I’ve been excited about visiting some of Austria’s salt mines for a long time, so when we were last in Salzburg (a city named for its salt!) we decided to make it happen. And I’m glad we did because it gives me the chance to write this salt mine tour review.
Speaking with people, it seemed the best experience was to be had on the other side of the border: just 45 minutes by bus from Salzburg in the German town of Berchtesgaden.
So off we went! You can get off near the mines at the second-to-last stop, but we continued on (before realising our mistake!).
The salt mines were a 15 minute walk from the bus and train station, along a path that mainly followed a strikingly coloured river. Our first view was of a modern building behind a bunch of tour buses: this place is popular!
After picking up our tickets we had some time to wait before our group entered. We sat outside with our picnic lunch, supplementing it with a takeaway coffee from a kiosk. There’s also a nice-looking café, but we were short on time and had carried our lunch this far!
We queued to put on our sexy overalls then queued again to get on board a train which took us several hundred meters into the mountain — at speed and through short, narrow tunnels.
Our guide spoke German – and 95% of the other guests were German-speakers – but we had an audioguide that played simultaneously as he spoke. We learned something of the mines, the politics, the technical skill, and the myths and legends that permeate the place – as well as the commercial viability and importance of salt. For me, that was all secondary to the beauty of the place and the fun of the experience.
The walls were naturally beautiful: shades of grey (no, not that one!), pink and cream ran throughout the tunnels. I couldn’t stop myself from wetting a finger and holding it against a vein of pink salt… And it tasted deliciously, purely salty. The natural beauty was accentuated by good lighting, a laser display, and holographic-style exhibitions showing how water is used to disolve the salt before it’s pumped out for processing.
We travelled by train to get in and out of the mountain, but moving around levels was just as fun. To head downhill we used massive wooden slides: sitting close together and accelerating through the darkness. I’m not sure the more-staid members of the group appreciated my whoops of enjoyment. To go up there was a long funicular – also exciting if not quite as much fun.
The show-stopper was a short boat trip over an underground lake: so still and with such perfect reflections I didn’t realise it was a lake until people started boarding the raft and the floor started to ripple. It culminated with a light show and then a chance to taste the super-salty water that was being pumped from it – the basin was hung with salt like icicles at the end of winter.
Photography is forbidden inside the mines, so the photos below are courtesy of the SÜDSALZ GmbH.
Yes: for me it was absolutely worth it. I loved the mountain, the experience was great (even if some of the scripts were overwritten), and would do it again at the drop of a hat.