Home to one of the most important salt deposits in the world as well as a priceless medieval architecture, Cardona is a town worth visiting.The highlight of this city is undoubtedly the Salt Mountain, a geological wonder made almost entirely of this edible mineral.Discover how magic a salty world can be by walking through an old mining facility. Another gem of this town is the imposing medieval castle, with centuries and centuries of history lying behind its walls.
|Duration: All day||Driving time: 1 h 20 min from Barcelona|
|When: All year||Train time: 3 h from Barcelona|
|Show map||Bus time: 1 h 45 min from Barcelona|
All you need to know to spend 1 day in Cardona
- What to do
- Where to eat
- When is the best time to go to Cardona
- How to arrive in Cardona
- For the curious minds
One day in Cardona
The Salt Mountain Cultural Park is a huge formation made mostly of potassium, sodium and magnesium chloride. The mine stayed in function from 1929 to 1990 and seven years after closing it, they decided to open it to the public so people could know about the importance of this natural resource, the history around it and the life of the miners.
The only way to visit the mountain is with a guided tour that last one hour and cost 11€/person -we chose the regular guided visit. When you arrive there, you’re driven in 4×4 vehicles to the entrance of the galleries of the mina Nieves (Snow mine). Surprisingly, the 120-meter tall salt massif that you see is only a tiny piece of the entire geological formation. In fact, the diapir goes nearly 2km deep. At the beginning of the visit, they give you some safety equipment to wear and then you’re ready to explore 500m of galleries situated 86m underground.
When we entered the galleries we were astonished, inside what it seems to be just a pile of salt, there’s a whole world to explore that you’d never imagine it can exist. The variety of colours and shapes creates a unique underground temple and an invisible world for the ones not curious enough to explore this place. It’s surprising how nature can create such beautiful landscapes.
This place is worth a visit as you get the chance to explore a curious geological phenomenon and it’s suitable to everyone, no matter how young or old you are.
In the afternoon we went to visit the famous castle of Cardona, which is undoubtedly the most important medieval fortress in Catalonia. The castle is located on a hill which allows you to have beautiful views over the city of Cardona, the Salt Mountain, and the river valley of the Cardaner.
Where to eat
For lunch, we went to a small village near Cardona called El Miracle (The Miracle). This charming village has a sanctuary with the restaurant were we ate inside it. We ordered some typical Catalan dishes and we have to recommend you their peus de porc amb cargols (pigs’ feet with snails) as a main course and the mel i mató (fresh cheese with honey) as a dessert. Simply delicious.
For the curious minds
Cardona is a town situated in the province of Barcelona, about 90km northwest from the city of Barcelona. Located on a hilltop and surrounded by the river Cardener, this town is famous for its medieval architecture as well as its magnificent mountain of salt, which is a very rare example of how marine environment can evolve into a terrestrial one.
To understand how it’s possible that we can currently find a formation like the Salt Mountain in Cardona, we’ve to go back 5.6 million years in time. By that time, the Mediterranean Sea separated from the Atlantic Ocean and much of the water evaporated. As a result of it, a thick layer of salt appeared but was hidden below layers of clay and rock. Some million years after that, tectonic activity pushed the layer of salt up to the surface forming this salty mountain in Cardona.
The Salt Mountain is an icon of Catalonia and allows us to understand the history of Cardona as a miner city as well as to study a natural phenomenon rarely seen. The different colours and textures of the diapir are produced by the composition and concentration of the dissolved salts and give us information about the order in which the rocks were evaporated and deposited.
The first ones to exploit salt in the area of Cardona were the Romans. The activity of mining gave Cardona its wealth during the Middle Ages. Later, the diapir was exploited for potash salt and that generated even more income for Cardona. A mine was built and most of the citizens of Cardona started working with the salt in many different ways: as miners, as bakers -making salty pastries-, and as salt sculptors. The impact of the mine in the culture of Cardona is still palpable today.
On the other hand, Cardona’s castle is another jewel of this town and a symbol of Catalan nationalism. This unbreachable fortress was strategically situated at the top of a hill so the noblemen could watch over the Salt Mountain, the white gold that rose the economy of Cardona.
The castle was initially constructed by Wilfred the Hairy in the 9th century, mixing the Gothic and Romanesque styles. During the 14th century, it was the residence of the dukes of Cardona, also called “kings without crowns” as they came from the most important family of the Crown of Aragon -which was second only to the royal house. They extended the castle and built a palace and the Romanesque church of Sant Vicenç.
In 1714, during the war of Spanish Succession, the fortress was the only one to resist the attacks of the troops of the King Philip V, even though many of the castle walls were destroyed after the Bourbon siege.
Nowadays, the castle is a luxury parador with its legendary Minyona tower, a gothic cloister and the Ducal Courtyard.