In the echoes room

Turda Salt Mine: Visit An Underground Amusement Park and Museum in Transylvania

In the vicinity of the Turda Gorge, one of the most dramatic landscapes in Transylvania, you’ll find underground the the old Turda Salt Mine. Dating from 1075, the mine was used to bring salt from the depths of the earth until the middle of 19th century. If you visit it now, you’ll find a unique underground tourist destination. Amusement park, health spa, and mining museum, the now-famous landmark attracts visitors from all over the world.

But this wasn’t always the case. When I was growing up in the vicinity of the salt mine, few of us even knew about its existence. During the Communist times, it lay abandoned, mostly forgotten.

Growing Up in the Vicinity of Turda

Turda had been a town close to my home, and though I knew of the existence of the salt mine as tordai sóbánya, its Hungarian name, I never saw it while I lived nearby.

We used to pass through the town almost weekly, but rarely ever stopped there. It was one of the most polluted towns in Romania. Its cement factory, working full time, covered everything in grey powder and made it hard to breathe in town.

As a child, I sometime thought the salt mine was just a myth. We used to go swimming to the Salt Lakes though in the summers, and we heard stories of an old salt mine that used to operate the previous century. But since I know no one who ever saw it, I wasn’t sure it existed.

Until my parents brought us to visit it, at the recommendation of my doctor, who suggested the air inside the salt mine would help my almost constant respiratory problems. We had no problem finding the mine, but once there, we only found ancient locked doors leading to it. That’s when I found out the mine’s existence wasn’t a legend. It once operated, but been closed down for about a century by that time.

I First Walked into the Turda Salt Mine as a Visitor from a Foreign Country

In the late 1990s, I revisited my home country with my new family, as a foreign resident. When my father told us about the Turda salt mine being open to the public, my husband wanted to see it. So did I, and we thought our children might enjoy it, too. So, my dad took us to Salina Turda, the salt mines I’ve never seen as a child.

We entered through a very long tunnel, its walls covered with salt crystals.

salt tunnel leading to the mine
The tunnel dug into salt, leading into the mine

At some point, we reached somewhat of an opening, though it was closed off. My dad was ready to turn around, but we wanted to investigate, so I followed my husband and my kids. Tiny mine lights gave us only enough light to see the tip of our noses. When I noticed a rickety wooden barricade with warning signs, I grabbed my kids and stepped back. That barricade was the only thing that stood between us and the abyss below. We were above the largest cavern in the mine.

As I looked around, I noticed warning signs and barricaded areas surrounding us in every direction, though we could only see them when we got too close for comfort. An old stairway that looked like it would crumble even at the lightest touch was leading down into the depths.

Though we couldn’t have spent more than a few minutes there, I was a nervous wreck by the time we left the area. Only back in the safety of the tunnel I realized my kids had been whining that I was hurting their hands.

That was our first encounter with the Rudolf mine. As much as I enjoyed walking through the salt tunnel, I didn’t think I’d ever be back.

Entertainment at the Bottom of the Cavern

Years later, when my son turned sixteen, I let him visit his grandparents in my home country, alone. So he was the first one in the family to see the newly restored Turda salt mine.

The stories he told us didn’t seem even close to what I remembered. I knew he was an adventurer, but he visited it with my dad, who wouldn’t let him walk on the old stairs I knew of. I remembered how deep the bottom was, and how dangerous the stairway seemed.

My son didn’t remember his first time in the mine as a toddler, but he assured me that he took a glass elevator down to an underground amusement park. Even after seeing his pictures, I had trouble imagining it. It didn’t seem possible that we were talking about the same place.

Amuseuemt park in the Rudolph Quarry
Amusement park below, in the Rudolph Query

Revisiting the Mine

After hearing my son’s stories, we were curious. So the next time we visited my home country, we made it a point to go back to the Turda Salt Mine.

There I was again, visiting the polluted town of my childhood, on purpose. However, since they closed down the cement factory, the town seemed brighter, cleaner. I could discern colors, instead of the grey I remembered. The sun was shining, people were smiling in the street.

Turda became a tourist destination, thanks to the underground wonderland in the salt mine. I was skeptic though. It didn’t seem possible. However, the experience far exceeded my expectations.

Getting there

Dug into a hill in the outskirts of the town, the mine has two entrances, one at the bottom of the hill, in town, and another one, on top. But I didn’t know this at the time. I only knew about the old entrance, at the bottom on the hill.

My father didn’t go with us at the time, but I assured my husband that I remembered the way. After all, I grew up in the area, and we’ve both been at the salt mine before.

Plenty of brand new signs were pointing int he direction of the Turda Salt Mine (Salina Turda), and they were easy to follow. But at some point, they were leading us in the wrong direction. I was sure of it.

We were leaving the area I knew the entrance was. I told my husband the signs were wrong.

I must have sounded convincing, or he remembered it, too, because he followed my directions instead of the well-meaning signs.

Relying on my memory alone, I started navigating. We ended up in an old neighborhood and we saw no signs pointing to the mine. We should’ve been close, we both knew it. But as we both started to lose confidence in my memory, we stopped to ask a local for directions.

“You’re almost there, stay on this road a little longer,” he answered. I was proud of my navigating skills. Still, I didn’t understand why we saw no signs this close to the mine.

But soon we arrived.

Visiting the New and Improved Turda Salt Mine

Considering it was supposedly a popular tourist destination, we din’t see too many cars in the tiny parking lot. We got our tickets, and walked into the long tunnel we remembered.

The Franz Joseph Gallery

After the humid summer heat outisde, the cool air felt great inside the tunnel. I smelt the salt air, and enjoyed the walls. I couldn’t help but touch them at times; they were made of rock salt crystals. Surrounded by them, white and rough, we felt like we were walking through something built of kitchen salt. The air was getting cooler as we were going farther away from the entrance.

Walls of the Tunnel Leading into the Salt Mines of Turda
The walls of the Tunnel Leading into the Salt Mines are made of salt crystals.

We were walking through the Franz Joseph Gallery. This long tunnel, about half a mile long (917 meters to be exact), was built between 1853-1870, dug out horizontally inside the mountain. We were at its bottom here.

The Echoes Room

The first side room we entered is now called the Echoes Room. You guessed, it echoes if you talk here. At least when you talk into the cone-shaped openings.

In the echoes room
The cavity in the echoes room

The far wall of the room is only waist-high, and it opens into Josif mine, a 367-feet (112 meters) deep and 220 feet (67 meters) wide, conical-shaped area. Since it is not connected to any other parts of the mine, sound echoes through it.

Yelling into the cone was great entertainment for my daughter. She wasn’t the only one, children and adults alike kept yelling into it. As the room filled, the noise was getting a bit much, so we left the area.

The Crivac Room

We continued our walk, and reached a larger, circular opening. In the center of it stood an interesting contraption, used to bring salt up from the lower depths. As it turns out, it has a name. Its English translation is “crivac” or “gepel”. I know, it doesn’t tell me anything either. But here’s a photo:

The "Crivac" Room in the Turda Salt Mines
In the “Crivac” Room

Powered by horses twalking in circles around it, miners used it to bring up salt from the deeper parts of the mine. As we learned from the inscription next to it, the one we were looking at dates from 1881, replacing an older one, built in 1864.

I read it is the only contraption of its kind still standing in its original location, in all of Europe.

The Rudolph Mine

Finally, we got to the large cavity I remembered being so scary. I couldn’t recognize it. I was looking at a large underground amusement park, just like my son described it.

Close to 138 feet deep (42 meters), the Rudolph mine was the last shaft where they mined salt in the area. The huge room is more of an oval shape, large and deep enough to accommodate the theme park set up inside.

Rudolph Query in the Salt Mines of Turda
View of the Rudolph Mine from above

Flowing lights illuminate the swirls of rock salt on the sides of this man-made cave. On the bottom, a children’s playground, a bowling alley, and lots of other entertainment are waiting for visitors. I would be perfectly happy if they left it empty, I think it takes away from the experience, but people seem to enjoy it.

We took the glass elevator to the bottom. Since it only supports seven people, we were lucky to get there in time to fit in with a group.

My daughter wasn’t interested in any of the entertainment. She had her mind set on the boat ride we noticed on the lower level.

So we took another staircase leading even deeper underground. A tiny elevator was also going down, but too many people were waiting for it. This one only fit four people, so we figured we would’ve waited a long time. Besides, we didn’t mind the stairs now. They looked new and sturdy.

We walked down to the Terezia mine.

The Terezia Mine

At a depth of 394 feet (120 meters), the Terezia mine is shaped like a bell, centered around an underground lake. Though small, compared to other areas, the Terezia Mine is still 300 feet (90 meters) high and 285 feet (87 meters) in diameter.

View of the Terezia Query at the Slat Mines of Turda
View of the Terezia Query with the Island in the middle

The lake at its deepest is 26 feet (8 meters), making it perfect for the little rowboat rides available.

Boat rides in the Terezia Mine
Boat rides in the Terezia Mine

As we were rowing a boat around the tiny island in the center, we admired the walls of the mine. The stalactites and the salt cascades, combined with the swirls of black and white salt, are spectacular.

Salt Cascade on the Walls of the Terezia Query in the Salt Mines of Turda
Salt Cascade on the Walls of the Terezia Mine

The island in the center is salt waste, whatever that means. From what I understood, this is where they dumped the low-grade salt they couldn’t use when they ended mining from this room, in 1880.

Climbing Back Up

Once back in the Rudolph Mine, the line to get on the elevator was too long for us to wait for it.

The glass elevator in the Turda salt mine
Waiting for the elevator…

So we opted to take the stairs instead. The same stairs I saw years ago. But they weren’t scary now.

Renovated, the stairway is not dangerous at all; in fact, it offers a fun walk, especially for kids. And, other than getting a bit of exercise, we hadn’t suffered from walking up the 13 levels, 172 stairs. Not that I counted, but that’s what’s written on them, and I have no reason to doubt it.

We noticed year numbers on the stairway, and I was wondering what they meant. I found out later that they stand for the year they were mining salt from that particular depth.

Once on top, we looked down into the Rudolph mine while taking the walkway running around it. We marveled at the salt stalactites that grow on the ceiling. They say that they grow about 0.8 (2 cm) inches a year, and when they reach about 10 inches (3 meters), they break and fall below. (Hope no one is directly under them when that happens).

Salt Stalactites Growing on the Ceiling of the Rudolph Query in the Salt Mines of Turda
Salt Stalactites Growing on the Ceiling of the Rudolph Query

We Made it to the Main Entrance

As we walked farther in the same direction, the mine seemed to end at a large wooden, closed door.

We tried it, and it was unlocked, leading to the main entrance. Mystery of the road signs solved, we realized.

But since we parked at the old little-used entrance, we turned around, and headed back the way we came, exiting through the Franz Joseph Gallery.

Tunnel through the Salt Mines of Turda
Exiting through the tunnel

As fun as it was, I knew that it would be the last time I would visit the Turda Salt Mine. But I was wrong.

Returning once again to the Turda Salt Mine – through the Main Entrance

Five years after that trip, I was back at the Turda Salt Mine. After a visit to Turda Gorge with my father and my two daughters, I mentioned the salt mine. “How come I haven’t been there?”, my daughter Leanne asked. Last time, we only took her sister, while she was visiting my brother in Brasov.

Since we were so close to the salt mine, it made sense to return. So we set off in that direction.

I told my dad though to follow the signs, no matter how odd the direction may seem. They have a new entrance we haven’t used yet, I added. Halfway up the hill my father was ready to turn around. “This doesn’t make sense,” he said. “We are heading towards the salt baths.” I told him I knew it didn’t make sense, but we should keep going. The new entrance was supposed to be on the top of the hill. We were both curious, so we kept going.

Crowds everywhere

When we got close, I was sorry I insisted on visiting from this side. We couldn’t find a parking spot. My dad was ready to leave, drive through town and go through the old entrance he knew. I didn’t argue. Besides the parking lot being so full, you didn’t have space to drop a pin, booths lined the sides, and huge crowds of people were everywhere.

But a truck blocked our way out. My dad had to get out of the car, find the driver and ask him to move it. By the time he did, someone just left and a spot opened up. So we parked, and braced ourselves for dealing with crowds.

We fought crowds through the line of vendors to get to the entrance. We stood on line for tickets., then we stood on line to use the bathroom.

Finally, we entered the salt mine through a large tunnel, taking the stairs down into the mountain. From here it was more obvious that the mine was inside a mountain. Being on the top, we had to descend inside it.

Descending into the salt mine
Descending into the mountain

Once inside the salt mine, our first stop was the large Rudolph mine. We walked the tour to the opposite direction from our last visit.

Exploring the Rudolph and Terezia Mines Once Again

This time we had to wait for the elevator, but didn’t take the stairs. We had plenty to look at while waiting. Inside the Rudolph mine the crowds dispersed, since it’s such a huge area. It was noisy though. People were playing pool (billiards), and the sound of the balls hitting the tables was reverbarating through the area. Maybe pool tables were not the best choice down there, but it might just be my opinion.

After walking around a bit, we headed down to the Terezia mine. Since we were with my dad, we waited in line for the tiny elevator. But the girls decided to take the stairs instead. They left the same time we entered the elevator, and we found them waiting for us at the bottom of the 13 flights of stairs. When I looked at them surprised, they smiled. ‘To be honest, we ran, raced the elevator.”

They both thought that the Terezia query was the prettiest part of the whole mine. It is my favortie part too, despite (or because) being at the very bottom. The walls, showcasing swirls of black and white salt, beside the salt cascades make this area spectacular.

salt cascade
A salt cascade and swirls of black and white on the walls of the Terezia mine

The lake, with the island in the center added to its magic.

Lake at the bottom of the Turda salt mine
Lake at the bottom of the Turda salt mine

The Salt Mine Museum

After leaving the Rudolph and Terezia queries, we walked through the rest of the mine. I found that they worked on the museum part in the past five years, adding more exhibits, including a mine cart filled with huge blocks of salt and a few more pieces of equipment. I liked the idea of them developing this side, turning the whole mine into more of a museum rather than keeping it just for entertainment.

In fact, the whole mine is now a museum. Besides the entertainment park, everywhere we walked, signs told the story of the salt mine, including dates and times. We learned about the salt “growing” on the walls of the cavities, years when it was mined from different depths are on the stairway, and so much more.

They also dedicated an area exclusively for showcasing mining equipment, in the area we stopped to see the crivac a few years ago.

mining cart filled with salt rocks
Mining cart filled with rocks of salt

We spent more time here than on our previous visit, simply because there was more to see. Although the crivac is still the most interesting piece here, this time we could also get close and look at part of the equipment used to pull the salt up from the depths.

salt mining equipment
salt mining equipment

Back Outside. Trinkets. Junk.

The warmth outside felt good for a change. So we walked slowly through the stalls of vendors towards the car. And that’s how I noticed the objects made of salt, pink salt, they were selling.

Pink salt. In Turda. If you were paying attention to the images, you know that Turda has no pink salt. You see white salt, and you see black salt in this mine. You see gorgeous swirls of black and white combinations. But no pink salt.

Yet, that’s what they sell as souvenir just outside its doors. When I noticed, I looked around. I didn’t see anything made of white or black salt. Nothing made of the characteristic swirls of black and white salt you see inside the mine.

No, they sell the same things I see in the shops in and around Phoenix, brought from who-knows-where. Made in China, most likely. So there you have it. Globalization in the trinket market.

Sorry, I had to rant. But I’ll leave you with a better note.

A Bit of History of the Turda Salt Mine

The Turda salt mine dates from around 1075. At least that is the year a salt mine in the area was first mentioned. A document of the Hungarian Chancellery talks about a salt mine around the “fortress of Turda”.

Since the beginning, the salt mine of Turda was the most important one in all of Transylvania. Then in the 1840s, another one, not too far from it, started producing more salt and became a competitor.

Still, the three old wells from the mine worked until 1862. That year, one of them closed, after reaching the depth of 354 feet (108 meters). Later on, the other ones lost production and by the end of after WWI, in 1932, the whole mine closed.

However, locals still used the mines, for different purposes. people During WWII, they hid in it during air raids. Between 1950 and 1992, the town of Turda used the Franz Joseph Gallery as cheese storage.

They opened the mine up to visitors in 1992. But it was only in 2008 that they modernized it, rebuilt parts of it and turned it into the attraction we see today.

The Best Part of the Turda Salt Mine: Health Benefits and Other Uses

The mine has another area, closed to the public, used as a health spa. We looked through the glass doors that closed it off from the rest of the mine. It was locked, though hey open it on occasion.

From what I read I understand that it is available for individuals with different respiratory ailments since the microclimate in salt mines is beneficial to the airways. It improves respiratory conditions, illnesses, and allergies. Patients need doctor’s orders to get in for treatment. I guess no one needed it at the time.

But looking in, I remembered why my parents took us to the mine long ago, when it was still closed. I was always sick as a child, with constant respiratory problems. So one of the doctors told my mom to bring me to the salt mine of Turda. Yes, it was doctor’s order, but in those days I guess no one was there to open it. Besides, they were only talking about walking through the salt air, at the time they had no modern spa there.

Now, those who suffer from respiratory illnesses can spend some time in the salt mine. And this area is far enough from the entertainment and the noise of the Rudolph and Terezia queries to be quiet.

FAQ – useful things to know

  1. What is the Turda Salt Mine Known For?

    The Turda Salt Mine in Transylvania, Romania, is famous worldwide for its unusual underground amusement park.
    However, the old salt mine, dating from around 1075, and operating until 1932, is also a museum, highlighting its history and geology. And, since its microclimate is great for treating respiratory illnesses, it also features a health spa.

  2. Where is the Turda Salt Mine?

    The Turda Salt Mine is in the outskirts of the town of Turda, in Cluj county, Transylvania, Romania. The nearest city with an international airport is Cluj-Napoca.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it. Thank you

Visiting the Turda Salt Mine in Transylvania, Romania is a different kind of experience.
The old salt mine in Turda, Transylvania (Romania), dating from the second century AD is now a museum and amusement park.
The Turda Salt Mine in Transylvania (Romania) is a popular tourist destination.
Scroll to Top