A visit to Krakow gives you a unique opportunity to visit several locations that are inlcuded on the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites – Krakow’s Old Town and Kazmierz, the Sanctuary at Kalwaria Zebrzydowskie and the salt mines in Wieliczka. We’re going to focus on the mines here to give an idea of just what has made it such a popular attraction for millions of tourists every year. So put your helmet on, turn on the light, grab a pickaxe and let’s go far below the surface of the Earth to see everything for ourselves!
Wieliczka Salt Mine tour – You’ve never seen anything like this!
Humans have benefitted from the salt deposits here for thousands of years. Brought to up from the depths in flowing water, the salt came to the surface in the form of brine, which could then be evaporated to leave the pure salt behind. In the 13th century, the first shafts were dug into the ground and those expanded into wells, corridors and chambers. The origin of the mines are explained in legend with a story about how they were part of the dowry of the Polish King’s Hungarian wife. In actual history, the mines were an important source of income and a subject of particular concern for the monarchy.
Today, visitors can see scenes right out of a fairy tale with underground chapels, lakes and salt sculptures. Narrow corridors open into huge halls where salt-covered walls sparkle in the atmospheric light and shadows. The salt mines are an otherworldly landscape from an underground world that you have to see to believe!
Practical tips for Krakow Salt Mine tour
The salt mines in Wieliczka have much to offer and there are routes that visitors can take. The first and by the most popular is the Tourist Route, which takes visitors to the most famous sites and interesting aspects of the mines. This path takes you all over the mine network and you’ll see just about everything there is to see. The Pilgrim Route takes visitors to sites associated with quiet reflection and prayer and in addition to the underground chapel, you can also visit the site recently dedicated to St. John Paul II, who was a frequent visitor to the mines. The Miner’s Route is a very unusual and interesting way to step into the lives of the people who built the mines. You put on a uniform, a helmet and grab a pickaxe before heading down below. There is also dedicated thematic Wieliczka Salt Mine tour for school groups as well.
Bear in mind that even when it’s quite warm outside, the temperature in the mines is rather cool so bring something along to cover up. Don’t forget about comfortable shoes too – the tour is about 3km long with lots of stairs.
City transportation can get you to Wieliczka but you can also easily book a tour that will get you there and back comfortably.