All the loud beats and techno lights in Moscow on a Saturday night don’t hold a flame to the mind-bending natural formations found 650 feet below the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, about 1,000 miles to the east.
The surreal swirls are caused by layers of the mineral carnallite, which can be yellow and white or even red and blue. They paint rivers of color across the walls of this abandoned salt mine, dating back millions of years to when a salty sea dried up, leaving behind the mineral deposits.
The long, winding tunnels of the salt mine, whose labyrinthine passageways stretch for miles, are now mostly abandoned and only accessible with a government permit. The first photos of the Yekaterinburg mine came to light thanks to the young Russian explorer-photographer Mikhail Mishainik, who even spent whole nights down in the dance clubby dungeons. Without a flashlight, the tunnels - some of which stretch for four miles - are pitch black, and the air is filled with tiny particles of salt, giving one’s throat a permanent sense of being parched.
While it’s not open to the public, perhaps you can finagle a special permit, grab a few flashlights, go down a few hundred feet, and check it out for yourself. One imagines that bringing your own psychedelics is not necessary, nor encouraged.
Know Before You Go
You'll need to get a special government permit if you want to visit for yourself.