Best Places to Visit - Mining & Geology

Posted by Jessica Scanlan on

Hey all! It's Jess again with another travel article based on mining history and geology! Now that 2021 is in full swing and things are starting to get back to normal again, it's time to think about traveling! Most people I talk to are headed for the places that are well known- Cancun, Bali, Hawaii, Greece, etc! As usual, I like thinking off the beaten path a little (although those places do sound great don't they!). So I found a lot of places with amazing mining history and geology that you should check out when it's time to travel again. These are in no order except kind of by location (USA at top, Europe, etc).

* Keep in mind- during the writing of this article many places still have travel restrictions in place, so please double check restrictions, quarantines, etc before making your reservations! If you are interested in visiting the United States top mining places, check out my article on my Mining Roadtrip!

North America

  1. Butte, America - What better place to start than my favorite place in the world, Butte! If you're looking for amazing mining history then Butte should be close to the top of your bucket list. Not only is the history amazing, but the town itself still lives and breathes it! Walking down the street you can feel the history coming out of every building, and every proud Butte Rat will tell you about the great pieces of it's past. You can take a Trolley tour through town, stand over a huge acidic lake (the remains of the Berkeley Pit), and even be a miner and take an underground tour at the World Museum of Mining (pictured below). Stay at the Copper King Mansion to live like royalty, and pick up some "In Copper We Trust" from the local shop to complete the experience! I love that there is so much history packed into one place and you definitely won't be bored!
Photo by CB Photography

2. Gold Rush California- Another iconic Mining History location for the USA! The whole area basically from Jackson to Nevada City, California is full to the brim with mining history! Try your hand at panning for gold at Sutters Mill, walk around in awe at Empire Mine SHP, visit the Placer County Museum, and even take in a few caves along the way if you have time! They also do tours at the Kennedy Gold Mine so I would be sure to try to catch one of those! This is a gorgeous area with tons of great stuff to do!

No alt text provided for this image

3. Colorado - Colorado has a rich mining history! It was part of my original planned route for the Mining Road Trip before it got too long (See the free plan here!). But hopefully someday I'll make it to the area! Colorado has tons of amazing outdoor things to do, especially for the mining/geology enthusiasts! Visit ghost towns such as Saint Elmo, have a beer at the Coors Brewing Company, and of course visit the amazing Mollie Kathleen! This is one of my bucket list mine tours for sure, and highly recommended by my connections and colleagues!

No alt text provided for this image

4. Soudan Underground Mine Tours - Another popular recommendation! This was Minnesota's first iron ore mine, opened in 1882! They have a few different tours available, including a geology tour and science tour! They also have a self guided surface audio tour!

5. Dynamic Earth / The Big Nickel - This was highly recommended from my connections, and it looks like an amazing place! This is a family friendly museum as well as an underground tour. Check out the largest coin in the world, and adventure 7 stories underground! The museum features an educational theater, a mineral wall, and mining simulators! If the weather is cooperating check out their outdoor science park as well!


6. National Coal Mining Museum of England - Learn about coal mining history in England! This museum features many different interactive exhibits, an art display, and a playground! A great family friendly stop!

7. Poldark Mine - One of the most well known historic mines in the UK! Explore a historic tin mine, and adventure around the area for some amazing history and geology! This mine is also used by the Camborne School of Mines for helping students learn different parts of their mining / geology degrees.

8. Dolaucothi - The only known Roman gold mine in the UK! Between 70 and 80 AD is when the Romans first began extensively mining here. This mine tour is small groups (10 people), venturing into the historic mine and learning about the history of the area. This includes tool demonstration, history, and at the end you can try your hand at gold panning!

No alt text provided for this image

9. The Quiraing - This is an amazing walk in the north of Skye, Scotland. It is part of the Trotternish Ridge geologic phenomenon, formed when the weight of volcanic lava flow on the region's sedimentary rocks caused massive landslips. This resulted in towering basalt pinnacles and many other rock uplifts.

10. Mining History Centre - This is France's largest mining museum. Venture around the mine outbuildings of the old Delloye colliery at Lewarde. They also have 7 major exhibitions, including "Life in a mining village" which details the daily life of a miner. If you speak French, you can also do the "Meet a Miner" experience!

11. The Azores - Portugal. Despite the yachts and 5 star restaurants, this is still a geologists dream place! Hike around volcanic crater lakes, soak in bubbling hot springs, and learn about the amazing geologic history of this area! The nine volcanic islands that make up the Azores are on the junction of three major tectonic plates. They have a history of violent eruptions, earthquakes, and tremors which have molded this place into exceptional beauty!

12. Salina Turda - This is worth going off the beaten path for! This historic salt mine stopped extracting in 1932. After it was done, it was briefly used as a bomb shelter and cheese storage! In 1992, the mine was opened to the public and turned into a museum / amusement park! It features bowling lanes, mini golf, a Ferris wheel, spa, and even an underground lake with boating facilities! This is a bucket list mine adventure for sure!

No alt text provided for this image

13. Wieliczka Salt Mine - Another unique salt mine for the list! This mine was entered in 1978 on the first UNESCO Heritage List. It was built in the 13th century, and was in operation for 700 years! Over the centuries, the miners working here established a tradition of carving sculptures out of the rock. It features several underground chapels, a salt lake, museum, and even several special purpose chambers for people with respiratory ailments.

No alt text provided for this image

14. Salt Mine Berchtesgaden - Last salt mine on this list I promise! This is another historic salt mine adventure for the whole family. Head underground for a tour, take a ride on the miners slide, and view a salt lake! On surface you can eat at the on site restaurant, check out the salt shop, and view nearby attractions! You can even get combination tickets for the mine tour and nearby attractions.

15. Iceland - Iceland is home to so many geological wonders and is at the very top of my personal bucket list! Take a tip in some thermal hot springs (including the famous Blue Lagoon), dive between two tectonic plates at Pingvellir National Park, and visit the UNESCO Katla Geopark!

The Rest of the World

16. Marble Caves - Chile. These marble caves are certainly a wonder! Formed over thousands of years by waves crashing against the rocks, along the shore of Chile's Lago General Carrera. Freezing glacier-fed waters make this lake a beautiful turquoise color. You can rent a kayak to visit these caves or join a guided tour.

No alt text provided for this image

17. Big Hole & Kimberly Mine Museum - South Africa. Once a flat topped hill, this is now aptly named the Big Hole! This is the largest hand-dug excavation in the world. The Kimberly Mine site was in operation from 1871 to 1914. Check out the underground experience, learn about the history of diamonds at Kimberly, visit historic buildings, see real diamonds, and learn about the historic mining equipment!

18. Gwangmyeong Cave - South Korea. This is a former mining / cave complex turned into an entertainment venue! It has a "wormhole", a "light art gallery", an aquarium, and even a winery! You can also participate in a mine cultural experience such as making a mining hat, minerals exploration for jewelry, or digging for gold!

No alt text provided for this image

19. Zhangye Danxia Geopark - China. This amazing landscape was formed over millions of years of wind and rain eroding colorful sedimentary rock. Reds, whites, oranges, yellows, and browns can be seen all around this park. This is a fragile landscape so there are some rules for visiting, such as guided tours only.

20. Hang Son Doong Cave - Vietnam. This is the worlds largest cave! The largest chamber has enough room for a fleet of Boeing 747s. Stalagmites, cave pools, and roof collapses are all features of this amazing cave. It can be difficult to get here, which makes it way off the beaten path and ready for you to explore! More Info HERE!

21. Hannans North Tourist Mine / Super Pit - Australia. This was one of my favorite mining museums I've visited! There are tons of experiences for all ages. Learn about the history of mining in Kalgoorlie, see mining equipment from historic to present, and book a tour of the amazing Super Pit! If you fly into Perth, make sure to check out the Perth Mint as well for gold mining information in Australia!

No alt text provided for this image

Other Mentions:

  • Lackawanna Coal Mine - coal mine tour in Pennsylvania
  • Rock of Ages Quarry - Vermont, the largest operating deep-hole dimension granite quarry in the world! They also have a self-guided factory tour and granite bowling alley
  • Independence Mine State Historic Park - Alaska, self guided tours through one of Alaska's largest gold mining camps
  • Crater of Diamonds State Park - Arkansas, search for your own real diamonds!
  • Sterling Hill Mining Museum - New Jersey, another great underground mine tour!
  • Utah - Utah is such a great place for mining and geology enthusiasts! It is home to the Utah Big 5 (read my geology guide HERE), and some of the most amazing landscapes in the US! See my free Mining/Geology Road Trip Guide here!
  • Sanford Lab / Homestake Mine - another popular spot from my connections! South Dakota is full of amazing history and a great spot for families! The Homestake Visitor Center is a great spot to visit, and you can even hit a "Hole in One" there for you golf enthusiasts! Also make sure to visit Mount Rushmore and Deadwood of course! See my South Dakota Road Trip guide Here!
  • Quincy Mine - Michigan, this site has a guided tour of a historic copper mine that closed in 1945! You can also view the shaft house and the steam hoist!
  • Potosi Mine Tour - Cerro Rico, Bolivia, an active, historic, silver mine! Please read the ethics of this tour at the link listed before booking, as it is a social tour not for entertainment
  • Land of Iron- UK, step back in time with this iron mine tour in the UK! Learn about the history of mining in the area, get plunged into total darkness, and even "set off a blast"!
  • Salz Welten - Austria, this is the oldest salt mine in the world! This interactive mine features a miners slide, Europe's oldest staircase, and lifelike animation during the tour!
  • World Heritage Rammelsberg Ore Mines - Germany, experience a variety of tours here! Take a mine train tour, see the ore dressing plant, an inclined elevator tour, or take a guided trail tour!
  • The Silver Mines in Kongsberg - Head 1.4 miles into a large historic silver mine in Norway! There is also a mining museum, and during the summer they have a variety of activities!
  • Arigna Mining Experience - A hidden gem in Ireland! Don your hard hat and head underground with an experienced ex-miner. Learn about their experiences working underground and the history of mining in Ireland!
  • Carrara Marble Tour - Italy. Carrara marble is well known throughout the world, especially because of Michelangelo's David! Jump in a Jeep tour and learn about the marble quarry. While waiting for a tour you can visit a nearby museum, marble craft shops, and even eat in the restaurant!
  • Gunung Mulu National Park - Malaysia. This amazing National Park features towering limestone pinnacles, rainforest rivers and waterfalls, and deep dark caves. Clearwater Cave is thought to be the 8th longest cave in the world at 138 miles!

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →