Just a thirty-minute drive from Kraków is the Wieliczka Salt Mine. While a salt mine doesn’t really sound like much, I truly think this should be one of your stops when you’re in the Kraków-Daniłowicza area.
This UNESCO World Heritage site left me breathless – and no, it wasn’t because of the long way down through the stairs. Rocks chiselled into chambers and religious icons, underground salt lakes – trust me, you need to see them.
The amount of work, creativity, and the faith of the miners that worked in the mine years ago will really leave you in awe.
Visiting the Wieliczka Salt Mine
Visiting the mines require that you join a group led by one of their guides. There are several tours per day and they come in different languages. The queue at the ticket counters can also be very long – especially in the summer. So, it is best to buy your tickets beforehand via their online shop. Or, at the very least, check the schedules so that you can plan your visit accordingly.
A ticket for a foreign language tour (English, Russian, French, Italian, Spanish, or German) will set you back PLN89 (EUR21.34). Click here to buy your tickets online.
Bring a light jacket. Even in the summer, it can be quite nippy inside the mines. During our visit, it was 15 degrees but all the walking and climbing up and down the stairs, warmed us up.
Throughout your three-hour tour, you’ll be climbing 800 steps. Wear comfortable walking shoes for your own sake.
While children up to four years old get to go in free of charge, I wouldn’t advise bringing young children. There’s a lot of dark corners and all those stairs? Maybe wait a couple of years when it’s easier to get them to behave. Just to be on the safe side.
You’ll have to descend 135 meters underground. So, you start the tour by climbing down 350 steps. Yes, right away. From the get-go. Make sure you’re wearing your fitness tracker when you go. You’ll easily rack up your 10k goal here.
This tour isn’t for the claustrophobic or those who tire and get dizzy easily. The stairs, although evenly spaced, are still pretty narrow. At this point, there’s not much to see. It looks like your usual fire escape – except made out of wood.
But what lies ahead is definitely worth the effort.
Your guide will be talking about the mine’s history. The legend of how Princess Kinga brought the salt mining industry to Poland, the amount of work it took to mine salt back in the day, and even the accidents that happened in the mine.
Taking photos in the mine is allowed for a very minimal fee. But bring a camera that does well in low light. Most of the chambers are pretty dim. There’s just enough light to see the statues of the miners and their equipment.
The Chapel of St. Kinga
The most beautiful, brightest, and dreamiest chamber in the mine is the one that holds the Chapel of St. Kinga. It is adorned with humungous, crystal chandeliers that light up the altars and bas-reliefs surrounding the interior.
It’s the perfect wedding venue and people do actually get married here. Can you just imagine the photos? Aside from weddings, concerts are also held in this chamber, with as much as 400 people enjoying the amazing acoustics.
Got respiratory problems? The underground air in the mines is free from pollution, making it the perfect place to go for a pulmonary rehabilitation program. Kids with asthma are often brought to the mines for some of the health programs they have to help reduce its severity.
You can choose to stay for the day or even sleep in the mines to experience what they call a “therapeutic microclimate”. This, they say, helps in mental and physical relaxation. Don’t worry – they’ve got beds for you.
Since we were just doing the tourist route, we weren’t able to see them. However, we passed by the salt lakes inside the mines where people seeking the mine’s health benefits often gather as well.
It was gorgeous. The light bouncing off that bright turquoise water had me wanting to take my clothes off and jump right in. But alas, it was a little too cold and my husband would probably pretend he doesn’t know me while authorities fish me out of the water.
He said he wouldn’t but I would if roles were reversed. So, better stay safe. 😛
Ode to Chopin
During our visit, one of the chambers had a light show to the tune of some of Chopin’s best. Stay for a while, enjoy the music. But also, make sure your guide doesn’t leave without you. The place is massive and the halls look a lot like each other that it can be quite easy to get lost – and never be found.
You end your visit at their souvenir shop that not only sells little trinkets made out of salt but beauty products as well!
The bath bombs and the bath salts are to die for! And the salt-based moisturiser is a winner for people who have oily skin.
By now, you’re probably hungry after all that walking. No worries. You get to experience underground dining at their restaurant. There’s even a play area for kids who made it out without getting lost! Okay, okay I should really stop with the morbid jokes.
Pay attention when the guide gives the directions for the exit lift. Yes, finally you get to use a lift! 🙂 An eight hundred step climb isn’t really something people would be up for. The lifts that will take you back to the surface are not that easy to find. Plus, they’re narrow and can only fit a few people at a time. So make sure you go there straight after grabbing a bite as lines can get pretty long.