One and a half hours away from Barcelona, Cardona is home to a priceless medieval architectural ensemble and unique geological phenomenon: the Salt Mountain. Visitors are driven in 4 x 4 vehicles down an 86-metre slope to the galleries of this former mine.
The sheer volume and quality of the salt – white gold – made the Cardona mines one of the most important salt seams in Europe. The Salt Mountain (red salt) conceals a curious geological phenomenon whereby the salt outcrops have moved upwards in a diapiric formation. The Salt Mountain cultural Park opened in 1997, seven years after the mines closed. The park gives an insight into the history, geology and botany of the salt basin. Visitors are driven in four-track vehicles down to the Salt Valley, from where they begin their walk through the 5oo m of galleries of the mina Nieves, or snow mine. Inside, 86 m underground, they can view the amazing variety of colours and shapes of the stalactites and stalagmites.
Cardona Castle (9th-12th centuries), built in the Romanesque and gothic style, is an imposing stone fortress that stands on a hilltop opposite the mines. Inside the castle grounds is the Romanesque church of Sant Vicenç (11th century). In the centre of Cardona, the market square, the plaça del mercat, is well worth a visit, as is the gothic church of Sant Miquel (13th-14th centuries).
Phone: 938 692 475 (reserves)
How to get there: Bus Alsina Graells from Estació del Nord.
Web site: www.cardonaturisme.cat
Cardona Castle: Saturday and Sunday, guided tours at 11am, 1pm and 4.30pm. Tuesday to Friday, with reservation.