Turda Salt Mine , the Gate to the Heart of Transylvania, is one of the best well known travel destinations in Romania. Back in the day, it was one of the most important working salt mines in Transylvania, but it started to decline in 1840 because of the competition coming from Ocna Mures (also in Transylvania).
Up to 1862, salt was extracted from the Joseph, Theresa and Anthony wells. The Anthony salt exploitation reached 108m deep but extraction was stopped due to infiltration of clay.
The biggest hurdle was transporting the salt to the store houses in Turda Noua, which led to the creation of the conveyance gallery which was to start from Turda Noua. This was the Franz Joseph gallery, initially 780m and then extended with 137 m more. Nowadays, it’s the gallery which links the salt museum expositions , as well as connecting the Durgau to the Turda Noua entrance.
Two new mines were opened, Rudolph and Ghizela, but even so the production was low as very old techniques were used: pick-axes ,hammers ,chisels and steel wedges, all operated manually.
The mine was officially closed in 1932. Prisoners were never used as workforce in Turda Salt Mine or anywhere in Transylvania. All workers were employed on yearly contracts.
The mine was forgotten until the Second World War when it was used as an antiaircraft shelter. In 1992 the salt mine was opened for the public, initially Rudolf mine being used for treating respiratory problems. After the World War and until the opening for the public, the salt mine was used as a cheese storage.
Turda Salt Mine : what is open for the public
Upon entering the hallway and paying for your ticket (20 lei / 5 USD for an adult), you will reach an area were information is posted about the mine. Of particular interest is an application which you can download and then use offline. It’s call Izi Travel (link is for Android) and contains audio guides. You need to download the one for Turda Salt Mine (do that before you go in the underground, of course). The guide is in English and I found it to be very useful. The app is also available for Ios.
While Turda Salt Mine does have wi-fi available for free, I wasn’t able to get it working while I was there.
Tip: The temperature in the mine is a constant 12-14 C (53-57F) so it is quite cold. Many visitors brought jackets and put them on before entering the mine. Us, however, went in wearing t-shirts! (it was summer when we visited so the coolness was very much welcomed)
You may want to start your exploration by going along Franz Joseph Gallery and entering the marked areas which are the salt mine museum expositions. The Echos Room is the most well know but unfortunately only the balcony was open when we visited. Because of the shape and lack of communication with other rooms, the Joseph mine is also known as the Echos Room.
Another interesting room is the Crivac (winch ) Room, where horse power was used . It served as vertical transport of salt from Rudolf Mine.
Close by you can find the shaft room, which hosts the shaft used for transporting salt from Rudolf Mine .
The Appeal Room includes the Sanctuary – a place of warship of the salt cutters – and the Staircase of the Rich People.
Rudolf Mine is an impressive 42 m deep, 50 m wide and 80 m long , which now houses the amenities. 172 steps (13 floors) lead to the heart of this mine. Pay attention to the years carved on the wall : they represent the year when salt was exploited from that depth.
Within Rudolf mine, you can currently find : the amphitheater, the ferries wheel, a children’ play area, table tennis, mini golf, billiards and the souvenir shop.
Terezia Mine is 120 m deep and where the lake is located. And yes, you can rent a boat to go on the lake (0.5m to 8m deep)
The Spa Treatment area and where no public is allowed
Gizela mine has two parts; one is the Stationary Room , which is similar to Rudolf Mine, is now used as a spa treatment base. You can only access it if you have doctor’s notes. The other one is The Underground Gallery is a geological reservation , where the tourists do not have access.
Anton (Anthony) Mine, 108m deep, is located right by the tunnel which leads from the entrance, and is closed for the public. It has no connections to the other rooms of the mine.
How to get to and what to do here
You can choose between the Turda Noua and Durgau entrances. Given by the number of cars and tourists at Durgau, I am willing to bet this is the preferred entrance. The mine is located within Turda in Cluj County. You can visit it easily as a day trip from Cluj Napoca.
You can visit the mine every day from 9 am to 7 pm , last entrance being at 6 pm.
An adult day ticket is 20 lei / 5 USD. A child or student ticket is 10 lei / 2.5 USD. Children under 3 can enter the mine for free.
There are car parking facilities (5 lei / 1.25 USD per day) but you will find the car park packed. So , just park along the road, like everyone else.
A ride in the The Big Wheel (Ferries Wheel) costs 5 lei / 1.25 USD. The total time spent in the wheel is about 14 min, with the ride per se taking 8 min.
Minigolf, bowling , boating on the lake, billiards and table tennis are also available for small fees .
Guides on request are available (Romanian and foreign languages – English, French, German and Hungarian) for 35 lei / 8.73 USD, 50 lei / 12.48 USD respectively.
We have spent about 2 hours in the mine. We took the stairs both on the way down and up. Out of the activities offered, we visited the museum – which took up the bulk of our time – and took a ride in the wheel. Then we wanted to get something from the souvenir shop and lost precious minutes chasing the sales ladies. Gave up and got magnets from the parking lot as there were many places which also sold souvenirs.
We didn’t go to the lake. The lines to the elevator were really long and we eventually did find the stairs but it was time to go back to Cluj Napoca.
It is forbidden to eat in the mine , so either eat before you enter or once you come out. The parking lot at Durgau entrance also houses some tavernas and restaurants.
While in Turda…
…you may want to check out the Roman site of Potaissa , as well as the Zoo.