Whether they're hiding beneath massive glaciers or tucked away inside a mountain, ice caves are without a doubt some of the strangest and most surreal landscapes found on our amazing planet.
What's really interesting about ice caves is that while a lot of them are seasonal, there are many others that are capable of surviving warm summers. Take, for example, the Wannian Ice Cave (pictured at right) in Ningwu County, China, which is equipped with a natural air conditioning system that keeps it frozen all year around.
According to sciencenews.org, geologists studying the 3-million-year-old cave discovered that during the summer, the "buoyant, warm outside air doesn’t flow very deep into the cave. Winter’s cold air, [meanwhile], flushes heat out of the cave system. This convection process maintains freezing temperatures year-round even as a thousand visitors explore the cave each day."
Of course, not all ice caves are this lucky. Thanks to the increasing threat of climate change, more and more ice caves are in danger of melting away permanently.
We still have time before that happens, but you better start planning if you'd like to see some of these icy wonders in person. Not sure where to start? Continue below to see just a small selection of the world's most spectacular ice caves.
Mossy Cave — Bryce Canyon National Park. Utah
Mossy Cave is a grotto created by an underground spring. In certain months, the large overhang is filled with moss and giant icicles.
Kungur Ice Cave — Perm Krai, Russia
Kungur Ice Cave is a karst cave near the town Kungur, Russia, on the banks of the Sylva River. It is one of the biggest cave of this type of cave in Russia. The term karst describes a specific topography in which groundwater or surface water slowly dissolves underlying rocks, which are typically made of limestone, gypsum or dolomite.
Apostle Island Ice Caves — Wisconsin
The 21-island park located off the coast of the northern tip of Wisconsin is best known as a summer kayaking destination, but when the area freezes, you can see an entirely different personality of the caves: smooth floors where there was water and massive stalagmites and stalactites.
Minnehaha Falls — Minneapolis, Minnesota
In the winter, extremely cold temperatures freeze the fall’s cascade in place in this famous Minneapolis location, which is often closed off if the conditions are too treacherous.
Lake Baikal ice caves — Siberia, Russia
Siberia is cold enough that even the world’s oldest and deepest freshwater lake is no match. When Lake Baikal freezes over, the caves become accessible.
Ice lingam at Amarnath Cave — Kashmir, India
This naturally formed lingam is a famous Hindu pilgrimage stop in India.
Eben Ice Caves — Michigan
These famous caves aren’t really caves at all — the rooms form when melting snow runs over the edge of a small cliff and freezes.
Dachstein Ice Caves — Austria
When outside temperatures are above freezing but the caves contain very cold air, the penetrating water freezes and forms amazing ice shapes in the underground world of Dachstein.
Furka Pass Ice Grotto - Swiss Alps
This tunnel and ice chamber have been cut into the Rhone glacier every year since around 1870.
Scărișoara Cave — Apuseni Mountains, Romania
Scarisoara Cave houses the second largest underground glacier in south-eastern Europe and it’s one of Romania’s natural wonders.
Marble Cave — Crimea
This world-famous cave formed by marble limestone — thus the name — wasn’t discovered until 1987.