Saalfeld Fairy Grottoes

Useful Information

Location: In Saalfeld, Ortsteil Garusdorf.
A9 exit Hirschberg/Lobenstein, F90 55 km to Saalfeld. A9 exit Triptis, F281 44 km to Saalfeld. A4 exit Jena-Göschwitz, F88 53 km bis Saalfeld.
In Saalfeld F281 towards Neuhaus a. Rennweg, at the end of the city turn left.
Open: JAN Sat, Sun 10:30-15:30.
FEB to MAR daily 10:30-15:30.
APR to OCT daily 9:30-17:30.
NOV to DEC daily 10:30-15:30.
Feenreise: APR to OCT 15, NOV to MAR 14.
Bergmannsreise: APR to OCT 16, NOV to MAR 15.
Given times are start of first and last tours. Tours about every 20 minutes, after demand.
Fee: Adults EUR 7, Children (3-12) EUR 4.50, School Chuildren EUR 6.50, Students EUR 6.50, Disabled EUR 6.50, Family (2+3) EUR 20.
Group (15+): Adults EUR 6.50, Children (3-12) EUR 3.50.
Group (25+): Adults EUR 6, Children (3-12) EUR 3.50.
Group photo EUR 4, photography and video permission EUR 2.
Minimum fee EUR 100.
Classification: MineAlum Mine SpeleothemDiadochite ExplainSpeleotherapy
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=600 m, BR: L=54.4 m, W=13 m, H=4.5 m, T=10 °C, H=96%.
Guided tours: D=45 min, L=550 m, HU=35 m, St=79. V=200,000/a [2000] V=180.000/a [2003]
Bibliography: Dr. Heinz Pfeiffer (1989): Feengrotten Saalfeld, VEB Brauhaus Saalfeld (Saale), Betriebsteil Feengrotten, Leipzig, 1989
Address: Saalfelder Feengrotten, Feengrottenweg 2, 07381 Saalfeld (Saale), Tel: +49-3671-5504-0, Fax: +49-3671-5504-40.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1530 estimated start of mining activities.
1551 first description of the alum mining in Saalfeld by Encelius (Christoph Enzelt) in De re metallica.
1757 Mine named Jeremias Glück (Jeremia's Luck).
1855 alum mining ended.
1867 start of ocher mining.
1907 end of ocher mining.
1907 Kirchner was measuring radioactivity. The water coming out of the old adit showed very high readings.
1912 bought by Mützelburg and start of the development as a bath.
1913 rediscovery of the old mine adits.
1914 opened as a show mine.
1927 Quellenhaus (spring hous) rebuild.
1931 Discovery and development of the Neue Grotte (New Grotto).
1937 Brunnentempel (Spring Temple) built, which is today the end of the tour.
1945 became Volkseigentum, was taken over by the state in the GDR.


The black alum slate contains a high amount of iron sulfate (FeS2) in form of tubers or granules. This mineral is also called pyrite or marcasite, depending on its habit. In contact with water it dissolves, producing sulfuric acid and iron oxide. The agressive acid expedites the dissolution process.

Another by-product of this chemical process is alum which is used to produce vitriol by adding any kind of metal. Copper vitriol is the most useful of those metal sulfates, and was used for tanning, for the production of paper and many other purposes at pharmacies and laboratories. Another important by-product of the dissolution of iron sulfate is water free iron oxide(Fe2O3), a very light fast pigment, which was sold under the name Englischrot (English Red).


The Saalfelder Feengrotten (Saalfeld Fairy Grottoes) are, despite the name, an abandoned mine. It was originally opened to mine the black alum slate. Later the mine was used to win ochre. At the entrance of the Langer Stollen (long adit), the water which came out of the mine was dammed up. The iron compounds in the water oxidized with the atmospheric oxygen and the resulting iron oxides were sedimented at the ground. This ochre mud was harvested from time to time using shovels and spades. It was sold to the color factories of Saalfeld.

Despite its mining background, the fairy grottos show a typical karst feature, which is formed naturally. Seepage water transported several dissolved minerals into the adits over centuries and formed colorful speleothems in the adits. That is the reason, why the guides call the mine natural dripstone grotto. The dripstones are natural, not the caverns.

The color of the dripstones depends on the contained minerals. Aluminium compounds show blue and green colours, phosphorus-iron-compounds produce yellow and beige colors. A certain formation in the chamber called Märchendom was the inspiration for Siegfried Wagner, the son of famous Richard Wagner, when he designed the setting for his Parsival in nearby Bayreuth in 1920. The formation is called Gralsburg, this and other names were give to the formations in the mine by the famous German geologist Dr. Hess von Wichdorff.

The healing water of the mine was the reason for the nearby establishing of a bathhouse. The water contained arsenic and iron, with traces of phosphor and vanadium. All these substances tend to oxidate when the water gets in contact with the atmosphere. So it was essential to collect the water immediately at the spring and to prevent any contact with the atmosphere. Whilst searching for the springs of the water inside the mine, numerous springs were discovered, with different kinds of water. The deep waters contain many radioactive elements, the walls produce iron rich acidic waters and the meteoric water from the surface contain only very little minerals.

On a visit to the fairy grottoes, the visitor gets a blue cape, which protects him from dripping water and dirt. Before the group enters the mine, a group picture is taken. It may be purchased at the end of the tour. There are three regular tour, the Grottentour is the regular mine tour. The Bergmannsreise (Journey of the Miner) is a tour dedicated to the work of the miners. The Feenreise (Journey of the Fairy) is a tour guided by a fairy, telling old legends and fairy tales.