Rio Tinto Mines

Minas de Rio Tinto, which translates as the Mines of the Red River, is an ancient mining town, located on the road between Huelva and Aracena in Andalucia. The history of mining in this area dates back to 3000 BC.

In Roman times, the site along the river was extensively mined for silver and the precious metal was used to mint Roman coins. In fact, Rio Tinto used to be one of the richest sources of silver in the ancient times.

For centuries the mines were abandoned until they were rediscovered in the 18th century by a couple of Spanish companies. Exploitation of the area rich in cooper commenced. The reddish brown metal was transported to the steelworks in Seville on a massive scale.

In the second half of the 19th century, British companies started to mine pyrites in the Rio Tinto region which then was used in the production of sulphur dioxide. The largest of those companies was Rio Tinto Company active in the area between 1873 and 1954.

IMG_5130_400c630The main rivers of this region, Rio Tinto and Rio Odiel, are intensively red in colour. It is perfectly natural phenomenon, only partially enhanced by human activity. The waters of Rio Tinto and Rio Odiel are undrinkable because of high acidity and heavy metals content.

Riotinto Mining Museum is a must-see attraction of the region. It is located in the Minas de Riotinto village. Launched in 1992, the museum offers a fascinating journey through 5,000 years of mining and metallurgy in the area. There is a great number of displays and exhibitions in English, captivating even if are not really interested in the history of mining.

Another attraction is the train ride down the Rio Tinto valley. The ride in a refurbished 19th century steam locomotive allows you to get the close look-up at the fascinating landscape of Rio Tinto. The ride is 22 km long and a little bit bumpy at times. It includes a 20 minute stop to have a closer look at the Rio Tinto river. During the train ride you will be able to admire the unique and fascinating lunar-like landscape of Rio Tinto mines from different angles.IMG_5139_400x630

Pena de Hierro near Nerva, about 10 kms from the Riotinto village, is another spectacular place to visit. It’s an oval in shape, opencast mine 85 metre deep, 350 metre long and 150 metre wide. The walls of Pena de Hierro represent a mesmerizing mix of white, yellow and reddish-brown colours. Pena de Hierro is surrounded by some nice cycling and walking paths in the forest. There are some nice viewing points along those paths as well.  Rio Tinto mines are home to what used to be the biggest opencast mine in the world – Corta Atalaya. This impressive mine is 1200 metres long, 900 metres wide and 365 metres deep! However, it is impossible to access Corta Atalaya at the moment.

Not many people know that Spanish football wasn’t born in Madrid or Barcelona, but in…Minas de Rio Tinto. In 1873, the British and European investors reopened the mines forming Rio Tinto Company Limited. Spanish workers worked alongside employees from the United Kingdom, where football had already been very popular. After the work the British would often spent their free time playing football. For the Spanish football was a discipline they saw for the first time, and they would at first consider it too dangerous and leading to injuries. They would even forbid their curious children to watch the games! However, after some time the Spanish workers took to the new game. The first Spanish football club was established in Huelva in 1889.

For some reason, Rio Tinto still remains pleasantly untouristy, so no matter when you come, you should not beware of crowds.  However, try to avoid summer as the inland areas of Spain becomes really hot then.


Aracena is a small untouristy town located in the hills of the western Sierra Morena in the Huelva province. It lies north of the road between Huelva and Seville, not far from the Portuguese border.

The number one attraction of Arcaena is the famous Gruta de la Maravillas (Cave of Wonders). It’s a stunningly beautiful network of caves interconnected by walking trails. The guided tour allows you to explore only ten percent of all the chambers, but that’s enough to leave you awestruck. As the caves can only be visited by a limited number of people at one time (usually it’s 40), we recommend that you prepare yourself for possible delays once you buy the ticket. Another popular tourist spots in Aracena are the ruins of a castle overlooking the town and a beautiful Gothic church Iglesia de la Asuncion.

Walking path along the mines

Walking path along the mines

Aracena is one of the best destinations for hiking holidays. This green kingdom of Holm Oak and Cork Oak trees in Sierra Aracena is rarely visited by tourists. However, it is an excellent region for hikers, as it boasts more than 600 km of various path and trails.The well-marked local trails will lead you through beautiful scenary of hills, cork and oak forests, chestnut groves, citrus plantations and small white towns.

Rio Tinto Mines

Peña del Hierro in the Rio Tinto Mines

Peña del Hierro in the Rio Tinto Mines

Rio Tinto Mines is another fascinating tourist attraction near Aracena. Minas de Rio Tinto village is located only 35 kms south of Aracena. Intensively red, surrealistic landscape of Rio Tinto mines, one of the oldest mines in the world, is an incredible view to behold. The feeling is that you have been suddenly teleported from Earth to Mars!

To see all the attractions of the mines might take at least half a day. Great panoramic views of the mines are available through two miradors on the A-461 as well as through viewing points in Alto de la Mesa. There is an interesting Mining Museum in the Minas the Rio Tinto village. It features the displays of artefacts generated by 5000 years of mining activities. A 22-km long recreational tour along the Rio Tinto river in the 19th-century trains is also available for tourists there.  If you follow the signs and drive a little bit deeper into the mines, heading north past the village of Nerva, you will reach the Pena de Hierro, 85-metre deep openpit mine which is surrounded by some nice walking paths.

Aracena- nearest destinations: Seville, Huelva.

Nearest airports: Jerez de la Frontera, Seville.


beach, El Portil, andalucia, spain, costa de la luz

Huelva is a city located in the west of Andalusia, along the Gulf of Cadiz coast. The centre of Huleva offers little in terms of cultural and architectural pleasures. Most of the monuments in Huelva were destroyed in a powerful earthquake that shook the city in 1755. Palaces, churches, towers turned to rubble. A couple of nice churches, a Moorish castle Castillo de Niebla or a Monument to Christopher Columbus are the major highlights of the city today. It is worth to visit some good restaurants in the centre of Huelva to taste what Huelva is famous for: prawns and white wine Condado de Huelva. The Huelva region is also famous for tourist attractions related to the ‘discoverer of America.’ 

Wide, long, almost virgin beaches with dunes and pines, perfect to escape the crowds, that’s what majority of tourists appreciate about the Huelva region the most. Probably the best beach east of Huelva, and a top-ranked attraction of the region, is Cuesta Maneli. It takes some time to get there but the breath-taking views of the coastline and the feeling of being completely cut off from the world is a reward you would certainly appreciate.

West of Huelva there are three unspoilt by tourism charming towns. Uniquely beautiful El Rompido near Cartaya sitting on the Rio Piedras river estuary, neighbouring  El Portil boasting long stretches of virgin beaches and beautiful Isla Cristina – just stone’s throw from the Portuguese border. All three are perfect destinations for family holidays. In addition to this El Rompido is a real golfing hotspot boasting sensational golf course.

These tranquil coastline resorts abound in green pine forests with various walking paths that cut through dunes, marshes and river deltas. The Atlantic breeze mixes here with pine forest aroma allowing you to enjoy most fresh and pure air. The fine beaches in this area are empty most of the year, never crowded in the summer and easily accessible from the road running just along the coast.

Another advantage of visiting Huelva is it’s proximity to Portugal. One hour drive allows you to reach the beautiful Portuguese Albufeira or Faro.

Huelva is recommended for long summer beach escape, especially for those who want to combine their holidays with a trip to Portugal, or for those who want to follow the Columbus trail.


Located Near Huelva, the magical La Rabida monastery will take you back to the times when Cristoper Columbus was preparing for his first voyage. The old small rooms of the monastery museum are filled with various objects and works of art that bear some relation to the Columbus trip. Among the beautiful botanical gardens surrounding the monastery, you will find a statue of Columbus as well. Nearby the monsatery, lies the Muelle de las Carabelas (Harbour of the Caravels), the wharf from which Columbus ships in 1492 set sail towards the unknown to eventually discover the New World. To celebrate the 500th anniversary of America’s discovery, the three full-size replicas of Colombus ships have been built and moored on an artificial lake. The Niña,  The Pinta and The Santa María now serve as a major tourist attraction.

 Huelva – nearest destinations: Seville, Cadiz, Aracena