The Añana salt valley in the Basque province of Álava offers a unique spectacle: 120 hectares of hillside covered by over 5,000 wood and stone terraces, built over the centuries to harvest salt. The origins of the Añana salt flats date back to the Ancient Romans, but it was only from the Middle Ages that the salt became an important commodity.
However, from the 1960s onwards, artisanal production was gradually abandoned, as families left the town and the valley underwent a period of crisis. In the 1980s, only half the terraces were still functional, and by 1995, just 500 were being used. Production is currently almost nonexistent, but an ambitious project, coordinated by the Valle Salado de Añana Foundation and various institutions, is trying to revive the ancient salt extraction methods and protect this unique landscape.
The salt water, known as muera, is conveyed along wooden channels and left to sit until the water evaporates. The salt is collected by hand during the summer, from early June until September, with between 30 and 60 extractions per season. The salt is then cleaned and packaged.
Three products are made in the Añana salt flats: flor de sal (crunchy irregular flakes of pure salt, obtained via natural methods), sal mineral (crystals of pure salt, which gradually become bigger and join together thanks to the sun and the wind) and the rare chuzos (thin stalactites that form spontaneously in places where brine drips down from the channels).
One of the first objectives will be to draw up a production protocol and produce communication materials, essential for promoting an entirely manual production system. Restaurants will be closely involved, and three great names from Spanish cuisine, Pedro Subijana, Martín Berasategui and Andoni L. Aduriz, have already pledged their support for the project and will actively participate in promoting this unique salt.
Salinas de Añana, Álava province, Basque Country
Presidium supported by
Basque Government and Diputación di Álava