100 Wonders: The Underground Carnival

Deep underneath Transylvania in a huge subterranean cavern, kids ride a glowing Ferris wheel in the dark. Nearby, some people are playing mini-golf, while others row boats on an underground lake. Salina Turda, where all this takes place, is not your standard disused salt mine.

Mining has been taking place at Salina Turda since at least the 11th century, and maybe as far back as the Roman Empire. Running as a continually working mine from the 17th century, Salina Turda peaked in production during the First World War when Romania’s armed forces demanded large amounts of salt. However, with a larger mine operating nearby and decreasing quality of salt as clay deposits were exposed, the mine closed in 1932. Salina Turda was in limbo for the next 60 years. It was used as a bomb shelter and for storing cheeses—in fact, part of the mine is still used to store cheese.

In 1992, Salina Turda was transformed into the tourist attraction that exists today. Visitors enter the Salina Turda park through centuries-old vertical shafts once used to transport miners. Lowered 120 meters (394 feet) through the beautiful marbled salt walls, they descend into something that looks like a futuristic colony built after humanity had to retreat underground to rebuild civilization.

Inside they will find an 180-seat amphitheater, a carousel, ping-pong tables, basketball hoops, mini-golf, and bowling. Old machinery still stands within the underground expanse and some of it is used to lead people on tours. For many, the real show-stopper is the Terezia Mine, a vast, cone-shaped chamber with an underground lake created by salt waste deposited over the years. Boats are available for rent to explore the lake and a Ferris wheel allows visitors to get a closer look at the cave's many stalactites.

Not feeling the carnival rides? The mine is used as a health spa where the cool temperature, high humidity, and clean air are said to help with respiratory ailments.

If that’s not enough, Salina Turda also has free wi-fi.