visit-mine-tellure

Alsace is home toancient silver mines. These are located in the valley of Sainte-Marie aux Mines, nicknamed the “Val d’Argent”. Silver is no longer found in these mines, which were first exploited in the 16th century, but it is possible to discover the old galleries dug in the mines by visiting the Tellurium Park or by taking part in a guided tour organized by ASEPAM. Good to know, Alsace is also home to former potash mines: see this article dedicated to a visit to the Carreau Rodolphe to find out more.

Which mine visit should I choose?

Here’s a question I was asked. In fact, it all depends on what you’re looking for! Here are my recommendations:

  • Want to discover an authentic mine and its history? Take a tour of ASEPAM (much nicer than the standard Tellure tour).
  • Would you like to discover a mine, but in a more fun and adventurous way? Go caving or via ferrata at Parc Tellure

Parc Tellure, Alsace’s mining park

park-tellure-alsace

The Tellure Park is located in Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, in the Val d’Argent. This Alsatian valley contains old silver mines which were exploited between the 16th and the beginning of the 20th century. The Tellure Park gives access to the old mine of Saint-Jean Engelsbourg, the largest underground cavity of the Vosges Massif dug by the hand of man, and to discover this part of history in a playful way. In addition to the classic visit, the park offers speleological visits, an underground via ferrata, an escape game as well as many other activities. There is really something to do!

Classic or caving visit of the old silver mine of Saint-Jean Engelsbourg

The Tellure Park includes first of all a museographic space (the Cité de la Mine), which is rather well done. You learn a lot about the organization of a mine and the life of the miners in a very playful way. It takes about 1 hour to visit this space.

It is then possible to visit the old silver mine. Let me say right away that there is no silver left in the mine at all, it was of course entirely removed during its exploitation. 😉 This does not prevent the visit from being spectacular: imagine yourself walking in the bowels of the earth, in a huge cave with galleries dug by the hand of man.

For the visit of the mine, several options are available: a standard visit, which does not present any particular difficulty, and a caving visit, more sportive and allowing to initiate oneself to caving in the mine. If you hesitate, I really advise you to take the second option, which allows you to discover the mine in a more active way and with more thrills.

In all cases, theequipment is provided: helmet, headlamp and raincoat for the classic visit, wetsuit, boots, helmet and harness for the caving visits. You just need to bring warm and soft clothes and closed shoes since it is only 10 degrees underground!

Different mining caving courses are proposed, which are thus adapted to all types of public: children, beginners, confirmed… You will be able to spend between 1h30 and 6h in the mine!

For my part, I tested the visit “Great column”, lasting 2 hours and allowing to experiment several different activities while being accessible to beginners. I really enjoyed this course! In the company of a licensed guide, I was able to discover the mine, go through narrow places, climb to the top of a long ladder, do a zip line between two walls, abseil down 20m… It was really fun and exciting!

Underground Via Ferrata in the Vosges Mountains

The Tellure Park also offers an underground via ferrata. which we describe in detail below.

Underground Escape Game

In addition to all these visits, Tellure offers young and old to participate in an underground escape game. Another unusual idea! Escape games are becoming more and more popular, but few of them can boast of having as a setting a place as atypical as an old mine! Two different escape games are offered: Expedition 52, which lasts 1 hour and can be done from 10 years old and the mini-troll expedition, which lasts 45 minutes and was designed for children between 5 and 12 years old.

I liked

  • Learn more about the organization of a mine, the minerals and the life of a miner
  • Initiate yourself to caving or via ferrata in an unusual place
  • Wide choice of different activities

I liked less

  • Nothing!

Photos of Tellure Park by Vincent

 

Practical information

Rates and schedules

Here you can find the rates and schedules of the Tellure Mine Park. The standard visit is free for Pass Alsace holders. Don’t forget to book if you want to do a caving tour, a via ferrata or an escape game!

You can book your tickets for Tellure directly here.

Access

By car

The address is as follows: Lieu-dit Tellure 68160 Sainte Marie aux Mines. Tellure Park is located in:

  • 37 km from Colmar (about 45 minutes)
  • 77 km from Mulhouse (about 1h15)
  • 78 km from Strasbourg (about 1h15)
By public transport

This is not possible 🙁

Hungry?

If you’re hungry, Tellure Park has a food court. I have not tested it.

Guided tour of a mine with ASEPAM

helmets-visit-mine-asepam

Here’s another type of mine tour organized byASEPAM (Association Spéléologique pour l’Etude et la Protection des Anciennes Mines), which offers visits to 3 different mines: the Saint-Louis Eisenthür mine, Gabe Gottes and Saint-Barthélémy (only in summer for the latter). The visit times vary from 30 minutes to 3 hours depending on the location.

Hiking tour of a silver mine

I chose to discover the Saint-Louis mine during a 3-hour “walking tour”. What is a walking tour? Simply a visit of the mine including a short approach walk. Very nice to have the impression to follow the steps of the miners of the 16th century! The St. Louis mine was operated at that time, and only at that time. This means that all the work done inside was done manually, without the help of machines or explosives… A titanic work that the visit allows to fully appreciate.

After meeting at the Mining Heritage Center, we take the car for 5/10 minutes to reach our starting point. We then start the approach walk in the forest while our guide tells us about the life of the miners at that time. Very interesting, especially since this life is quite different from the life of coal miners that we all have more or less in mind. After a climb in the forest, we are at the entrance of the Saint-Louis mine. It is time to equip ourselves with boots, oilskins and helmets that we have been lent.

Discovery of the Saint-Louis Mine

Then begins theexploration of the mine. It is impressive to pass through these narrow galleries entirely cut by hand…At a rate of 5cm per day and per miner approximately! Our guide teaches us a lot about the work of the miners and the exploitation of the mine. Two wooden machines have even been reconstructed by the association to allow visitors to better visualize the organization of the mine. Even if you have to bend over regularly to avoid hitting your head, the visit is not difficult: it’s like walking down a narrow corridor! There are only two small passages where you have to slip into a hole but it is not complicated. After 1 hour of wandering in the galleries, we are back in the open air. It remains to remove our equipment and to make the way of the return. It was a great visit!

I liked

  • Exciting guided tour for the whole family
  • Mine exploited in the 16th century only: we see it as it was!
  • The fact that ASEPAM has scientists doing research brings a very interesting perspective to the visits

I liked less

  • Nothing!

My photos of the visit of the Saint-Louis mine with ASEPAM

Practical information

Rates

The price is 12€ per adult for the visit of the Saint-Louis Mine (about 3 hours in total).

Schedules

You can find the ASEPAM mine visit calendar here.

Access

By car

The address of the meeting point is Center du Patrimoine Minier5 rue Kroeber Imlin 68160 Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines. You have to count:

  • 43 km from Colmar (about 40 minutes)
  • 70 km from Strasbourg (about 50 minutes)
  • 85 km from Mulhouse (about 1 hour)
By public transport

You can watch on Fluo.

Underground Via Ferrata in the galleries of Parc Tellure

recall-tellurism

Here’s a focus on an unusual activity offered by Tellure: an underground via ferrata. In addition to the discovery of the interpretation center and the classic visits of the old silver mine, Tellure offers more “immersive” visits (to say the least) such as the underground Via Ferrata routes of different levels. These follow the routes of the old galleries and will allow you to become aware, to a certain extent, of the conditions in which the miners of the 16th century worked.

More concretely, it is a part of the old mines that has been fitted out with ladders, steps and secured by cables. I opt for the 2-hour discovery course (a more athletic 3-hour course is also available). After getting equipped (full wetsuit, harness, helmet with headlamp and boots. You will see that all the equipment is necessary), Pascal, my certified caving guide, gives me a first advice : open your eyes to not miss anything and to get the atmosphere of the place. After a few dozen meters of walking (which allows us to acclimatize to the temperature of about 10° all year roundIn a modern gallery, Pascal gives us the safety recommendations: hang the lanyards well and leave space between the participants. After some historical and geological explanations, we left!

Thrills in the silver mine of Sainte-Marie aux Mines

After a short horizontal section to get our feet under us, we’re off to a vertical climb! We soon get into the swing of things and find ourselves observing our surroundings (oxides, small stalactites, etc.). Pascal explains to us that the miners of the 16th century did not evolve in these large vertical underground cavities because these were divided into floors by a kind of wooden scaffolding connected by ladders. Still, what working conditions in this temperature and humidity! We are not at the end of our surprises because after a first level, the guide lets us advance alone in a “renaissance” gallery. We quickly find ourselves in the narrowest of spaces because these galleries allow us to pass, sometimes we have to bend down or squeeze our shoulders to slip through: claustrophobic people should not go!

A historical dimension: in the mine with a guide

These galleries, the oldest, were dug with a hammer and chisel, explains Pascal. The relief of the chisel strokes left on the rock faces can be seen very well. It’s impressive to think that a miner made them 500 years ago by the sweat of his brow. Working an 8-hour day, he was only advancing a few inches a day! It has to be said that the rock here is particularly hard (Gneiss) … Harrowing days of work in dark, damp galleries. In return, the miners were rather well paid compared to other trades and benefited from other advantages (tax exemption, assistance fund,…). After this first wave of silver mining (in the mountain called Atlenberg) which lasted until the end of the 16th century, the miners attacked the Neuenberg in which silver lead was found from which no silver could be extracted before.

After various twists and turns (loss of my camera bag in a hollow,…) the gallery takes us to a cavity that must be crossed by a zip line. I had already tested it, but not in such a small space! We are not at the end of our surprises because hardly received Pascal equips us for the abseiling of about twenty meters. The descent by abseiling goes smoothly, as does the return through the modern galleries, which offer the opportunity to discover reconstructions of installations, period photos and explanatory panels. A welcome addition to the background of this visit which has been rather sporty so far.

I liked

  • the fairly complete course
  • the welcome of the guide Pascal and the material
  • the atmosphere that reigns underground, rather impressive

I liked less

  • the telescoping of several groups in the galleries causing short waits

My photos of the via ferrata in the Silver Mine of Tellure Park

Practical information

Rates and schedules

Here you can find the rates and schedules of the Tellure Mine Park. The standard visit is free for Pass Alsace holders. Don’t forget to book if you want to do a caving tour, a via ferrata or an escape game!

You can book your tickets directly here.

Access

By car

The address is as follows: Lieu-dit Tellure 68160 Sainte Marie aux Mines. Tellure Park is located in:

  • 37 km from Colmar (about 45 minutes)
  • 77 km from Mulhouse (about 1h15)
  • 78 km from Strasbourg (about 1h15)
By public transport

This is not possible 🙁

Hungry?

If you’re hungry, Tellure Park has a food court. I have not tested it.

Vincent

Vincent

Alsacien jusqu’au bout des ongles, Vincent aime parcourir sa région à la recherche de nouveaux spots photo que ce soit à pied, à vélo ou en voiture s’il le faut ! Amateur de grands espaces, il n’a rien contre une petite pause culturelle de temps en temps. Un peu épicurien sur les bords, il n’oublie jamais de ponctuer ses pérégrinations par des arrêts dégustation car en alsace « il y a à boire, et à manger » (au sens propre bien sûr ! ).

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