Cardona Salt Mountain: A Must-See Tourist Attraction In Spain

In its natural state, salt is found as a mineral called ‘halite’ or rock salt. It is derived from the Greek word halos meaning ‘salt’. Halite is generally found in and around salt springs, salt lakes and oceans. Rock salt deposits are found around dry lake beds, inland marginal seas and enclosed bays around the world. Consumption of rock salts has several benefits for our health.


Around 40 million years ago, due to land movements, the existing sea in central Catalonia became an inland sea. During that time, due to high temperatures, the sea water gradually evaporated. Gradually, these salts mineralized, in other words, they became extractable minerals, thereby forming an exceptional salt diapir. This salt mountain is made up of rock salt or red rock salt, potassium salt and magnesium salt interspersed with grey clay materials. 

The water from the surface drips and crystallises before it reaches the ground, forming stalactites. You can hear some water dripping onto the ground. These crystalize on the floor and form stalagmites.  When it rains, this process takes place faster and the stalactites and stalagmites slowly join to form salt columns. This is how the largest salt mountain came into being, miles away from the coast. Due to this natural phenomenon which has been happening for centuries, the mountain is referred to as the mountain that grows with rain.

The Sistine Chapel inside is beautiful and is named due to its stunning colours created by the presence of the different salts. This area was blasted with dynamite to carry out various mining activities. You can enjoy the beauty of the Salt Mountain Cultural Park of Cardona (as it is called now) yourself by booking tickets here. The audio guide is available at the entrance.


This huge mountain of pure salt had been exploited by humans since the Neolithic age as rock salt had become a highly valued commodity, thanks to its use in food preservation. These salt mines were the most famous in Catalonia for a very long time. 

You will also find a statue of Saint Barbara (patron saint of the miners) standing in a corner. 

This pre-industrial situation changed in 1912 when an engineer from Barcelona discovered potassium salts in the Catalan salt basin. Potassium salts were used in various fertiliser industries, therefore, in 1923, these mines were sold by the then Duke of Cardona for a huge amount. The new company began a new project in 1925 and constructed two main shafts named Maria Teresa and Alberto for various mining activities. The potash mines operated from 1929 and closed in 1990 due to various reasons like exploitation and death of the mine workers during the mining operation, ventilation issues, etc. Even the salt layers changed from vertical to horizontal at the depth they had reached (due to temperatures higher than 50 degrees Celsius), so a new system to extract the mineral had to be designed. By then, mining activities in Cardona also became problematic and were no longer viable.

But, until then 37 million tonnes of mineral had been extracted (between 1929 and 1972) from the salt mountain and a large residue grey mountain stands beside it as proof. Efforts are being made to recycle the same by industries making chlorine and caustic soda.


Strategically located on the hill (above the mist), Castell de Cardona was built to protect the access roads to the salt mines. It was said that it was fortified in 886 and used to be the residence of the Lords of Cardona back then. Inside the castle, you can also see the Romanesque church called Canònica de Sant Vicenç. 

To conclude, the Cardona town centre, built in 986, is a lovely town to visit but two days is enough. On Saturday, you can visit the castle and Salt Mountain, if you start your day early. And, on Sunday morning, you can explore the town and farmer’s market where you will find local and organic meats, cheeses, chocolates, eggs, and much more. But, if you have just one day, I suggest you DO NOT MISS visiting the Salt Mountain Cultural Park of Cardona because it is the best tourist attraction in Cardona!

About the Guest Author

Cindy D’SilvaBlogger, Author, Influencer

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