The Parajd (Praid) salt mine, together with the Sóhát (salt hill), is one of the most visited areas of Transylvania. The whole existence of the small village of Parajd (with a population of 6502, according to the 2011 census), is closely related to the salt mining and logging. The history of salt mining in the area dates back to Roman times. Moreover, the region even had its own appointed “chancellor” who supervised the mining activities. The amount of salt available in Parajd mine would be enough for the whole Europe for several hundred years. Nowadays, the mine awaits its visitors with lots of attractions and entertaining activities.
How to get to Parajd? Driving there is most certainly the fastest and easiest, but public transportation is the cheapest way to travel to the salt-region. With the car, coming from Csíkszereda (Miercurea Ciuc) one must follow the 13A main road towards Székelyudvarhely (Odorheiu Secuiesc). The drive 1 hour 45 minutes and 88 km long, continues on the same 13A main road towards Parajd. Coming from the direction of Gyergyószentmiklós (Gheorgheni), one must take the 13B main road and they will arrive to the destination in approximately one hour, after a 50 km drive.
Parajd is a typical mountain village, lying at the border of Maros (Mureș) and Hargita (Harghita) county, “hugged” by the Sóháta (the Salt Mountain) and Malomhegy Mountain. „The gate of Harghita county” is located South of the Görgényi (Gurghiu) Mountains, where the valley narrows and the mountains “come” a little closer, between the fast waters of the Kis-Küküllő (Târnava Mică), Korond (Corund) and Parajd (Praid) rivers, at a height of 490-506 m.
The formation of salt in this area can be traced back to the end of the Cretaceous era, at the beginning of the Paleogene period, some 20 million years ago, when a part of the Paratethys ocean got isolated, becoming a large lake. Due to the climate change the salt was deposited at the bottom of the water. This is the layer of salt onto which, over the millennia, sediments were gradually deposited, the salt on the margins broke through the top layer, but its “roots” are more than 3 km deep, which means millions of tons of salt in the deep.
The climate of the Parajd (Praid) Basin is moderate continental, somewhat colder than the average temperature of the Transylvanian basin. The average annual temperature is 8.2°C, the average summer temperature being 20°C, while in the winter period -9°C is the average. Parajd has 40-55 sunny days and 150-160 rainy days per year and the warmest month is July.
The new salt mine has been open since 1976-981, and can be visited the whole year. Many visitors with respiratory problems or asthma come, to the mine as, at the depth of 120 m, thanks to the salt, the air is clear and fresh. There is the possibility to have even a longer (few days) treatment here. In the mine the visitors can visit the chapel with a salt altar, where a priest and pastors, representing all the religious communities, alternately keep masses. The children can play and enjoy themselves at the underground playground.
Located in the south-western part of the Salt Hill, between Alsósófalva (Ocna de Jos) and Parajd, the Salt Canyon is basically the valley of the Korond (Corund) stream and can be seen even from the main road. In the Salt Canyon (the salt comes out from under the layers of clay) visitors are “welcomed” by sharp, lance-like spikes and edges, different and interesting karstic forms and salt flowers (which are constantly changing because of the eroding effect of water; e.g. the karstic forms and salt flowers are not particularly durable, as the first significant amount of precipitation can alter or even destroy them, though new ones are formed in their place). Beside all these and the dolines and saltwater springs, the visitors can indulge themselves with a traditional salty mud bath. The canyon has special 1 km long paths with signs which contain valuable information about the surroundings. Tourists can visit the old and torn József mine, where, back in the days the miners were working with rudimentary tools and used horses instead of machines.
Only salt-resistant plants can survive in the salty soil here, for example those in the Salicornioideae family: the Limonium gmelini, the Salicornia herbacea, the Alsine marginata Koch, the Spergularia salina, and the seashore aster (Aster tripolium).
We strongly recommend visiting the salt canyon, as the tourists do not focus on this sight that much. In summertime don’t forget the bathing suit – there is a modern swimming pool in Prajd with healing salt water, but, as mentioned before, the mud baths are also a well-known practice in this area.