Eisriesenwelt ice cave located in Werfen, Austria.

Post by Nicole

The Eisriesenwelt, German for “World of the Ice Giants”, is a limestone cave in Werfen, Austria, that holds the distinction of being the largest ice cave in the world.  The cave was formed by the Salzach river as it flowed through Hochkogel mountain, and runs for 42 kilometers (26 miles) under the Tennengebirge section of the Alps.

Only the first kilometer of The Eisriesenwelt is open to tourists, which also happens to be the area of the cave that has ice year-round.  Over time the ice has continued to build, resulting in some ice formations that reach up to 20 meters (65 feet) thick.

Although the existence of the cave was no secret among nearby residents, it was believed to be the entrance to hell, which was enough to keep the locals away.  The cave remained unexplored until 1879 when a natural scientist from Salzburg, Anton von Posselt-Czorich, investigated the first 200 meters of The Eisriesenwelt.  By the 1920’s the first paths up to the cave had been built and the area began drawing tourists.  For decades the footpath was the only way to the entrance, but in 1955 a cable car was built to traverse the steepest part of the ascent.  Today the cave attracts about 200,000 tourists a year.