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Visit one of the oldest salt mines in the world at Hallein near Salzburg: its salt provided a livelihood for local people, brought riches to the archbishops and built the magnificent city of Salzburg we admire today.

Hunter-gatherers first discovered salty mountain springs, and underground salt mining in this region dates back to the Celts. Salt enabled people to preserve food and give it flavor. Centuries later the archbishops, rulers of Salzburg, took over the lucrative salt trade and with the profits developed it into an opulent, baroque residence.

Since 1994 the historic salt mines in Hallein have been open only as a show mine. Austria’s salt supply still comes from these mountains, but from Altaussee, where the source from an ancient sea has lasted for more than 250 million years.

Your journey into the history of Hallein’s salt mines begins with a comfortable train ride into the mountain, where experienced miners guide you and explain the mining process.  You will also enjoy a raft ride across an underground lake and an exciting descent on two mining slides.

The tunnel system is maintained to prevent the mountain from sinking. Of the original 40 miles of mining tunnels, which pass through 21 horizons, as the underground levels are called, about 7 miles and nine horizons can still be accessed.

The pride of the miners of Dürrnberg and their close links to life underground are much in evidence when they perform their Sword Dance.  Hallein’s miners perform this dance, which dates back to 1586, in uniform with boots and carrying a sword, which was a privilege bestowed on them by law in 1405. The dance, which is performed by more than 80 miners, lasts about an hour and symbolizes various working practices underground. It is performed at night by the light of torches and to the music of the miners’ brass band.

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