Last year in March and April I was on a little road trip through Austria, with a friend from America (some of you may know him already, as he took some of the pictures shown here on the blog), when I remembered a place close to Salzburg I enjoyed as a kid. And as we felt adventurous that day, we decided to give it a shot. I’m talking about the Salzbergwerk Hallein, which is the oldest mine in the world (!) that is still open to visitors.
Apparently the mine has been worked for over 7,000 years since the Celtic tribes and earlier. The “white gold”, as which salt is referred to, was found in huge deposits that were formed millions of years ago in the Duerrnberg area. Throughout the history, salt was more than important for the region, it was traded and used as a payment method. Around World War I the mine was turned into a mining museum, which it still is today. We arrived early in the morning and were lucky to catch a tour without having to wait. The whole experience starts with changing into an outfit that’s provided by the tour operators. Basically it’s something like a white coverall that makes you look a bit like a snowman. Or the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from the Ghostbusters universe. Or Michelin’s Bibendum. It doesn’t make you look pretty, but it protects your clothes from getting dirty.
The tour starts with riding the pit railway that brings you into the mine, where the approximately 70 minute long tour through the ancient miners’ tunnels starts. It leads you many kilometers into the mountain, you’re even crossing the border to Germany during the tour. Plus: You get to ride some wooden slides (I remembered those from my visit back in my childhood and they still were as much fun as back in the days!) and embark on a boat that crosses a huge salt lake deep in the mountain.
I enjoyed the trip a lot, even though we ended up in the middle of a group of kids that were total brats and not really well behaved. The tour guide was very funny and did the whole thing in English and in German, but there are also audio guides available. You can’t access the mine without a guide so I’d recommend to book your tour online, to avoid waiting times.
Salzwelten Bad Dürrnberg
5422 Bad Dürrnberg
Entrance fee is 21 Euro for adults and 10,50 for kids up to 15 years, tours take about 70 minutes. Children have to be at least four years old to access the mine. Sturdy shoes and warm clothes are recommended!
Opening times: 10 am to 3 pm every day, during the first of April till the fifth of November it’s open from 9 am to 5 pm.