Travel

Unbelievable Ice Caves, From Switzerland to Siberia

Vatnajokull National Park, Skaftafell, Iceland

Vatnajökull contains one of the largest glaciers in the world, along with numerous ice caves. For safety reasons, small group tours, reserved in advance through independent operators, are the best way to see the ice caves in Vatnajökull, also known as Crystal Caves.

Vatnajokull National Park, Skaftafell, Iceland  Vatnajökull contains one of the largest glaciers in the world, along with numerous ice caves. For safety reasons, small group tours, reserved in advance through independent operators, are the best way to see the ice caves in Vatnajökull, also known as Crystal Caves.

Age fotostock / Alamy

Vatnajokull National Park, Skaftafell, Iceland

Melting ice can create hazardous conditions, but an expert guide and safety equipment (helmets, crampons, and an ice axe are typically provided) will help you enjoy the spectacular natural light show inside. (As will warm clothes and hiking boots.)

Vatnajokull National Park, Skaftafell, Iceland  Melting ice can create hazardous conditions, but an expert guide and safety equipment (helmets, crampons, and an ice axe are typically provided) will help you enjoy the spectacular natural light show inside. (As will warm clothes and hiking boots.)

Robert Harding World Imagery RF / Alamy

Eisriesenwelt, Werfen, Austria

Open May-October, prepare to spend about an hour touring one of the world’s largest ice caves, a maze of icicle-laden rooms and passages. Since the cave is accessible to a range of fitness levels, adventure seekers can spice it up by hiking and riding a cable car to reach the Alpine cave.

Eisriesenwelt, Werfen, Austria  Open May-October, prepare to spend about an hour touring one of the world's largest ice caves, a maze of icicle-laden rooms and passages. Since the cave is accessible to a range of fitness levels, adventure seekers can spice it up by hiking and riding a cable car to reach the Alpine cave.

Westend61 GmbH / Alamy

Dobšinská Ice Cave, Dobšiná, Slovakia

This UNESCO World Heritage site (part of the Caves of Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst network) is a popular tourist attraction and the largest ice cave in Slovakia. It’s part of a larger system of caves that’s tens of millions of years old. So old, in fact, that the caves have existed through both tropical and glacial environments.

The ice cave is said to have been open to the public since the 1800s, and can be visited May-September. Try to imprint the floor-to-ceiling ice formations in your memory while exploring the great hall and corridors—unless you want to shell out money to take photos (yes, there’s a fee).

Dobšinská Ice Cave, Dobšiná, Slovakia  This UNESCO World Heritage site (part of the Caves of Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst network) is a popular tourist attraction and the largest ice cave in Slovakia. It's part of a larger system of caves that's tens of millions of years old. So old, in fact, that the caves have existed through both tropical and glacial environments.  The ice cave is said to have been open to the public since the 1800s, and can be visited May-September. Try to imprint the floor-to-ceiling ice formations in your memory while exploring the great hall and corridors—unless you want to shell out money to take photos (yes, there's a fee).

Ice Pavillion, Mittelallalin, Switzerland

A long, lighted tunnel leads to this network of caves, whose size rivals Eisriesenwelt in Austria. Perhaps even more amazing than the natural ice formations are the ice sculptures scattered throughout.

Afterward, warm up at the world’s highest revolving restaurant, because hey, how often can you combine both?

Ice Pavillion, Mittelallalin, Switzerland  A long, lighted tunnel leads to this network of caves, whose size rivals Eisriesenwelt in Austria. Perhaps even more amazing than the natural ice formations are the ice sculptures scattered throughout.  Afterward, warm up at the world's highest revolving restaurant, because hey, how often can you combine both?

Agencja Fotograficzna Caro / Alamy

Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina

This UNESCO World Heritage site in the Andes is a popular tourist destination, especially the Perito Moreno glacier, thanks to its accessibility and adventure tour options. Since it’s just a two-hour bus ride from El Calafate, many tour companies offer glacier treks, although you should arrange a boat tour in order to spy the sea ice caves.

Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina  This UNESCO World Heritage site in the Andes is a popular tourist destination, especially the Perito Moreno glacier, thanks to its accessibility and adventure tour options. Since it's just a two-hour bus ride from El Calafate, many tour companies offer glacier treks, although you should arrange a boat tour in order to spy the sea ice caves.

Lake Baikal, Russia

The world’s oldest and deepest freshwater lake doesn’t get many tourists in winter thanks to its remote Siberian location. But some groups, such as Baikal Adventure Travel Company run tours to this UNESCO World Heritage Site, including ice cave exploration on Olkhon Island, the lake’s largest island.

Getting to the caves is an adventure in itself since it involves a multi-day journey driving more than 200 miles from Irkutsk (which has the closest airport and train station), with one leg going over frozen Lake Baikal. It’s also a chance to experience Siberian village life by staying in log cabins, warming up in saunas, and eating with local families.

Lake Baikal, Russia  The world's oldest and deepest freshwater lake doesn't get many tourists in winter thanks to its remote Siberian location. But some groups, such as Baikal Adventure Travel Company run tours to this UNESCO World Heritage Site, including ice cave exploration on Olkhon Island, the lake's largest island.  Getting to the caves is an adventure in itself since it involves a multi-day journey driving more than 200 miles from Irkutsk (which has the closest airport and train station), with one leg going over frozen Lake Baikal. It's also a chance to experience Siberian village life by staying in log cabins, warming up in saunas, and eating with local families.

Andrey Nekrasov/imageBROKER/Corbis

Mount Erebus Ice Caves, Antarctica

Ice caves tend to be extraordinary in their own right, but what makes these even more so is that they were created by steam from the (still) active Mount Erebus volcano. It’s that very gas that maintains the caves’ temperature at 32 degrees, which in turn converts the warm air into a frozen fairy land that regularly transforms based on air currents.

Unfortunately, the only way to visit them is to be part of a research team, but luckily some brave photojournalists have snapped pictures of this rare phenomenon.

Mount Erebus Ice Caves, Antarctica  Ice caves tend to be extraordinary in their own right, but what makes these even more so is that they were created by steam from the (still) active Mount Erebus volcano. It's that very gas that maintains the caves' temperature at 32 degrees, which in turn converts the warm air into a frozen fairy land that regularly transforms based on air currents.  Unfortunately, the only way to visit them is to be part of a research team, but luckily some brave photojournalists have snapped pictures of this rare phenomenon.

Chadden Hunter/Nature Picture Library/Corbis

Apostle Islands, Wisconsin

For the intrepid, it’s possible to explore these sea ice caves along Lake Superior by kayak when the water is calm. You can even walk there on the rare occasions (like last winter’s Polar Vortex) that the lake freezes over, but always check with the National Parks Service first.

Apostle Islands, Wisconsin  For the intrepid, it's possible to explore these sea ice caves along Lake Superior by kayak when the water is calm. You can even walk there on the rare occasions (like last winter's Polar Vortex) that the lake freezes over, but always check with the National Parks Service first.

imageBROKER / Alamy

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