The Salt Valley of Añana

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Salado Valley, in the town of Añana, in northern Spain, is rich in salt but the terrain is unwieldy. Especially, there is a shortage of flat, open ground where brine could be allowed to evaporate and salt could settle. This has lead to the development of some impressive structures consisting of staggered evaporation terraces, built with stone, wood and clay, and a network of wooden channels that transport the salt water by gravity from the springs to the salt complex. This exceptional saline landscape with its unique salt-related architecture, built to adapt to the complex topography of the site, is one of the most spectacular and best preserved cultural landscapes in Europe.

Salado Valley’s salt history goes back by six thousand years, although back in those times, salt was extracted by a different process. Salt water was collected in large ceramic pots and placed over a fire until all the water had boiled away. The change in the evaporation system from forced to natural took place in the first century BC, when this area in the north of Spain was taken over by the Roman Empire. The first salt pans were built of compacted clay with raised edges. Later ones were built of wood. There are currently over 2,000 salt pans in Salado Valley.

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Photo credit: I fundacionvallesalado/Panoramio

The salt was originally deposited about 200 million years ago when an ancient ocean that once covered this valley dried up. Over time, the salt layer got buried under newer deposits. Usually, underground salt deposit such as this has to be mined, but the residents of Añana are fortunate enough to have several natural springs that bring the salt to the surface. The brine carries as much as 210 grams of salt per liter of water.

The salt production season varies annually depending on weather conditions. It usually begins in May and lasts until September. After September, the long nights delay the evaporation process and the constant rain spoils the small amount of salt obtained. During the rest of the year, the salt workers perform maintenance work on the salt farm, preparing them for the next season. The packaging work, however, continues all year round.

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Photo credit: I fundacionvallesalado/Panoramio

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Photo credit: I fundacionvallesalado/Panoramio

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Photo credit: I fundacionvallesalado/Panoramio

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Photo credit: I fundacionvallesalado/Panoramio

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Photo credit: www.vallesalado.com

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Photo credit: www.vallesalado.com

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Photo credit: Pedro L/Google+

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Photo credit: www.vallesalado.com

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Photo credit: www.vallesalado.com

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Photo credit: www.vallesalado.com

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Photo credit: www.vallesalado.com

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Photo credit: www.vallesalado.com

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Photo credit: www.vallesalado.com

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Photo credit: www.vallesalado.com

Sources: UNESCO / www.vallesalado.com

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