Step inside Spain's glittering mountain of salt
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
Lexile: 760L

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

  • ChasityS-dec
    12/18/2018 - 08:22 a.m.

    I actual have see this mountain. My step moms side of the family is from Barcelona so we go there every year and once when I went my grandma took us to see this.

  • GraceR-dec
    12/18/2018 - 09:33 a.m.

    I never knew that there was a mountain made of salt. That's awesome though.

  • LeeAnnH-dec
    12/18/2018 - 12:59 p.m.

    I did not know there was a mountain made of salt. I learned that in Cardona, Spain. You can walk though the mountain and be compelety be surrounded by salt. The salt walls of the mountain are in pinkish/reddish, gray and white colors.

  • BrandinG-dec
    1/02/2019 - 11:17 a.m.

    I would love to see that in real life. It sounds amazing.

  • RenwickA-dec
    1/02/2019 - 01:16 p.m.

    i think this article is written really good. i quite enjoy mountains and loads of different sceneries.

    critical thinking question i would like to see a nice smooth peak at the top of the mountain so i can sit up there and enjoy the scenery.

  • Emmah-eic
    1/08/2019 - 10:17 a.m.

    I never knew that there was a mountain made of salt. That's awesome though.Also some day it would be so cool to go there and study more about it. Last In the picture it looks pretty too.

  • Tannerw-eic
    1/08/2019 - 10:26 a.m.

    a salt currency. go to a store and give the cash register salt currency

  • Taylorp-eic
    1/08/2019 - 10:43 a.m.

    That's cool how this mountain was made of salt. Because I don't think anyone would expect a mountain to be all salt.

  • MorgynB-dec
    1/08/2019 - 10:55 a.m.

    This article was so interesting. I never had any clue that people had salt as a currency. I also never knew that there was a normal looking mountain on the outside, but it is all made of salt.

  • Amia L-rud
    1/08/2019 - 11:37 a.m.

    One thing I would like to see on Muntanya De Sal is if they really do have so many pieces of salt in the mountains or cave or whatever the thing is.Id also like to see what colors they are.

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