Located in Wieliczka, a small town in southern Poland just 13 kilometers (8.1 miles) from Krakow, the Wieliczka Salt Mine is one of the country’s most visited sites, and for good reason. A visit to the mine leads visitors through narrow passageways and steep staircases made entirely out of salt to a final destination 135 meters (440 feet) underground. Once underground, visitors are greeted with magnificent chapels, hand-carved statues, and beautiful chandeliers, all made of salt. Read on to discover more about this unique UNESCO World Heritage-listed site.
Uncover the fascinating history of the mine
The legend of the mine dates back to the 13th century. According to the story, when the Hungarian princess Kinga married Bolesław the Chaste, the Duke of Krakow and Sandomierz, she provided salt as her dowry. Since that time the mine has been an incredible source of wealth for the region. Throughout the years, miners have sculpted statues and chapels inside because they believed these religious motifs would keep them safe in this dangerous line of work. The most incredible chapel is that of Saint Kinga, which was started in 1896. Over a period of 70 years, the miners carved bas-reliefs in the walls and life-size statues of important Poles, notably Pope John Paul II. Salt production stopped in 2007, but the nearly 1 million annual visitors keep the mine alive and well.
Explore the diverse and enticing offerings
Most visitors elect to participate in the “Tourist Route” tour, a three-hour tour that leads through 20 rooms filled with incredible salt sculptures and chandeliers. The tour also takes visitors through salt tunnels, past saline lakes, and under timber scaffolding. It finishes in the mine shop filled with salt figurines, diverse varieties of table salt, and salt-based cosmetics. After making their purchases, visitors head back to the surface in a real miners lift.
In addition to this standard tour, a “Miners’ Route” tour is also available. For this tour, visitors don work clothes and helmets. In addition, they participate in a variety of a typical miner’s daily tasks such as transporting salt and clearing new paths.
If you’re looking for a more relaxing experience, why not head to the mine’s health resort? Due to its pollution-free air and microclimate, the mine is uniquely suited to provide respiratory therapy. Underground overnight stays in converted horse stalls are also possible.
The mine hosts an underground restaurant offering traditional Polish fare such as pierogies and beetroot soup that all visitors are welcome to visit. Finally, scheduling weddings, business meetings, and receptions is also a possibility at this unique venue.
Plan your visit
Temperatures in the mine rest around 15 °C (59 °F) so wearing warm clothing is advised. Plan to wear sturdy shoes as you will have to walk down about 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles). Budget at least three hours for the tour. All visitors must be accompanied by a guide for the duration of the tour. Guides are available in multiple languages including English, Polish, French, and Spanish. They are very knowledgeable about all aspects of the mine, from its history to its current place in Polish society.
Tickets cost 84 PLN (20.50 USD) except during the peak seasons (April 29 to May 3 and July 1 to August 31) when tickets cost 89 PLN (21.90 USD). Discounts are available for students up to 26 years old and for families. Children under four years old enter for free. Tickets can be bought ahead of time online or in person. If you buy tickets ahead of time, you can choose the time of your tour. If you decide to purchase upon arrival, you will wait an hour or less for the next group to leave. The mine is open every day. From April 1 to October 31 it is open from 7.30 AM to 7.30 PM. From November 2 to March 31 it is open from 8.00 AM to 5.00 PM.
Don't pass up this unique opportunity
If you find yourself anywhere near Krakow, make the time to visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Whether you elect to complete the Tourist Route or the most adventurous Miners’ Route, you’ll be sure to have an incredibly eye-opening experience. From the detailed salt statues to the fascinating history, each visitor will identify with an aspect of this site.
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