Seeing is believing: 5 awesome salt mines

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The world produces a billion tons of salt each year, irrespective of claims that salt is bad for our health. Salt however is essential in our diet, without it our brains wouldn’t work and our muscles would grow weak. Tons of salt is used to melt ice on roads and is an important product in cleaning products. Currently the debate continues: whether we should take more or less in our diets. Whilst the salt debates rage consider some of the most awesome salt mines in the world.

Khewra Salt Mine Pakistan

Located 100 miles south of Islamabad in Pakistan, Khewra Salt Mine is visited by 25,000 tourists every year. The mine still produces more than 35,000 tons of salt per annum. Counted as one of the oldest mines in the world, it has 18 working levels and 40 kms of tunnels. Once inside the mine visitors are awed by the majesty of this underground world. There is a mosque, built entirely of salt bricks, a working asthma clinic (salt mines are said to help or even cure asthma) and an electric train to transport visitors through the myriad of tunnels. In some tunnels the salt rock is said to be 99% pure with a seam thickness of 150 meters. Underground you are assailed with a kaleidoscope of colours as the light from underground pools reflects onto different coloured salts. On the chamber walls crystal deposits sparkle like sugar. The Assembly Hall is one of the largest chambers, well over 73 meters in height. Salt stalactites, like frozen sculptures, line the route reflecting blue, ochre and green, making the whole place feel like an alien world.

Salina Turda Salt Mine Transylvania

Transylvania is not just for vampires or vampire slayers. Located in Turda, the second largest city in Cluj County, the mine opened to the public in 1992, closed for a while for refurbishment and has received up to 2 million tourists. The mine is deemed as the most beautiful underground places in the world. People who have visited all agree. It is ranked 22 among the most spectacular tourist destinations in the world. That’s quite a reputation! From the moment you enter the mine you are struck by the awesome size of the chambers. Before the refurbishment visitors walked down hundreds of steps to reach echoing gigantic chambers. Now there are escalators and lifts. 120 meters below the surface the mine houses underground lakes, boat tours, play areas, complete with table tennis and an amphitheatre. In August 2015 the mine hosted a 60+ piece orchestra. No wonder: the acoustics are fabulous.

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Wieliczka Salt Mine Poland

The wonderful thing about this mine is that there are two options for the visitor. You can travel along the tourist route or you can be a salt miner for the day. You are provided with authentic mining clothes and real small gauge mining equipment. Ever wanted to be a Salt Miner? Now’s your chance! On the tourist classical route there are 20 chambers including the very excellent Chapel of Kings, all made in salt. It takes around 3 hours to make the tour with saline works of art decorating the chamber walls. 800 steps take you down beneath the ground so you have to be relatively fit. You can even pause for a while at the underground tavern. In Saint King’s Chapel the whole chamber is lit with chandeliers. You can even see a depiction of the Last Supper sculptured entirely in salt. The sculptures are what make this mine so special: spread over 300 kilometres of galleries. If you take the Miner’s route you can experience the day to day life of a salt miner: having a go at hewing the salt (most visitors generally hack rather than hew) and working with real miners. The day can be very strenuous so beware. The miner’s route does not follow the classical route. Entry is by the miner’s shaft

Hallstatt Salt Mine Austria

You have to go up before you go down to this salt mine. A funicular railway takes visitors up a path which leads down into the ancient mine. It is said that the first salt to be extracted was 3,000 years ago. A spectacular salt lake stands at its centre of the mine.  The man of the Salt is a central theme. In 1734 a corpse preserved in salt was discovered complete with mining clothes and tools. A guide (the man in salt) accompanies you on the tour. Apart from the fabulous lighting from the lake and pools which make the salt walls shine blue, ochre and green, what makes this mine special, is the wooden slides which visitors travel on to get from one chamber to another. Just like play ground slides, visitors whizz along from one place to another. They were once used to move miners around the mine and are the longest wooden slides in the world. There is a stair case you don’t want to miss either. The salt drips like icicles from the balustrades. You just have to touch it to make sure it’s not ice. Narnia has nothing on Hallstatt Salt Mine.

Nemocon Salt Mine Cundinamarca Colombia

If ever you find yourself in Colombia, take a trip to this fabulous mine. Each chamber is a blaze of colour. It’s like shaking a kaleidoscope. Salt deposits over 250 million years old are illuminated by the reflection of light on pond water. Everywhere along the route religious icons made of salt are carved into walls. The salt is so thick in this mine that in places it looks like gigantic snow drifts. This mine is truly an alien landscape. Salt Stalactites of all sizes seem to stretch to join forces with majestic stalagmites growing out of salty floors. 800 metres deep the salt mine is Colombia’s most popular tourist attraction, not least because of an intriguing heart shaped rock crystal, a favourite sight for tourists. Huge salt waterfalls look like time itself has frozen. To top all this, there’s breathtaking chapel that miner’s carved in salt for their daily prayer meetings. This mine has the largest salt deposits in the world. Historically control of the salt production was the major source of political power.  Now it attracts visitors from all over the world.

And The Best Way To Get Your Salt!

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