Peştera Scarisoara

Ghetarul de la Scarisoara - Scarisoara Ice Cave

Useful Information

Location: Ghețari 517317.
In the south of Bihor Mountains (Apuseni Mountains), Alba county. 150 km (asphalted road) southwest of Cluj Napoca. From N 75 (Dr. Petru Groza-Turda Rd.) turn north in Garda village, 6 km country road. (horse sledge in winter time)
(46.489610, 22.809753)
Open: All year Mon-Sat 10-18, Sun 10-17.
During the low season check by phone if the cave is open.
Fee: Adults RON 11, Children RON 8, Speleologist RON .
Parking RON 5.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave Speleologyice cave.
Light: LightLED Lighting
Dimension: L=705 m, VR=105 m, A=1,165 m asl., T=0 °C.
Entrance shaft: W=60 m, D=48 m.
Ice content: area=5550 m², V=40,000-55,000m³, depending on season.
Guided tours: L=150 m, VR=50 m, D=45 min, St=450, Min=10, Max=50.
V=60,000/a [2008]
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Gh. Racovita, B.P. Onac (2000): Scarisoara Glacier Cave, Carpatica Publ. House, 2000, Cluj Napoca, 973-98752-1-1.
Szirtfi (1847): A szkerisorai jégbarlang, Természetb. 1847. 32. sz.
Jósef Vass (1857): Eine Wanderung nach der Eishöhle bei Skerisora, Verh. und Mitt. des Siebenb. Vereines für Naturwisenschaften zu Hermannstadt. VIII. 1857, p. 162-170.)
René Jeannel and Emil Racoviţă (1927): Enumération des Grottes visitées 1918-1927 VIIIe série, Archives de Zoologie Expérimentale et Générale, 68(2): 298-608
Address: Peştera Scarisoara, Ghețari 517317, Tel: +40-7420-10347, Tel: +40-7408-94996. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


first written mention by Maria Theresa authorized to cut lumber to repair the access stairs to the glacier.
1847 first mentioned as a tourist destination by A Szirtfi.
1857 cave described by Jósef Vass
1861 first scientific observations published by geologist Prof. Carl Peters.
1863 detailed description with survey map and two profiles by Austrian geographer Arnold Schmidl.
1921-1923 visited by Emil Racoviţă five times, results published in 1927.
1938 the first cave declared a Monument of Nature in Romania.
1947 expedition organized by M. Pop.
1963-1968 exploration by researchers of the Institute of Speleology "Emil Racoviţă" in Cluj.
1983-19928 exploration by researchers of the Institute of Speleology "Emil Racoviţă" in Cluj.
2001 trails restored by the Alba Forestry Department, the Gârda Forest District, the Garda de Sus City Hall and the Sphinx Gârda Speleological Association.
2013 new electric light system with LED.


The entrance to Peştera Scarisoara is a vertical shaft. The hall at the ground of this abyss is filled with ice all year round. The reason for this situation is the altitude of the cave, where the winters are rather cold, and the form of the entrance. Like refrigerators in supermarkets, the caves traps the low temperature, as the cold air is heavier than the warm air outside. This is an ice cave of the cold trap type.

A staircase of steep wooden and iron steps spirals around the 48 m deep and up to 60 m wide shaft until it reaches the bottom. Here a huge portal, 24 m high and 17 m wide, which opens into the cave. This first chamber is called Great Hall or The Big Hall, 108 m long and 78 m wide, and 3000 m² of its floor are covered by a 20 m thick layer of ice. At the far end is an ice formation called The Church where the trail turns around and returns to the entrance on the other side of the chamber. The impressive 6 m high ice stalagmites change their size and form during the year.

With estimated 100.000 m³ of ice Scarisoara is said to be the second-largest ice cave in the world. Comparable are only the ShowcaveEisriesenwelt and the ShowcaveDachstein-Rieseneishöhle. While it is in average 20 m deep, there are places where it is 36 m deep. The ice at 20 m depth was dated to be 2000 and 3500 years old.

The cave is known for a very long time, it is actually unknown when it was discovered. In the early 19th century the locals used wooden ladders to climb down and cut ice during summer. This is the time when the cave was first mentioned in written documents, especially when the people were allowed to use wood for this purpose. The area was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at that time and so it was visited by the scholars, travellers and scientists of the time. A. Szirtfi and J. Vass made more or less touristic visits. The first scientific observations on this cave were published by geologist Karl Peters (1861) and geographer Adolf Schmidl (1863) who also surveyed the cave. The first monographic study was published in 1927 by the famous Romanian speleologist Emil Racoviţă. As a result of all this activities Scărişoara Cave was the first cave which declared a Nature Monument in Romania (1938).

The cave was well known among Romanians but unfortunately rather hard to reach. In 2001 the development of the trails, in 2008 the new lights and at the same time the new road to the cave, made it a major tourist site in the area. The highest number of visitors were 60,000 in 2008. Quite a number, if you know that it is reached on a single lane road.

The cave is very cold, even if it is hot outside, and the paths are difficult to walk on, the wet wood may be slippery. It is essential to use warm clothes and good shoes. The cave is not suitable for people with health problems.

The cave is located on a high pasture, near the hamlet Ghețari. Don't mix it up with the town Scarisoara which is located in the main valley, directly at the highway. From the town you have to drive up a narrow side valley and then follow a single lane road to the high pastures. 20 years ago this was a gravel and dirt road with monumental holes and a 4WD was highly recommended. Several pages recommended walking to the cave from the valley, a two hour walk one way. Around 2005 the road was paved and is now suitable for normal cars, but still narrow and winding. The increase in visitors resulted in longer open hours, a visitor center, and a new restaurant and bar. Nevertheless, the snow and ice during winter make a drive to the cave difficult. The best time for a visit is MAY to JUN, because weather and road are fine, but the ice is still massive from the last winter. While the ice stays the whole year, it melts substantially during the summer and in late summer and early autumn the ice is rather unimpressive.

Numerous publications tell about the "glacier" in the cave, and some even call the cave a "glacier cave". Actually this is an ice cave, as it is a karst cave formed in limestone, which contains ice. Glacier caves on the other hand are formed by melting water inside glaciers.

In ancient times a dragon lived in the cave, which the inhabitants called Solomat. Once every year, either in the New Years Eve or in the night before Girls Fare at Gaina, the dragon used to steal a beautiful girl. He hid them in an ice palace, which was never found by the locals.

There used to be two water basins that were full of water all the time. They were located in the lower part called "Great Reservation" at the bottom of a 20 m deep shaft, and behind a formation called “La Brazi”. If you kneeled before the basins, drank the water and made a wish, that wish would come true. But if you tell anyone the wish, it will not come true.

Despite the low temperature, the cave has a 2-3 mm long beetle which is called Pholeuon prozerpinae glaciale. The bones of a rupicapra was unearthed from the sediment of than ice free part of the cave.