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: 1120L

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From a distance, Muntanya de Sal looks like any other mountain. But once at its base, it’s apparent that it’s completely different from any other peak in Europe. Muntanya de Sal is made of salt and is unlike other outcroppings piercing through the rolling landscape. 

It is in the village of Cardona, Spain, 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 extracted salt from the surface and used it as a commodity. According to historians, the earliest evidence occurred sometime during the Neolithic period (approximately 10,000 BCE). 

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

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

“As time passed, the entrance in the north got closed and this part of the sea became a lake, which 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... and was a consequence of the crash between two tectonic plates.”

According to Malavé, during the formation of the Pyrenees mountain range approximately two million years ago, the underground salt layers were pressed, folded and pushed upwards. This formed a fold of salt underground. The top layer was made of sediment, which became thin thanks to erosion. This forced salt to crystallize at the surface. Interestingly, the mountain continues to grow in height, 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, a metal halide salt sought out by a wealth of industries. These industries included agriculture, medicine and food processing.

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

  • lduck-wim4
    12/13/2018 - 11:05 a.m.

    I wold most like to see the walls in the mountains. I would like to see the pink,gray,and white colors. Also, I would like to tour the Muntanya de Sal and learn more about it.

  • ygadh-wim4
    12/13/2018 - 11:09 a.m.

    I would most like to see the walls of it was two million years ago.I would like to see the different colors of salt like pink,reddish,gray and white colors,even i would like to see how the people live there cause i am thinking it is going to be cold and how do people live there, and how much salt is around us.

  • pkhat-wim5
    12/13/2018 - 12:42 p.m.

    I would like to see the salt. Especially if they all were different colors. Just surrounded by all those colors. It would be awesome!

  • lwhor-wim5
    12/13/2018 - 12:43 p.m.

    I would most like to see the whole entire cave. I feel that it is not commonly found to see a whole cave made of salt! I would also like to see all the details of the cave or if their are animals living in the cave. And also I feel like the walls of the cave would be nice to see.

  • jzirk-wim5
    12/13/2018 - 12:45 p.m.

    The thing that I would like to see on a visit to Muntanya de Sal would be to see where ancient humans extracted the salt. I think it would be really interesting to see the place where ancient Romans and people from the Neolithic Age mined. Ancient Rome is one of my favorite historical time periods and I would love to see another place where Romans worked.

  • erikl-orv
    12/17/2018 - 08:31 p.m.

    Wow thats a lot of salt. I wonder if they would ever run out. I also didn't know there was such a big salt indistry. I thinked they would get tired of salt with so much of it.

  • erikl-orv
    12/17/2018 - 08:38 p.m.

    Wow thats a lot of salt. I dont know what I would do with all that salt. I personaly would get tiered of all that salt. I wounder with that much salt would it smell like something. now after seeing this artical I want to holed a saltcicle.

  • MattM-dec
    1/10/2019 - 09:33 a.m.

    If I went to see Muntanya de Sal,I would want to test and see how strong the side is at different heights. Also I would want to see how thick the salt is at different heights.

  • TylerV-dec
    1/17/2019 - 09:29 p.m.

    What I would like to see the people collecting the salt. I would like to see it because I think that it would be interesting to watch.

  • SabastianM-dec
    1/18/2019 - 09:53 a.m.

    If I would be able to visit Muntanya de Sal I would test how strong the walls are. This would be super fun to visit.

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