In the far northeast of Andalucia, within 1 kilometre of the border with Murcia, is a small town with hidden attractions that would have remained virtually unknown if not for a remarkable discovery in 1999. The largest geode in Europe was discovered in an iron and lead mine near the town of Pulpi. Mina Rica was opened to the public in August 2019.
A geode is a cavity in rock that contains crystals. You will have seen small examples for sale in tourist shops, hollow rocks, split open to reveal amethyst or quartz crystals within. Unlike those examples that will fit into a display cabinet, the geode at Pulpi is 8 metres long and nearly 2 metres in diameter. The gypsum crystals within are up to 2 metres long yet still leave room in the cavity for up to 10 people. The only geode in the world that is larger is in Mexico but that one is not accessible to the public, whilst the Pulpi geode is. Only the original discoverers, a few scientists and a group of promotional photographers have had the privilege of entering the geode. Gypsum is a mineral called calcium sulphate dihydrate and it is very soft, number 2 on the Mohs scale (talc is the softest at number 1, diamond is the hardest at 10). The crystals are easily damaged so are now viewed through an aperture in the rock. Scientists have calculated that the geode formed over a period of 2 million years ending about 60,000 years ago.
Guided tours last approximately 90 minutes and start at an information office at Mina Rica. You are advised to arrive 30 minutes before your tour is scheduled to start. There is lots of free parking.
Tour guides speak Spanish so, when you hand in your prepaid ticket, mention that you would like an English tablet. The first four episodes on the tablet inform you of the history of the mine. You should listen to these as you are walking to the mine entrance.
During the visit within the mine you have to negotiate a metal spiral staircase with about 80 steps to reach the level at which the geode formed. The guide is good enough to tell the group that the descent is not for those who suffer from vertigo, claustrophobia, or any heart or lung complaint, but only after you have spent an hour reaching that point. Notes:The big spiral staircase with 168 steps is only an emergency exit. You will not be going up or down that oneThere is talk of them putting a lift in but at the moment (January 2020) it is just talk.
Included in the entrance fee to see the geode is the entrance fee to the Castillo de los Terreros which is six kilometres from the mine in the seaside resort of San Juan de los Terreros. Within the castle is a room in which you can experience a virtual tour of Mina Rica. The virtual tour costs 1 Euro per person. It is well worth the trip and the fee. It can only be described as an incredible sensation. The virtual tour closes inside the geode.
The mine was opened to the public in August 2019. It is proving hugely popular with tours booked weeks in advance.
You must book your tickets on line here.
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Submitted by James Clarke on 20 Feb 2020
Thanks so much Nick for this marvellous initiative - it will increase the enjoyment of residents and visitors alike by a great margin and hopefully you will produce similar articles for Vera and the many other historical locales in northern Almeria.
Submitted by Lesley Harris on 31 Jan 2020
Can you take your time when coming up the 168 steps please? I dont have vertigo, heart, claustrophobia or lug condition but would be slow coming up and have to take some rests-
Submitted by Keith on 31 Jan 2020
Thanks for this Sam. Sounds like it will be worth a coach trip for us at the Torrox Spanish History group. Regards Keith
Submitted by Sam on 28 Oct 2019
Please can you tell me the opening times for the Geode virtual reality at castle at SAN Juan de lots Terreros for nov/ Dec. Thanks
Nick has lived and worked in Andalucia for over 20 years. He and his partner, Julie Evans, have travelled extensively and dug deep into the history and culture, producing authoritative articles on all aspects of the region. Nick has written four books about Andalucia and writes articles for other websites and blogs.
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