Step inside Spain's glittering mountain of salt Muntanya de Sal or Salt Mountain is located in Cardona, Spain and formed millions of years ago. (J2R/iStock/JackF/iStock)
Step inside Spain's glittering mountain of salt
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From a distance, Muntanya de Sal looks like any other mountain. But then you head to its base and it’s clear that it’s completely different from any other peak in Europe. Muntanya de Sal is made of salt. It is unlike other outcroppings piercing through the rolling landscape. 

It is in the village of Cardona, Spain. That is about 60 miles northwest of Barcelona. Muntanya de Sal is also called Salt Mountain. It has been an important resource for the people residing in the area over the centuries. Locals removed salt from the surface. They used it as a commodity. The earliest evidence occurred sometime during the Neolithic period (approximately 10,000 BCE). That is according to historians.

“Later the Iberians, the Romans, people [living during] the Middle Ages and so on kept doing the same,” said Montse Malavé.  

Malavé is a historian with Fundación Cardona Histórica. It is an organization that protects and preserves the town’s historical heritage. 

“Salt was so valuable that at certain times it was even used as currency. People would go to the marketplace and could pay using a piece of salt. This mountain was like a mountain of money. Salt was called ‘the white gold.’”

Salt Mountain Cultural Park tops out at just under 400 feet in height. It is one of the highest points in the region. But about 40 million years ago, the area was completely underwater. It was engulfed by the Cantabrian Sea, according to Malavé.

“As time passed, the entrance in the north got closed and this part of the sea became a lake. It eventually dried out and great amounts of salt were precipitated to the bottom in horizontal layers,” he says. 

“At the end of this process, the salt layers were covered by sediment. This happened all along the land that was covered by the sea. But the only place where the salt appeared on the surface is here in Cardona. This happened due to strong [upward] pressure in the Pyrenees mountains zone. It was a consequence of the crash between two tectonic plates.”

The Pyrenees mountain range formed approximately two million years ago. The underground salt layers were pressed and folded. And they pushed upwards. This formed a fold of salt underground. The top layer was made of sediment. It became thin thanks to erosion. This forced salt to crystallize at the surface. Interestingly, the mountain continues to grow in height. This is a result of the consistent pressure occurring below the surface. It is one of the few places on the planet where salt deposits sit both underground and on the surface.

From 1929 to 1990, Salt Mountain was one of the world’s largest mines for potassium chloride. It is a metal halide salt sought out by a wealth of industries. These include agriculture and medicine. It also incldues food processing.

The remaining salt deposit stretches approximately one mile in depth and has a similar length. The former mining complex has become a popular tourist destination. Today the cultural park offers guided one-hour tours inside the mountain’s depths. Visitors can walk through tunnels punctuated with sparkling salt stalactites. They also have stalagmites and columns.

“The salt walls are in pink/reddish, gray and white colors,” Malavé says. “Visitors are completely surrounded by salt.”

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What would you most like to see on a visit to Muntanya de Sal?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (38)
  • Rachel-E2
    12/10/2018 - 04:24 p.m.

    This article was about a mountain made out of salt. I think that it is so cool that there is a whole mountain made out of salt. I think this because not many people would expect a whole mountain to be made of salt.

  • BenP-E2
    12/10/2018 - 04:24 p.m.

    I think it is cool that people had salt as currency. A mountain looking like a normal mountain from the outside... and all salt when you go inside! Salt was called the white gold! I can't believe how it looks like it has no salt, all rock!

  • Adrian-E2
    12/10/2018 - 04:25 p.m.

    OH MY GOSH! Salt is worth that much money. This article was about a MOUNTAIN of of salt and it's worth so much money that they call it "The Mountain Of Money"! You can go IN a mountain of salt. That's pretty dang cool. If I went there I would just go "schhchhllluuuschhhhh!!". awesome!

    • Phoenix R-rud
      1/08/2019 - 11:40 a.m.

      In my opinion i would most like to visit Muntanya de Sal is because of the salt.The salt there is of many different colors and textures.I would love to take a tour inside and look at all the salt and how it glistened.I would also like to take a stalagmite as a sovenier so i could have a piece of the glittering mountain always.

  • Maxena J-rud
    12/11/2018 - 11:40 a.m.

    I would most likely see a lot of salt, I have a salt rock lamp at home, and it looks so cool! I think that it is coo because its salt, but it sticks together, and its hard. I wonder how it sticks together.I also think I would see other people, and guards!

  • Emma B-rud
    12/11/2018 - 11:45 a.m.

    Emma

    IF I went to visit Muntanya de Sal I would like to see all the different types of salt. I would also like to see the big mountain that glitters. I would want to see this because it would be cool to see the different kinds of colors the salt can be.And then I would want to see the big chunks of salt.

  • John-E2
    12/13/2018 - 10:35 a.m.

    I like this because I did not know about a mountain made out of salt and I kind of new that it would have to be made out of salt because it was under water at some point. but one thing I don't understand is why and how does salt become currency like there is a big mountain made of salt so everyone could be rich.

  • klee-wim4
    12/13/2018 - 11:42 a.m.

    The thing that I would like to see on a visit to Muntanya de Sal is were the entrance had closed and part of the sea had turned into a lake. It had eventually dried out all of the salt. I feel that it would be so cool to see this because it would be interesting to see what a natural disaster, or natural event and what it looks like.

  • rwils-wim4
    12/13/2018 - 11:47 a.m.

    On a visit to Muntanya de Sal I would like to see the caverns because they are most likely filled with stalagmites. Stalagmites are stone icicles that are hanging from the ceiling of a cave. I would like to see animals in the area and how they adapt to the this feature.

  • Sabina-E2
    12/14/2018 - 03:22 p.m.

    I think that it is weird that they call it "The Mountain of Salt".
    I also think that the name is fitting.
    the mountain is very old, approximately 2 million years.
    I love Spain so this is now one of my favorite mountains.

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