Basically open all day all year, however, in the Winter the trail often requires snowshoes depending on the snow levels.  Use caution around the snow covered open-air installation in Winter.  Keep track of the time as the last cable car from the 2nd Tier Station going back down the mountain leaves at 5:30pm (4:30pm in Winter; 5pm Spring & Fall, current schedule).  We usually keep track of how long it took to walk from the cable car to the lookout point so we know when we need to head back, expect it’ll take longer on the walk back as well.  Cost: Your cable car pass to the 2nd level is all you need as the sights here are free.  (Current Prices).

7. Krippenstein Lodge & Restaurant:

Dachstein Mountain Krippenstein Lodge
Dachstein Mountain Krippenstein Lodge

About Krippenstein Lodge: Sitting withing a 5 minute walk of the 2nd level cable car station is the rustic Krippernstein Lodge.  It is our favorite place to stop for food and a drink on top of Dachstein Mountain.  The patio is an excellent place to relax in the Summer and the lodge is conveniently located next to most of the Winter ski runs.  There is something about spending even just 30 minutes on the patio that makes you appreciate your visit to Dachstein so much more.

Staying at Krippenstein Lodge will give you a lot more time to hike on top of the mountain without worrying about the cable car schedule and you’ll have the peace of almost no tourist in the evening.  If you stay here overnight, make sure to catch sunset from the Welterbespirale tower.  Alternatively for food there is another restaurant located right in the 2nd level cable car station, one inside the 1st level cable car station, and a collection of Alpine huts that serve food that can be hiked to from the 3rd level station.

Lodge Website: Here.

8. Dachstein Shark:

Hallstatt Ice Cave Tour Sights - Dachstein Shark Hiking Trail
Hallstatt Ice Cave Tour Sights - Dachstein Shark Hiking Trail

About The Dachstein Shark: Opened in 2013, the playful Dachstein Shark sculpture is a great reminder that the mountain tops you are walking on were once the floor of the Tethys primordial ocean.  Most of the area around the shark is actually a fossilized sea bed as you will see with the cow prints further up the Heilbronn Trial.  What’s really cool is that you can climb inside the shark and get a view of the sea bed from behind its teeth filled jaws.  The large sculpture weighs 13,000 pounds and had to be flown up the mountain by helicopter after spending time at the bottom of Lake Hallstatt which help create the rusty exterior color.  Especially if you have kids, you have to visit the Dachstein Shark.  Time Requred: It takes 30 minutes to hike to from the 2nd level station and is another 60 minutes to the Heilbronn Cross.  Hours: Open all year as even in the Winter you can still ski or snowshoe to it.

9. Heilbronn Cross Trail:

Dachstein Mountain Heilbronn Cross Hiking Trail
Dachstein Mountain Heilbronn Cross Hiking Trail

About Heilbronn Cross Trail: If you are down for a little more extensive hiking consider doing the loop trail to the Heilbronn Cross.  The Cross is a memorial place to 13 climbers who died in a mountain tragedy in 1954.  Our favorite sight on the trail are the fossilized cow footsteps which are a reminder that these mountains once formed the floor of the Tethys primordial ocean.

Time Required: The loop trail is easy hiking with only a gradual slope and takes around 3 hours to complete.   Stating at the 2nd level station it’s 30 minutes to the Dachstein Shark, another 60 minutes to the Heilbronn Cross, and a final 90 minutes either back to the 2nd level station or up to the 3rd level station.

10. Gjaidalm Lodge & Alpine Hiking:

Dachstein Mountain Gjaid Alm Lodge
Dachstein Mountain Gjaid Alm Lodge

About Gjaid Alm Lodge: For those wanting a truly Alpine experience you may want to staying at one of the many Mountain Guesthouses on top of Dachstein at the Cable Car’s 3rd and final level.  The easiest one to access on the 3rd level is the Gjaid Alm which is only a 10 minute walk from the station.  They have 55 rustic double rooms, wifi, and even a sauna.  From the lodge you’ll have access to a lot of great hiking, down hill skiing, snow shoeing, and cross country skiing.  You will even be able to get some views of the Dachstein glacier which is about a 4 hour hike away near the Simonyhutte Lodge.  Getting Here: It’s only a 5 minute walk from the 3rd level station.  Website: Here.

11. Simonyhütte Lodge:

Dachstein Mountain Simonyhutte Lodge Glacier
Dachstein Mountain Simonyhutte Lodge Glacier

About Simonyhütte Lodge: The most remote of the Alpine huts, Simonyhütte Lodge sites at 7228 feet in elevation and lets you get up close and personal with the Dachstein glacier.  The first rescue hut was established here in 1843 followed by the lodge which was built in 1877 by the Austrian Alpine Club and named after the famous Dachstein explorer Friedrich Simony (1813-1896).  The 42 bed lodge is rustic, but does offer food and wifi.  The sunrises from the lodge are quite famous and in the peak months you will have to book far in advance.

Getting To The Lodge: By hiking it is 4 hours from the 3rd level cable car station; 90 minutes from the Wiesberghaus Lodge; or 5-6 hours from the valley floor at Hallstatt.  Seasonal Opening: Open daily end of January-October; closed in November; varies December-January on weather.  Website: Here.