Below the town of Loulé, 230 metres below in fact, there is a working rock salt mine where visitors are now able to admire the 230 million-year-old geological formations.
It was in the 1950s, when some farmers grouped together to obtain a survey of the area’s underground aquifers with a view to digging wells to water their cattle, that the rock salt was discovered. Originally thought to be potassium chloride rather than sodium chloride, a number of further geological and geophysical studies were carried out and in the 1960s mining started.
Originally the salt mined below Loulé was used by the chemical industry however, in 2005 this changed to producing salt for animal feed and road safety use. In 2007 the foreign market started to buy salt for use on their roads and in 2019 it was decided to make the mine a multi-purpose one starting with the tourist market.
With 45kms of galleries over four levels, visitors are offered the opportunity to discover how the salt has been mined throughout its history up to this very day. With the temperature consistently at 23ºC and with very low humidity, the ambient is pleasant and can help those with respiratory problems – it is a common occurrence to find salt mines offering the opportunity for asthmatics to stay and improve their quality of life.
The guided walking tour of 1.3kms takes approximately two hours, offering an insight into the history of the mine and its future. The guides offer English, French and Portuguese explanations and are open to answering any questions throughout the tour. Visitors are kitted out with a helmet, flashlight and reflective vest prior to the three-minute descent via an elevator. Comfortable clothing that can be closed ie zipped/buttoned up is suggested, as are flat shoes. Visitors are reminded that this is a working mine and may occasionally be asked to move aside for passing machinery – safety measure are taken throughout the tour, most of which visitors are not aware of.
Tickets cost €25 each, for those under 12 (but above 6 years) €15 and for senior citizens €20. Please note that those with reduced mobility do not have access yet and no guide dogs are allowed.
The mine is open to visitors on weekdays with four descents; 9.30am, 11am, 2.30pm and 4pm. You will need to arrive at least 20 minutes prior to these times to pay, book in and receive apparel.
For directions click here, there is parking onsite.