Visiting The Dachstein Ice Caves & 5 Finger Lookout Near Hallstatt

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Visiting The Dachstein Ice Caves & 5 Finger Lookout Near Hallstatt: When staying in the small colorful town of Hallstatt it can become all too easy to forget that there are other attractions to see in the area.

Loosing yourself in the town can seem all too easy since Hallstatt itself seems as though it was built in a Disney like world. However if you’d like to explore and see what other hidden mysteries Hallstatt has to offer, there is another world to discover, one that is covered in snow and ice. 

Read on as I’ll review my time visiting the Dachstein Ice Caves & the 5 Fingers Lookout.

Most people stay in Hallstatt while visiting the caves (Click here to see the latest hotel prices for Hallstatt), but you can also base yourself in Salzburg (See prices here). I recommended staying in Hallstatt and visiting the nearby Salt Mine as well.

 

Visiting The Dachstein Ice Caves |

| & 5 Fingers Lookout Near Hallstatt

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How To Get To The Dachstein Ice Cave and

The 5 Finger Lookout From Hallstatt

The best way to reach the attractions are by bus, and catching Postbus 543. The bus ride is around 30 minutes and is the last stop, so you don’t need to worry about missing the stop. 

You’ll need to catch a bus to Obertraun Dachsteinseilbahn which can be a bit of a handful to say, but if you simply tell the bus driver ‘Dachstein’ they’ll understand. Alternatively if you’re still struggling with pronouncing that, most of the bus drivers can speak English.

The bus is around €2, while tickets can only be bought on board the bus. You can either opt for a single or a return. The schedule for the bus seems a little erratic, but generally they leave every hour and a half. A PDF for the buses can be found here.

To return back to the village you catch the same bus as the bus simply makes a loop around the surrounding area of Hallstatt from; Hallstatt Gosaumühle, Hallstatt Lahn, Obertraun to Dachstein and back in the same order.

The best location to catch the bus is from Hallstatt Lahn, which is on the south side of the village. Simply follow the walkway along the lake to reach the bus station. You’ll know you’re in the right location as there’ll be a small supermarket across from the bus station called ‘Nah and Frisch’.

If you’re a little lost, you can always ask a local to point you in the right direction. There is little signage to point you in the right direction, however once you’re at the bus station it’s hard to miss it since are there are signs reading ‘Hallstatt Lahn’. While there are generally quite a few tourist and buses parked in the area to help you recognize that you’re in the right location.

Walking and taxis are not recommended.  Walking will take around 3 – 4 hours, while taxis in the area are practically non-existent. If you’d like to catch a taxi, you’ll need to organize with your hotel to book one prior.

 

Time Needed For The Ice Cave and Lookout

Generally you’ll want to set aside anywhere between 4 – 6 hours of the day depending on what you choose to do. At the site there are essentially three attractions – The Dachstein Ice Cave, The Mammoth Cave, and The 5 Finger Lookout. They are all on the same mountain, however at separate locations on it and at different altitudes.

To see the Mammoth Cave and the Dachstein Ice Cave, they’ll both take around 45 minutes each for the tour. If you opt to see the Mammoth Cave than you’ll see that attraction first, and than right after seeing that cave you’ll make your way to the Dachstein Ice Cave.

For the lookout you’ll need to catch a separate cable car which leave every 15 minutes and take 5 minutes to reach the top. Once at the top it’ll be around a 30 minute walk to reach the 5 Finger Lookout, while the Dachstein Shark which you can climb into is just a little further along the path.

 

Seeing The Dachstein Ice Cave

While I enjoyed the cave and I thought the ice formations were interesting, if there was one thing I could redo to make my time visiting the ice cave more enjoyable, it would be to wear slightly warmer clothing. Inside the cave the temperature can vary, but there seemed to be two temperature zones.

The outer entrances of the cave were around 3 to 5 degrees Celsius, while the center was around -1 to 2 degrees Celsius. So dress warmly, wear a second pair of socks, along with a set of gloves. The gloves are important if you plan to take photos since your hands will be exposed. It’s never fun being in a location and you’re not able to enjoy it to it’s full extent due to clothing choices.

Apart from that the experience was great. To reach the cave you need to catch a cable car from the base of the mountain. At the point at which the cable car drops you off, it is around a 15 minute walk up the mountain where the temperature does feel as though it drops a few degrees already.

Now it should be noted that while it is only a 10 – 15 minute walk to reach the meeting point for where the ice-cave tour will begin, however the walk is almost entirely up a steep walking path. You may need a bottle of water and one or two rest stops depending on your fitness levels.

The walk isn’t overly strenuous, but if you pace yourself and walk at a comfortable pace you’ll be fine.

As I mentioned previous there are two main areas within the cave. The outer area of the cave where it is slightly warmer is full of stalagmites which cover the floor, while stalactites litter the ceiling. These all vary in shapes and sizes, and look quite cool. In some parts of the cave there is florescent lighting which has been installed, this gives some of the formations a bit of an eerie look to them.

Further along you’ll be shown sections where bears used to hibernate in cave, with the remains of some of the creatures being sectioned off from the public for preservation. At this point there is a small show in which an image of a bear is transposed onto several rocks formations and is moved around while a slow moving backing track plays over.

Language wise the tour instructor which we had can speak English and German. If there are any German speakers in the group they’ll opt to say what they need to about a particular spot in German first, and than translating what was said into English.

So if you don’t speak German, you don’t need to worry about missing out on some of the interesting historical facts on the natural cave.

I found the most interesting point of the tour was once you reach the second section where you see the century old ice formations. This is where the actual ice cave seems to begin. The formations of the ice in this offer some unique jagged shapes which almost look alien in nature. This section is truly amazing and offers you a great opportunity to take some photos.

Please note that flash photography is not allowed, nor is the use of a tripod. Since the cave is quite dark and you’re not allowed to bring a torch or use a flash, your photos will suffer from noise and will not be the clearest.
I’d suggest to use a lens which can use an aperture of f/2.8, lower your shutter speed, and increase your ISO. If your lens offers vibration control/reduction (VR) I’d strongly recommend using it.
By using VR you’ll be able to use slower shutter speeds, which means you can use a lower ISO. The lower the ISO, the less grain in your pictures.

 

Seeing The 5 Fingers Lookout

If you go in the right time of year there will be snow! I was quite surprised to hear from the lady in the ticket office that there was snow at the top of the mountain. I’ve only seen snow a few times before so it definitely made the day even better.

I was a little excited, but wasn’t expecting too much. I was thinking there would be patches of snow which fell several days ago,  with it now melting into puddles of water. Boy was I wrong…

To reach the top of the mountain where the lookout is you’ll need to catch a second cable car which will take you to the top. The second cable car leaves every 15 minutes and takes around 5 minutes.

I was dressed warmly, but not quite warm enough for this level of snow, as otherwise I would have worn an extra pair of socks or had some gloves on hand.

Seeing snow automatically made it a highlight for me, not just for the day trip to the ice cave, but for the entire European holiday. I wasn’t expecting to see snow at all on this trip.
I woke up that morning thinking the closest I’d come would be the ice structures in the Dachstein Ice Cave, but being able to play and jump around in snow was a great surprise. The fact that it was completely unexpected made it all the more joyous.

While it was all very fun, unfortunately for me I wasn’t able to see the famed 5 Finger Lookout due to strong wind and snow. I visited the mountain in mid October, which is the middle of Autumn/Fall.

While Hallstatt doesn’t normally receive snow at this time of year until a little later, the top of the mountain where the look out is was completely covered in snow.

The lookout wasn’t closed when I visited it, however it began snowing quite heavily 15 minutes after I arrived. Due to the snow the visibility in the area was reduced drastically, and as a result I decided against walking to the 5 Finger Lookout for safety reasons since it is a 30 minute walk.
All that I could see looking forward was a whitish/grey cloud, I was having trouble seeing objects which I could clearly see only 5 minutes prior as they were now being obscured by snow and cloud.
It should be noted that I don’t have much experience when it comes to snowy conditions so I didn’t want to test my luck, but judging from others they all seemed to be hurrying inside to escape the oncoming snow as well.

If you happen to be at the top of the mountain to see the 5 Finger Lookout on a clear day, it is a 30 minute walk to the lookout from the cable car drop off point. The views of the valley below you where Hallstatt sits are supposed to be phenomenal.  it is a 30 minute walk, with the Dachstein Shark being located a little further down the path.

While I didn’t see the 5 Finger Lookout, I feel as though you could quite easily pay for the trip to the top of the mountain to simply see and play in the snow. While it would have been great to see the amazing view (which I could see in patches when I first arrived), I don’t feel as though I missed out on anything as I had so much fun in the snow.

 

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Written by Lexi
Lexi Forrest is an experienced luxury traveler who has a passion for scenic destinations. She's traveled to 25+ countries over the past 10 years.