In July, 2013, I visted the city of Zacatecas, Mexico, with my wife. Zacatecas has many things to draw tourists, including the opportunity to tour a defunct silver mine. This tour, of the El Eden mine, is often combined with a tide on the Teleferico Aerial Tram for a fun day.
The mine was first opened in 1586, when silver was discovered in Zacatecas. It was in operation for nearly 500 years. It closed in 1964 after multiple levels flooded. In 1975, some of the mine was opened to tourism. In addition to the tours, there is also a nightclub in the mine. Several lower levels remain flooded and are off-limits.
Entering the mine via the above noted entrance is relatively easy. After purchasing a ticket ($80 pesos – about $6), a small train will take you underground quite quickly, inside a plexiglass covered car. It is required to wear a hairnet and a hardhat. The train quickly pulls you inside the mine. Eventually, you reach a cavernous area and are able to get out and stand.
The first place you stop is a hall full of minerals and fossils. No, these aren’t all from this mine. They are actually a collection from all over the world. There’s also a little gift shop with rocks and minerals, plus restrooms. The collection of minerals and fossils are quite nice, and you get to spend 15-20 minutes looking them over.
The tour continues on foot. There are displays in some places, such as one of the workers as shown in the photo on the left. It shows the progression of the equipment over time. The tour was in Spanish — and so rapid fire that we unfortunately were not able to understand much. I believe they do have some tour guides who speak English, but it’s either the luck of the draw or perhaps you’d have to schedule it ahead of time. Everyone else on our tour was from a Spanish-speaking country.
At many places in the mine, you can look down and see water below. In some places, it appears as though you could drop many hundreds of feet. This was not a fun place to work, and many thousands of people died working in this mine. At the end of the tour, you can ride an elevator up at the other end, and you eventually emerge at the western side of the mine. From there, it is a short walk to the Teleferico station.
The Teleferico is an aerial tram that takes you from the Cerro del Grillo to the Cerro de la Bufa. The view is extraordinary, and there are other things to view on the Bufa — a church, some statues, a tourist market and restaurants. You can make a day of it. The fare is one way, which is nice, as we chose to walk down the hill from the top (you end up sort of behind the cathedral).
The view is stunning, though the ride is quite short — under five minutes. We were the only two people in the tram, other than the guide. The tram operates daily, except in cases of high wind. It would probably be quite spectacular at night, though I’m not sure if they run it after dark. I took quite a few pictures, though the windows were smudged. Here is one of the best ones:
At the top, there is another nice place to take photos. You can then walk from the Teleferico station to the top of the hill, where there is more to see.
There are multiple statues at the top of the hill, including one of Pancho Villa. He apparently fought in a battle here. These are quite large and impressive. There are also quite a few vendors — locals selling various things, including Huichol bracelets, earrings, etc. There are a series of restaurants as well. We ate lunch at one of them, it was quite tasty.
At the top of the hill, there is also a small chapel. The Santuario de la Virgen del Patrocinio is a beautiful small, white church enclosed in a square with arcades around it. The inside is quite small, but impressively decorated. There was a wedding and/or mass going on while we visited, so we didn’t sit in the square. The church dates from 1795.
When we were ready to go, we followed the path down the hill. The views on the walk down were fantastic, and I would actually suggest this was a better way to get down than taking the Teleferico back to the beginning. There are some more pictures of these attractions below, please click them for larger versions.