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The pentagon of wonders in Minas de Riotinto

Río Tinto

We'll take a look at the five most fascinating places to see if you visit the Riotinto Mining Park. Interesting spots and ideas for a getaway in the Minas de Riotinto area.

The Minas de Riotinto and Nervaarea, in the heart of the province of Huelva, is one of the best tourist destinations in Andalusia, and probably in Europe! You can discover the area's rich history and the amazing mining, industrial, and landscape heritage. All this is set in a Martian-looking landscape that even NASA has turned to for its research into other planets in the Solar System. To discover the true meaning of these mines, we have to look beyond Roman times. It was, however, the arrival of British company Rio Tinto Company Limited in the 19th century that had the greatest influence on this land and that transformed it into a massive opencast mine which surprises anyone who comes to visit. 

There is no doubt that Minas de Riotinto is full of places that can help us understand a land that looks like from another planet, carved by a peculiar red river, the River Tinto, with open-cast mines, and industrial and civil architectural heritage, erected following an English design. The British "owned" this land from the last third of the 19th century to the 1950s, and without taking a look at their influence we would not be able to understand this area or the province of Huelva as we know it today.

One of the most important areas is the Riotinto Mining Park, an entity created by the Río Tinto Foundation to disseminate and protect the mining legacy, which is valuable both from a landscape and heritage point of view. The Park is in charge of centralising, coordinating and promoting tourism in the area. Through the Mining Park website and in-person visits they offer individual tours or packages. We are going to choose the most complete package which includes five visits and costs €23 per person. You can visit all the places in the package in one day.

Here are the five places that you can visit at Riotinto Mining Park if you purchase just one ticket:


Every trip to Minas de Riotinto must begin here, at the Ernest Lluch Mining Museum. It helps us to understand more about this place. And, more importantly, how the area changed over history, how the British were actually here for just a second compared to centuries of other people taking advantage of what this land has to offer. The museum is part of its legacy, as it used to be an English hospital before it went on to exhibit various artefacts from different periods. 

From original statues to the recreation of a Roman mine. From a hospital operating theatre to locomotives made in England over a century ago. Inside there is even a luxury railway carriage designed to take Queen Victoria to India, which was a colony of the British Empire back then. 17 rooms put in context the value of the entire region. 

Here you can also get tickets – either single or a package – to other places mentioned here. Although, since for some of the visits you need to select a specific time, such as Peña de Hierro, Corta Atalaya and a ride on the tourist train, the best thing to do is to purchase single or combined tickets on the Mining Park's official website.


Another important stop on a tour of the mining basin is Peña del Hierro. Located next to the municipality of Nerva, it is the source of the mythical River Tinto. It emerges with its classic reddish hue due to the amount of iron oxide and other minerals and substances found in the land where it flows from. This means that the Tinto is not actually polluted, as some might thing. Its colour and toxicity, where only some extremophilic microorganisms survive, is in its nature. 

But Peña del Hierro is not only the source of the river, but also an opencast mine (a "corta", in Huelva mining slang) which you get to after walking 200 metres through a tunnel dug out of the mountain. With a protective helmet, of course, you walk until, on the other side, where you see at the end of the tunnel, colourful terraces suddenly emerge in a semicircular pit excavated and partially flooded by the coppery waters of the River Tinto. 

You can walk round, admire the Peña del Hierro (Iron Rock) towering above or the remains of the buildings of the mining company management and the skeletal ruins of English houses. 

You should check the opening times of Peña del Hierro when you buy the tickets, whether you do it through the website or in person in the aforementioned Mining Museum

Where to eat: In Nerva, on entering the village, there is an old British-style train station that has been transformed into one of the best restaurants in the region. Casa Idolina is not only attractive on the outside – the extremely delicious dishes they offer also make it worthwhile. 

It is a great place to eat before or after your visit to Peña de Hierro. 


In the town of Minas de Riotinto there is a neighbourhood called Bella Vista, where the top management of the Rio Tinto Company Limited resided with their families. They all came from the UK, and that is why this part of Minas is known as the English neighbourhood (like the Reina Victoria neighbourhood in the city of Huelva). It is a bubble of large houses with gardens where, despite the proximity to the mines, people lived a luxurious lifestyle, following British customs and traditions. 

Nowadays you can visit one of these famous houses in this neighbourhood that had its own Anglican church (which still stands), as well as the first tennis courts built in Spain. The so-called Casa 21 opens its doors every afternoon, for people to visit a truly English house. You might feel like you have been transported back in time to Victorian England as you admire the paintings of Queen Victoria and the UK flags, and the rooms which have been preserved intact. But as soon as you step outside, the palm trees and the weather will remind you that you are still in Huelva! 


The best attraction in the Minas de Riotinto area for children and adults is a ride on a vintage train along the River Tinto. Travel through the curious mining landscape and see buildings, machines and vehicles of the railway network built to transport both copper and other minerals to the Tinto dock in the city of Huelva. 

A train departs every day (in winter there are fewer departures than in summer) with a diesel locomotive and covers 11 kilometres one way and another 11 kilometres back, from a station very close to Nerva to the old Los Frailes station. On the first Sunday of every month between November and April, the train is pulled by a steam engine, like those that were used from the end of the 19th century on a private railway built exclusively for Rio Tinto Company Limited, which bought all the railway machinery that it required in England. 

This is a journey not only through the extraordinary landscape of this vast mining area, but also through time. Time that stood still in dozens of rusty carriages, buildings that have seen better days and stations where clocks still keep ticking. 

At Los Frailes station, where the train turns round, passengers have several minutes to get close to the River Tinto, admire the colours of the water and take some photos. A word of warning: don't get any water on your clothes because no washing machine or bleach will ever remove those stains! They are tough, to say the least. 

The tourist mine train is definitely the most popular activity in Minas de Riotinto. This is why it is a good idea to book tickets or packages in advance. 


Corta Atalaya is over 1,200 metres long and was considered for decades to be the largest opencast mine in the world. The mine has a terraced slope and water at the bottom. It opened to visitors on 1 July 2021 and is one of the most interesting attractions in Minas de Riotinto. You can appreciate the sheer size of this site by observing an old rusty locomotive that lies on one of the lower terraces, like a speck of dust. This vast and desolate place will astound you.  

Like with Peña de Hierro and the mine train, when you book tickets for Riotinto Mining Park, you must select a time slot for your visit.

Here ends our list of essential places to include in a tour of Minas de Riotinto. But there are many other places where you can enjoy the scenery and the mining architecture, like Zalamea la Real, Berrocal and Valverde del Camino. And, if you can, end your trip in Huelva, gazing at an amazing sunset from the Tinto dock where trains no longer unload, but cameras and mobile phones are waiting to snap one of those sunsets that will be etched on your memory forever.

José Miguel Redondo - Travel Blog "El Rincón de Sele"

The pentagon of wonders in Minas de Riotinto
Minas de Riotinto (Huelva)