Minas de Rio Tinto, a trip to Mars

Helena Guerrero Gonzalez | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Have you ever thought about how the landscapes of our neighbor planet Mars look like? I certainly did plenty of times already! There is a place in Huelva, Andalusia, which got the attention of NASA due to the similarities with the red planet. This amazing place is called Minas de Riotinto, and from the Bronze Age to the current days, the mines have a long history to share and some peculiarities that make this place very unique. In this story, you will find out why.

Huelva has a mining history that began more than 5,000 years ago. The Rio Tinto has neither its name nor the color by chance since its lands have been exploited in the search for metals and minerals by many cultures. First, the Romans, with their advanced technology and then the modern British industry, it was undoubtedly the time of its greatest splendor. Still, today, thanks to the Rio Tinto Foundation, this mining enclave has become an exciting destination for curious tourists.

© iStock/Jacek_Sopotnicki

A red river, extra-terrestrial landscapes, and a 19th-century steam train that will make you think you are on Mars!

I honestly think the landscape is incredibly spectacular: gigantic craters, very little vegetation, and the cemeteries of ancient locomotives turn visiting this place into a mysterious experience. You better see it yourself because it is totally worth it, and located only one hour away from Seville or Huelva. So if you happen to be visiting one of those cities, consider going to Minas de Rio Tinto,** and you won’t be disappointed!

Following the course of the Rio Tinto, visitors can take a 19th-century train, which drives them in its steam locomotive and wooden wagons throughout the mining landscape for 12 km through tunnels, bridges, cemeteries of old locomotives and spectacular viewpoints on the Tinto riverbed.

© iStock/Jorgefontestad

A red river - have you seen anything like it before? Landscapes such as those are truly unique. Its reddish and sometimes orange color is due to the high amount of heavy metals such as copper and iron in it. Despite the acidity of the water and difficult conditions, it has been discovered that algae and fungi inhabit the river as well as a series of microorganisms capable of living without oxygen. This fact has drawn a lot of attention to NASA itself, which went to Riotinto to analyze this and to study certain parallels with the planet Mars.

© iStock/Strawmery

Visiting the mining park, you will not just see the mines but also the famous English neighborhood where the British managers of the mining operation used to live. These are beautiful 19th-century old houses which you can visit to get a better understanding of what a Victorian house was like. There is also a popular mining museum that you can visit to get to know first-hand curiosities and the history of the mines from its opening in 1873 to the present day, as well as samples of the many secrets that are in the mines.

Interesting right? Check out this link to find out about prices and timetables for your visit:

Through a historical museum, the entrance to an old abandoned mine, a ride on a railroad from the British era, and a Victorian museum house, visitors can learn about the past and present of the Riotinto Mining Park, which was one of the most important copper mines in the world. Visit this unique and incredible place, which definitively will make you think of a visit to Mars without leaving Earth!

© iStock/Strawmery

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