Salina Turda is a Romanian salt mine located in the Cluj County in the heart of Transylvania that instantly reminded me of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince book. It’s huge enough to host a Ferris wheel, bowling space, mini-golf fields, and a few other attractions that I will tell you about later in this post. The biggest highlight, however, of this place is the Terezia mine; a huge, dimly-light chamber carved over a salt lake. If you googled this (but please don’t, I will show you photos!), you would see strangely shaped, wooden constructions in the middle of the lake and a small harbour of boats. I knew I HAD to visit this place in Romania.
Salina Turda salt mine – the biggest tourist attraction in Romania?
Salina Turda salt mine, despite being one of the most frequently visited attractions in Romania, is actually heavily in debt. The signs of the ups and downs of Salina Turda are not really visible once you enter the salt mine. It was renovated in 2008 and now, it really looks like a modern tourist attraction. However, the surroundings reveal a bit more.
The whole area around the salt mine is not really organised in any logical way. The car park is relatively small and can’t host all the visitors. Therefore, the road leading to the salt mine serves as an illegal, yet fully utilised and free car park. Once you enter the premises of the mine, there are temporary food and souvenirs stands lined up all the way to the entrance. I would not recommend buying anything there; the food doesn’t seem to be too fresh or healthy and the same souvenirs cost less money when bought in Cluj-Napoka.
As we entered the building, I tried my luck at haggling with the receptionist. The slightly embarrassing outcomes of this event are archived here. ;-)
Getting lost in a straight tunnel – welcome to Salina Turda and congratulations on your orientation skills!
Salina Turda is nothing like salt mines I have visited in Poland. I was expecting a long and shaky ride a few hundred meters down in a lift and instead we had to walk the stairs. They were pretty long, but still; entering a salt mine by stairs? As we walked deeper and deeper into the mine, the temperature was constantly dropping. It was around 30 degrees outside and 12 inside. Quite a difference, isn’t it?
The directions weren’t clear enough and instead of turning left into other chambers of the salt mine, we kept walking and walking down a long, salty corridor until we noticed we were actually getting closer to its other exit. This was not the only time when we pointlessly walked down this tunnel… Since this tunnel is almost 1 km long, it took us some 10 minutes to get back to the point where the stairs to the most interesting and impressive chambers were located.
Losif mine in Salina Turda – how I take a bloody revenge on one of my friends
Instead of taking the lift, most of us decided to walk. I was particularly happy about that because of two reasons. First, the views were really amazing. Once we walked down the first set of stairs, we saw the impressive, deep, dark Terezia chamber from above. To the left, there was the other huge chamber – Losif and in order to reach Terezia, we had to walk through Losif.
Kamil was making pranks on me for the previous days which put me into some funny and embarrassing situations. I really fall for pranks very easily and situation where someone shouts “AAAA” from behind me is enough to scare the shit out of me and make jump. To my misfortune, Kamil and occasionally Michal noticed that and were using this knowledge against me.
Visiting Salina Turda was a perfect opportunity to take my revenge. It’s close to impossible to scare Michal, so I decided to scare Kamil. But let me tell you the settings first.
The Losif chamber is immense. It’s around 112 meters deep and there are two ways of exploring it. The first way is to walk on balconies carved in salt at the top of this chamber. The balconies are made of wooden logs and if you are afraid of heights, you will be scared to walk there. The depth of this chamber is well visible through clefts between the logs. And the railings, despite being very safe, give a full view over the chamber. This was a perfect opportunity to scare Kamil.
At one point I slowed down a little bit and pretended to talk to someone who was walking behind Kamil. It might have been Aga or Michal, I can’t remember now. When there was already some distance between me and Kamil, I silently and quickly run to him, grabbed him by the arms from the back and shouted “YOU’RE FALLING DOWN”. It worked. Kamil jumped, shouted, and even admitted later on that I scared the shit out of him. #WIN.
Those narrow passages you can see on the photo below are were we walked.
Underground amusement park – how to commercialise a salt mine
Salina Turda salt mine in Romania is surely impressive. It is also much commercialised. The Losif chamber hosts mini golf fields, bowling park, playground for the kids, a real, full-size Ferris wheel, and an amphitheatre. Apart from paying for the entrance, each of those attractions is charged separately. On the one hand, I understand that renovating Salina Turda cost a lot of money and the debt has to be paid back, but I wasn’t particularly fond to see things that just didn’t fit into the ambient of this place. In my opinion, the Losif chamber would make an even bigger impression if it was stylised similarly to the Terezia mine; as a mysterious place rather than a massive entertainment park.
Looking for horcruxes in Terezia Chamber in Salina Turda salt mine
Terezia chamber in Salina Turda salt mine rocks! It’s the ultimate highlight of this salt mine and I enjoyed every minute while exploring this place. It’s basically a salt island located in the middle of a salt like in a very deep and dark chamber. To reach the island, you have to walk on a wooden bridge. From there, you can explore the four strangely shaped parts of the island. I can’t say what they resembled, because they looked so peculiar that I can’t compare them with anything else I have seen so far. Maybe a strange space ship is the closest association.
To the right of the bridge, there’s a small harbour where you can hire a three-person boat and float around the island. Even though I was a bit scared of the dark waters and dimly-light corners of the Terezia chamber, I knew I had to take a boat. Luckily, Kasia and Michal had the same opinion and the three of us went on a hunt for horcruxes.
In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, there’s a scene when Harry travels with Dumbledore to a cave hid in the mountains. In the cave, there was also a big chamber with a dark lake. And as far as I remember, in the middle of this lake, there was a little island with a small object filled with water. Neither Harry nor Dumbledore could empty this object and Dumbledore decided to drink it. And when he was nearly done, Harry touched water and zombies began to emerge. I had exactly the same vision as we were entering the boat in Salina Turda salt mine in Romania. Michal doesn’t know what fear is, so he put his hand into the water and shook the boat. I got a heart attack that moment. Kasia and I didn’t risk touching the water as we didn’t want zombies to catch us. Trust me, this water so extremely dark that it seemed to be THICK. Thick because of the zombie bodies…
Some curious incidents in Crivac and Echo rooms in Salina Turda
As much as exploring Salina Turda was very pleasant until that point, there was one very unpleasant situation with German elderly tourists. I have written about that already and you can find that story here. Anyway, once I was upstairs, we went to the Crivac room; a place with a machine used for lifting salt rocks since 1881. Such type of wooden machines are not available anywhere else in Europe in any of the salt mines. That machine used horses to pull up large salt rocks. As you can imagine, once horses were transported into the mine, they would never leave it. Working hours of those horses were also very long as no one cared about their condition. They basically worked until exhaustion.
The other chamber we visited was the Echo room which has a long corridor with impressive echo. This was the second time we encountered the not-so-polite Germans. Still feeling awkward and annoyed by what happened in the lift, I wanted to somehow manifest what I thought about them. As soon as they started shouting some German words into the echo corridor, I said in a not so silent voice that some people misbehaved and should no make so much noise. I felt even more stupid when I saw this was the echo room and, in theory, you actually could shout. Michal had another good idea and shouted “gentlemen” into the echo corridor and as the Germans were walking away, the word “gentleman” was chasing them.
This was not the end of our adventures in Salina Turda salt mine in Romania. I am still amazed at how many unexpected things can happen if you travel with friends. It’s like each person has a number of adventures to use in life and when those numbers combine, each hour something interesting happens.
How we walked 1 km in a salt tunnel only to find we’re lost
After exploring Salina Turda salt mine, we wanted to get to the car and go back to Cluj-Napoka. Michal, Aga and I were still planning on trekking near the Tarnita Lake. Instead of taking the usual way back, which would mean walking up the stairs, we walked down the tunnel we walked first. Kasia insisted on such way of leaving the salt mine because she didn’t want to walk up the stairs. :D
We kept walking really fast for about 15 minutes until we finally reached the exit. As soon as we left the tunnel, we basically stood still and wondered where the hell we ended up. This didn’t resemble the surroundings of the salt mine we knew. We actually ended up in Turda town, second largest town in the Cluj County. The only challenge was that we didn’t even know how to reach our car from there. Some of us asked for the directions and it might have been me. It turned out that there is no straight way to the other end of the salt mine and we would have to walk 5 km to reach the car park. Just imagine how enthusiastic we were to go all the way back once again. Kasia was also not too happy about the doubled walking distance.
How to plan for visiting Salina Turda salt mine in Romania?
To wrap it up, here’s some useful information in case you’d like to visit Salina Turda.
It takes around 40 minutes by car from Cluj-Napoka to Salina Turda. The fastest and most straight forward road to Salina Turda is E81.
Even though it might be hot outside, temperature inside the salt mine drops to 12 Celsius degrees so be sure to take a coat or a hoodie. Humidity is also high, but I didn’t find it particularly annoying.
If you have asthma, Salina Turda is a good choice to feel a bit better. It’s frequently used for halotheraphy (in other words: salt therapy).
The entrance fee for adults is 20 lei and 10 lei for kids and students. All attractions inside the salt mine have extra cost. For example, hiring a boat in Terezia chamber costs 10 lei per person and you have 20 minutes to boat around the chamber. Car park on the salt mine premises costs 5 lei, but it’s often very crowded. We couldn’t find any free spot in the car park and left the car on the road, just like hundreds of other cars and busses.
Food stands around the salt mine are not really inviting so I would suggest eating dinner back in Cluj-Napoka or any other city. Unless you like deep friend, not so fresh fast foods.
All in all, exploring Salina Turda in Romania was a lot of fun. It’s certainly a place to visit when in Romania. I am not sure if I would go there again, mostly because I wasn’t too fond of all the attractions piled inside the salt mine, but looking for horcruxes on the boats in Terezia chamber was totally worth all the trouble.