Salita Turda is an old salt mine with a unique atmosphere given by the underground amusement park housed in its majestic chambers. It is located in Romania, a 40 minutes ride from Cluj-Napoca, the second biggest Romanian city and former Transylvania Capital. It became nowadays a touristic destination known to locals, but not to international visitors.
History of Salina Turda in a Nutshell
Exploitation first started in the surface of the area over 2000 years ago, and later expanded underground. The extraction was stopped in 1932 and the salt mine was consequently abandoned. Afterwards it served various functions like bomb shelter during WWII and cheese storage. In 1991 it has been declared a "Mine Museum" and opened in 1992 as a touristic attraction and a spa center; later it has been renewed and brought to the present state with a new inauguration in 2010.
Attractions of the Salt Mine in Turda
The salt mine in Turda is nowadays not only a Museum, featuring several extraction chambers and old wooden machinery, but also an amusement park with several attractions and a spa center. Apart from entertaining the visitors, one of the ideas behind the realization of the amusement park is to create an enjoyable place for children to stay as long as possible and to benefit from the clean and ionized air, a good treatment for respiratory problems. The same principles are exploited in of the rooms of Salina Turda, called the Gizela Mine, specifically designed for health treatments, because of its particular micro-climate with a constant temperature, favorable humidity and absence of pollutants.
While the combination might look daring, it was a successful and unique choice; I have no doubts in saying that the Salt Mine in Turda is in the top three places that I've visited in the last years!
And such an amazement is coming at an incredibly affordable price, since the entrance ticket is about 5$ for adult and 2$ for students and kids. This is the cost to access the salt mine and the amusement park, any extra activity needs to be paid: a ride on the spinning wheel in example is costing about 1.5$.
Since the temperature in Salina Turda is between 10-12°C (50-54F) all year round, we suggest to pack some warm clothes if visited in summer.
The access to the salt mine is through a tunnel 917 m (0.57 miles) long, called Franz Josef tunnel, with its walls covered by a 40 cm thick masonry at the beginning, further transforming into a natural organic shape. I couldn't stop myself from "tasting" these appealing walls, and it really tasted like salt!
The first room to be visited is Iosef Mine, a cone shaped chamber also known as the "Echo chamber", 112 m (368 feet) deep, with a diameter of 67 m (220 feet). It is quite dark and there is a fence stopping the visitors from reaching the edge, so not much can be seen below.
But more than about sight, this room is about hearing since its particular structure can echo a sound up to 16 times.
The interesting texture of the walls is due to the geological process of formation: different layers were created by the sea flooding the area and then receding during the ages, and eventually bended by tectonic movement. Over 99% of the mineral found in Salina Turda is made of Sodium Chloride, that means it is very pure. Most of Transylvania is covered by salt deposit, with an average thickness ranging from 250m to 1200m (0.15 - 0.75 miles).
In the Crivac Room it is possible to admire the wooden extraction machine from 1881, a unique example of this kind in Europe. It was drawn by horses and used to lift the salt extracted from the Rudolf Mine to be later transported through the entrance gallery.
Other rooms in the Museum area, are housing other ancient machinery, an altar used for religious celebrations, and the "staircase of rich people".
The next chamber is the Rudolf Mine, a trapezoidal room with a length of 80 m (262 feet), a maximum width of 50m (164 feet) and an height of 42m (138 feet).
Hanging lamps and glossy surfaces are creating a suggestive and unreal atmosphere.
The north wall, visible on the left of the photo below, is covered with salt stalactites that can grow as much as 2-5 cm (1-2") per year and break under their own weight when they reach a length of about 3 m (10 feet). The wooden balconies, accessible to tourists, were originally intended to control the evolution of the works below. The Rudolf Mine was the last one to be exploited in Salina Turda.
In the Rudolf Mine is also located the amusement park with pool tables, table tennis, a Spinning Wheel and bowling lanes. To enjoy one of the attractions, an extra fee is required, but it is still quite affordable for western standards.
The Spinning Wheel is 20 m (66 feet) high, has 6 cabins and takes about 8 minutes to finish one rotation.
In the Rudolf Mine there is even an amphitheater with 180 places for concerts and musical events.
To reach the bottom of the Rudolf Mine, it is possible to use a modern elevator, added during the last renovation in 2009, or to go by feet through the 13 floors of the staircase made of fir timber. Going by feet give the possibility to enjoy the view from different levels and to see details otherwise unseen with the elevator.
The Maria Terezia mine is the most suggestive chamber and has a total height of 120m (394 feet). This photo was taken from a panoramic balcony located at 90 m (295 feet) of altitude. Inside this bell shaped mine a natural lake was formed by water infiltration and precipitation. The salty lake is 8 m (26 feet) deep and has a diameter of 70 m (230 feet) at the bottom. At the center of the lake is emerging a 5 m (16 feet) high island, made of waste salt damped here during the years.
A salt waterfall is visible on a side of the curved wall of the Maria Terezia mine.
Going lower and lower it's eventually possible to reach the surface and to access the island through a wooden bridge. Several futuristic platforms are here for people to relax, enjoy the view and wait for a tour on a rowing boat at a price of 10 RON (3$) per person. Maximum three people can stay in the same boat.
The photo below is giving an idea of the size of the Maria Terezia mine, with the boat near the wall looking minuscule. The contrast between the colourful boats and the shades of gray of the walls is adding up to the atmosphere.
When we visited the salt mine of Salina Turda we weren't able to experience any of the attractions because it was already too late, so we suggest to check the schedule first. But despite this it was for us one of the places that made our jaws drops and that we'll be enthusiastic to go back to visit at anytime. So if you are planning to visit Romania don't miss the chance to enjoy Salina Turda!