We will be staying in Salzburg for a couple of days, the third week of May. We had planned on travelling on our own to visit a salt mine and ice cave but I'm wondering if crowds would be high this time of year with long waits. We only have 2.5 days in the area and don't want to lose alot of time in lengthy line ups. I would like to know if it's better to visit these by booking tours from Salzburg.
If you're willing to spend money to save some time, bob's tours in salzburg is great. RS recommended, we had a great tour guide and ended up getting the tour to ourselves. they don't cover the ice cave as far as i can see but if you call or email to ask, they might be able to make a special tour for you. being driven is a very time-efficient way to see the sights in this area.
We ended up doing the Salt Mine tour in Berchtesgaden (from Salzburg by car). The reviews sound like they are essentially the same experience and Berchtesgaden seemed like the better overall place to visit.
I went to the salt mines last month. There were tours every hour. I hope at busy times they are more frequent. We bought the combo ticket from the OBB which included admission and train transportation from Salzburg. Cost was under 25 euro. Tours were on the hour so you should take that into account. We just missed a tour and had to wait for another hour. The ice caves tour is great. I have done it twice and don't remember any wait (but it has been 25 years).
From Salzburg to Berchtesgaden, you can take the train via Freilassing, Germany (might have to change trains there). With the train you can use the Bayern-Ticket for €29 (total, for up to 5 people). With a Bayern-Ticket, all the buses in Berchtesgaden, like the ones to the salt mine or Königssee) are covered. Alternatively, a bus, the Watzmann Express, goes from the Salzburg Hbf to Berchtesgaden with stops at Marabell and the Altstadt on the way. An RVO Tagesticket (day ticket), for €9/p will cover roundtrip on the Watzmann Express as well as any buses in Berchtesgaden. Note: the last bus leaves Berchtesgaden at 6:15 PM, so if you want to stay later, take the train both ways (so you can use the Bayern-Ticket). The last train leaves Berchtesgaden after 10 PM. If you want to stay up really late, there is a bus leaving Berchtesgaden at 24 minutes past midnight, to Freilassing and a train from there to Salzburg (arr 1:48).