The Hintertux Glacier in Austria sits at an elevation of 3250 metres and it’s one of only a few places where you can ski 365 days a year! I visited in July and while it was 26c/78f at the bottom of the mountain, on top of the glacier it was a chilly -1c/31f!
How to get to the Hintertux Glacier
Mayrhofen – Hintertux
The Hintertux Glacier is at the end of the Zillertal Valley in the Tirol region. I was staying in Mayrhofen, the closest ‘large’ village (and the last village in the valley to be on the train line). The bus to Hintertux departs Mayfhofen (from the bus station, next to the train station) every 30 minutes in the summer and takes between 45 – 60 minutes.
*TIP* The Zillertal Card for 6 days costs 63.50 euros. Not only does it give you discount to certain attractions, but you can travel for free on the buses and trains in the valley and ascend and descend on 1 cable car each day (there are lots of cable cars!). The FIRST cable car up to the glacier is included using this card.
The journey to the top requires jumping on 3 gondola style cable cars. With the Zillertal Card, it’s an extra 23.50 euros to ride up and down on the 2nd and 3rd cable cars (without the card for all 3: before 11.45am = 34.50 euros and after 11.45am = 28.50 euros).
I’ll warn you now…once you reach the top station where the glacier is, THERE ARE NO TOILETS. The last toilets are at Tuxer Fernerhaus (the top of the 2nd cable car) at 2660m.
What to do at the Hintertux Glacier
Can’t ski? Yeah me neither (YET). Don’t worry, there’s more to do at the glacier than just ski! Snowball fight maybe?!
If you’ve got better lungs than me, you can go hiking, there are a whole bunch of routes in the area!
AKA SNOW TUBING! In summer! And even better, it’s FREE! The big kid in me headed straight for this! Simply grab a tube and then enjoy the ride…well as long as you make sure you go down 1 at a time, we witnessed several people bashing heads, least there’s plenty of ice around to use as an ice pack! There’s also a snow tube carousel too but I think that is aimed more at young kids!
Nature’s Ice Palace
The Ice Cave isn’t very obvious once you’re at the top, unless you are aware of it. We knew it was there so were purposely looking for it. The ‘office’ is in a little metal cabin next to the cable car station, there’s no sign on the front of it, it’s only obvious when you peak inside that it’s to do with the cave tours! Don’t get put off by the pictures of the rope ladders…the tour doesn’t actually involve climbing of this kind!
It doesn’t feel natural to go into an ice cave…a cave UNDER the snow! Caves made of rock feel sturdy, a dripping ice cave in summer is a little unnerving! Just like the skiing, it’s open all year round and can be experienced in all types of weather.
Regardless of the temperature outside, the Ice Palace always remains at a temperature of 0c/32f.
The caves first opened in 2008, with the latest section opening in 2013. The tours last around 1 hour and cost 21 euros for an adult (13 euros for a child) plus 5 euros for photo pass per group. Everyone is given a helmet to wear while on the tour.
*TIP* Don’t wear trainers/sneakers
I guess most people going on holiday to a mountain/hiking area would be more prepared with hiking books. For my 6 week trip (starting in Belize) I was travelling with hand luggage only and I definitely wasn’t planning on lugging heavy walking shoes to an island in the Caribbean Sea! But trainers were all I had and they were slippery and got wet in some of the puddles of melt water!
The entrance into the caves is pretty hairy as it’s down a fairly steep snowy hill. I found it easier to just sit on my bum and slide down (feeling a little bit like a penguin), I didn’t want to risk falling down and hurting myself. The climb back up was easier…if you ignore the altitude trying to make your lungs explode!
The caves are a system of tunnels that are connected together with little 6ft ladders and one longer staircase. There are also ropes to help with balance on the flatter sections. The caves are full of icicles, crystal walls, a well that’s over 50ft deep and a river section that visitors are even taken on for a short trip in a raft (now that was cool)!
The group on our tour was quite large, I would say that if you visit, don’t necessarily go expecting to hear a whole heap of information. The German speaking visitors were told to go up the front (nearest the guide) and the English speaking visitors were left at the back…try to keep up because I’m not sure if they’d realise if you were missing! Just enjoy having a nose around!
There are lights within the caves but they are still kinda dark in places. Sunglasses are recommended when exiting the caves, just to give your eyes a kinder chance to adjust back to the natural light, especially if the sun is out!
Other Tips for Visiting
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What to wear: LAYERS. I started in shorts and t-shirts and then added an extra layer at each cable car station. I recommend taking a Buff…so light weight, takes up next to no space and keeps the wind from whistling around your neck and ears! At Tuxer Fernerhaus stop (one below the top), there was still snow on the ground but it was warm enough to strip back down to shorts, the restaurant at the bottom of the ski slope is a sun trap!
Nearest Major Airport to Hintertux: Innsbruck, Austria
Where to stay: Hotel Neuhaus – Mayrhofen, Austria
For more information, visit: www.hintertuxergletscher.at
Disclosure: Please note some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking. It comes at no extra cost to you but it helps me with the running of this site! As always, opinions are my own.