Wieliczka Salt Mine Corridor
Imagine yourself, that world round you suddenly gets dark. You seem to be deep upderground – your nosethrils feel the strange, humid scent. While you wander through narrow corridors, your fingers touch the walls – cold and steep. If you lick your finger you can taste…it’s salty! After a moment you walk into a magnificent, giant hall. With hanging chandaliers and sculptures it does not resemble anything you have ever seen. Cold light beams from salt-sculptured lamps, enabling you to see where you are. And actually you are in a most unique conference hall in underground salt mine in Wieliczka. Though, if you could close your eyes, you may think it’s rather famous Moria Mine from „Lord of the Rings”. Wieliczka’s Salt Mine history goes back to 13th century, when it was salt, not the gold, that was the true wealth. In a small village close to Krakow the miners dug this priceless mineral, and to prove their gratefullnes to the Holy Mother, that took care of them during their work, they created her chapels and sculptures. After some time the most unique underground salty metropolia emerged here – with chapels, salty lakes and view point terraces – a place that had no equivalent on the Earth.
Visiting Wieliczka Salt Mine is a must-do. Not only for anyone visiting to Krakow, but also – to Poland. It is one of the oldest salt mines in Europe, which operates since over 700 years. As the legend says, queen Kinga threw her priceless ring to the hole in the ground once and asked the locals to give it back to her – no matter the odds. As they dug deeper and deeper, they found huge salt deposits and finally established here first polish salt mine. Wieliczka soon became a source of wealth for polish kings and built their power, being known in all Europe as „Krakow Salt Mine”. You need to remember that in the medieval ages salt was almost as expensive as gold!
Wieliczka Salt Mines are located only 14 km from Krakow and are easy to reach during many day trips from Krakow. Once you enter this underground kingdom, you’ll see hand-carved statues, chambers and altars, which have been carved into salt blocks. Over 300 kilometers of tunnels, nine levels and 22 chambers that are open for the tourists – and you are allowed to see only a small part of it. The main sights which you are about to see during 2-hours guided tour include Chapel of St. Kinga – an enormous sized church, with ceiling 12 meters high, salt-caved chandeliers and statues. It took 30 years to complete this amazing piece of art and architecture – and by only two men. From here you will follow to the Erazm Boręcz Chamber – which salted lake has preservative microclimate. After treating your lungs with jodine-filled, salty air, you will proceed to Stanisław Staszic Chamber, where you will get an amazing panoramic view of the Mines. If you are an allergic, you can stay here longer to cure your disease – as Wieliczka Mine hosts not only chapels and chambers, but also underground sanatorium, which is located at the depth of 135 meters below sea level. Staying here is without any doubt an unforgettable experience.
Wieliczka Salt Mine is not only the UNESCO Site, and a place of historical and cultural importance. Until today it is also a living cultural centre. In the Chapel of St. Kinga you can occasionally join excellent concerts of classical music. The sound is here, to say simply, amazing – no wonder that for any event planned here tickets are sold off well in advance. Also, at some very special occasions the chapel hosts a mass which is always attended by hundreds of people. And the underground sanatory, which is famous for its curing salty air attracts every season thousands of allegics and exoerience-curious tourists. Although it is not easy to get a bed here (waiting list is long), it is definitely worth trying.
During the tour your guide will take you the most scenic and important places. Although the tour is not too long (you walk about 2 kilometers in 2 hours time), you will get the opportunity to experience the best of the best of Wieliczka. Remember, that you will be quite deep – the deepest tour point is located 135 meters below the sea level. As a consequence, be prepared for serious cold – especially if you visit the Mines in Summer. The temperature in the Mines is only 14 degrees of Celsius and makes a huge difference if it’s 36 degrees outside. Also, remember to wear comfortable shoes, covering your feet and protecting from scratches. Wearing additional layer – jacket or sweater – is also advisable. Also, if you’d like to skip the queues (and we’re sure you do), it is also good to buy the ticket beforehand from one of the travel agencies in Krakow. During summer holidays english-speaking tours depart every 30 minutes, starting from 8.30am with the last one before 6pm.
It is quite easy to get to Wieliczka from Krakow. Minibuses leave from Starowiślna Street every 10-20 minutes, an the tickets cost only 3 PLN. The bus will drop you at the main road leading directly to the Mines. Alternatively, you can take a train, which leave from Krakow Główny every 45 minutes, costing 3 PLN as well.