Poland is a great country with stunning landscapes and cities which are going to fascinate all travelers. However, it is impossible to get to know her on only one journey. So, for our first visit, we decided to explore the Krakow region including its sights and attractions. Our priority was to visit the most beautiful city in Poland, Krakow, which really amazed us with its beauty and with its many artistic and historical attractions. One of them is the Wieliczka Salt Mines.
Towns in the Krakow area worth a visit
Second in our list was Zakopane, the winter capital of Poland, a highly touristic city in the Tartu Mountains. The most important religious and pilgrimage center of the area is the town of Czestochowa with the large church of the Black Virgin which we visited on the 15th August (Christians celecrate Virgin Mary on that day). Finally, deep in our hearts and in our memory were the images of shame that we saw when we visited the Auschwitz camps, and I wish mankind never to live again such pain and humiliation of human existence.
The Wieliczka salt mines reach a depth of 135 m and 22 halls are accessible on a 2.2 km route
Wieliczka Salt Mine
In the Krakow region lies a large underground attraction which can impress even the most demanding visitor. It is the Wieliczka salt mines, a Polish attraction, which is impossible for someone who visits Krakow not to visit it. Wieliczka Salt Mine is located in the homonymous city of Wieliczka, 15 km away from Krakow and since 1978 it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
How to get there
From Kravow, the villages of Wieliczka is half an hour by motorhome. If you don’t have a car, bus 304 starts from Krakow and heads to the mines. Parking lots abound in the area and it is reallly amusing to see parking employees to invite you park in their parking lot! It’s sth like a local attraction! Though, the long length of our vehicle and the unobtrusive parking price made us park outside the parking area, in a public parking lot which was free of charge, but a little bit further from the salt mines. (GPS parking 49.986538 20.0512471). But that didn’t bother us at all because it gave us the opportunity to get to know both the village and the landscape of the area.
The address of the salt mine is Danilowicza 10, 32-020, Wieliczka, Polska, Wieliczka 49.9831160 20.0520629
The Teznia Solankowa in the Wieliczka Saline Park
Entering the Wieliczka Salt Mine we first passed through the open air surrounding area and enjoyed the beautiful landscape and clean park that was decorated with many sculptures.
In this area, you can also find the Teznia Solankowa, a special construction that immediately caught our interest. What could it be hidden behind its tall black walls? We approached it and we were surprised by its construction. The first thing we noticed when we went inside was that along the high walls which were covered in branches, water drops were falling like a waterfall and in the middle there was a large empty square with benches for visitors. We immediately noticed a salty smell hovering around us.
After some online search, we learned that Teznia Solankowa is a facility made for recreation and revitalization. Its walls are covered by the branches of a tree very common in Poland located in the Tartu Mountains at an altitude of 1000 m and above. The salty water runs beneath the tower and as it evaporates, it leaves the metal salts on the branches. Visitors can breathe in these salty fumes and after some time, their health improves and they can be cured of chronic respiratory diseases such as rhinitis, sinusitis, laryngitis, and general respiratory infections.
While we were at this special Teznia Solankowa therapeutical area, we took deep breaths of sea breeze, we rested and of course admired the magnificent view of the village of Wieliczka as we ascended the 360 ° rotating tower, a beautiful 22 m. high. Don’t forget to experience it.
Info: Ticket prices for Teznia Solankowa entrance are 9 PLN = 2.09 euros and 6 PLN = 1.40 euros (reduced). There are also family tickets, and guests who visit the salt mine on the same day are entitled to a discount. (Today, 2020, the EUR PLN exchange rate is 1 euro = 0.23 PLN)
The Wieliczka Salt Mine in Krakow
After our beautiful walk in the therapeutical area, we arrived at the entrance of the salt mines. Have in mind that the number of tourists is usually high and you might need to wait to enter.
The ticket costs 21 euros and it has the time of entrance printed on it (we hadn’t seen it and we had to wait more) and you need to pay 3 more euros if you want to use for camera (mobiles photos can be used free of charge). Unfortunately we didn’t know that and we had to go back to get a special sticker on our top so as for the empoloyess to let us use it without warnings. If you don’t get it, they will make you pay it even inside the mines. So, because when you are a traveller or a tourist, there is no time to waste, book your tickets from here:
Buy your skip the line tickets here
Get a bus transfer to the salt mines, plus a fun guide to tell you the history as you go and xplore one of the oldest salt mines listed on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List.
What’s included:1) Transport to the salt mine and back 2) Entrance to the salt mine 3)Tour of the salt mine with a local guide. Book here.
The story of the Wieliczka Salt Mine
The famous Wieliczka salt mines have a history of over 700 years. They were founded in the 13th century and it is Europe’s second-oldest salt mine. Since 1119 people used to call the salt “black gold” and the mine offered work to thousands of people making the area rich. Salt extraction continued from 1290 until 1996 when salt reserves were exhausted. The Wieliczka Saline Mine has 9 underground levels and reaches a depth of 327 meters. There are more than 2,040 halls, underground lakes, and 300 km of corridors dug under huge salt volumes. Since 1950 the salt mine has been turned into a Museum and only part of it is accessible, which is the most impressive. Here visitors can see scenes from the hard work of the salt miners, as well as the tools they used to extract the salt, admire the chapels and sculptures all carved in the salt rock, and also be impressed by the large temple made of salt.
The tour of the Wieliczka Salt Mine
We were part of group of 15 people because the tours are organized and you should always be accompanied by a guide. After we had chosen the language we wanted to listen to during the tour, (there is no guided tour in Greek), the tour guide picked us up and started going down the stairs in a qeue.
If you are claustophobic, avoid the guided tour. If you choose to do it be patient and wear comfortable shoes as you have to descent 820 steps.
The route we followed our guide was at a fast pace. That was a good thing, of course, because it didn’t give us a chance to think about where we were going and how deep we were in the mountain!
The galleries we passed through were made out of wood. Some had wooden supports and others were made of tree trunks or were just salt rock openings.
If you want to listen to the guide, be close to him. For us it was a little bit difficult as English is not our mother tongue.
Workers were working long hours under harsh conditions to get their paycheck, and we were now following their own paths and walking over the rails of their own carriages.
At the first level, you can see the representations of the work of the salt miners from the Neolithic era 6,000 years ago, the 17th century, the 19th century to the time of the 20th century. All these images can make you visualize the difficult conditions of salt exraction over the centuries better. The sculpturs are not artists but the miners themselves! Through this historical retrospective we were able to understand the evolution of their work over the years, until the horses began to move the pulleys to carry their loadσ.
We went through salt chapels, we saw lakes that were lost in the infinite depths of the earth, we admired dozens of salt sculptures, we walked through impressive galleries made of massive volumes of salt, descending dozens of steps into the chaos of the salty mountain. It is worth admiring the fact that in the deep depths of earth, you can find this well-preserved underground city, an excellent museum or even better a wonderful and different place of artwork!
Ανάμεσα στα δεκάδες αγάλματα τα φτιαγμένα από αλάτι που υπάρχουν στα αλατωρυχεία Βιελίτσκα ξεχωρίζει η Παναγία με το Βρέφος.
Along the way we also saw statues of celebrities including the statue of St. Barbara, the protector of miners, the Polish astronomer Nicholas Copernicus, Goethe and others.
Η περιήγησή μας στους χώρους του αλατωρυχείου είχε διάρκεια περίπου δύο ώρες, κατά τις οποίες ακολουθούσαμε πάντα τον ξεναγό χωρίς να καθυστερούμε, ούτε να παρεκκλίνουμε από τη δική μας πορεία. Κατά διαστήματα υπήρχαν καγκελωτές πόρτες που αφού ο ξεναγός διαπίστωνε πως ήμασταν όλα τα άτομα του γκρουπ έκλεινε τις πόρτες μια φύλακας η οποία μας ακολουθούσε και ήταν το τελευταίο άτομο της ομάδας μας. Υπήρχε ασφάλεια, παντού υπήρχαν πυροσβεστικές αντλίες και έξοδοι κινδύνου. Ο γρήγορος όμως ρυθμός της ξενάγησης που έπρεπε να γίνει στον συγκεκριμένο χρόνο, αφού ακολουθούσαν και άλλα γκρουπ δεν μας έδινε την ευελιξία να φωτογραφήσουμε σωστά και όσα θέλαμε και σε συνάρτηση και του χαμηλού φωτισμού που έχουν οι χώροι οι φωτογραφίες μας δεν είναι και τόσο καλές.
Our tour lasted about two hours, during which we always followed the guide without delaying or deviating from our route. From time to time the tour guide checked the number of our group and closed the door behind him. The last person behind us was always a guard. Everywhere, there was security, fire pumps and emergency exits. Undortujately, the fast pace of the tour did not give us the flexibility to take pictures properly and pur pics are not so good.
St. Kinga’s Chapel
We were given more time and some relative freedon when we arrived at the particularly impressive and richly decorated “St Kinga’s Chapel”. It is a cathedral with all sculptures entliryely made of the salt of the mine. We were at a depth of 135 meters!
The Myth of St. Kinga
Kinga lived between 1224 and 1294 and was the daughter of King Bela IV of Hungary. At the age of 16 he married Boleslaw V the Chaste, who later became king of Poland. According to the legend, Kinga demanded a salt mine from her father as a wedding gift. He fulfilled her wish and she threw her engagement ring at a salt mine in Hungary. After a while when Kinga traveled to Wieliczka, he ordered the salt miners to open a well and there instead of water he found her ring between the salt rocks. This was considered a miracle, and from then on they started worshiping her as a Saint. She was sanctified in 1999 under the name St. Kinga of Poland by Pope John Paul II who was also originated from Poland.
The highlight of the tour was this church with statues and depictions from the Bible. The construction of the temple lasted for over 30 years, from 1896 until 1927. The works on display have been made entirely of salt, are impressive, perfectly preserved and I can surely call them “works of art”. I was amazed and I have no words to describe this wonderful spectacle. Great experience! Unforgetable!
Leonardo da Vinci’s “Secret Dinner” carved on volumes of salt in the chapel of St. King in the third level at a depth of 135 m in the salt mine.
The statue of Pope John Paul II, which was declared a Saint of the Catholic Church in 2014, dominates the large hall of the underground church, which is made of solid salt.
From the depths of the earth to the sunlight!
After admiring and photographing almost everything in the St. Kinga’s Chapel, we were gathered by our guide to start ascending via a lift! In less than half a minute we were in the exit! It was unbelievable! Though, there is another lift which fits only 4 people, less speedy of course, and you take the way up to the top without any lights at all! I don’t know if I want to experince it.
I can now say with certainty, that the tour of the salt mine was a really special experience and it is one of the things that made this trip unforgettable!
Extra information about your tour of the Wieliczka Salt Mine
• You should definitely wear comfortable shoes.
• Do not wear too many clothes because the fast walking pace and indoors environment will keep you warm.
• It is a good idea to have a bottle of water with you.However, you can find water in the mine too.
• At the end of the tour, you can find a restaurant . However, thare are also fast food restaurants and coffee shops (quite cheaper) outside the mines.
• Before you exit the mne, you can find a souvenir shop. Though there are also some shops outside as well.
• If you have children, take them with you. The experience is unforgettable for both adults and kids. But be careful because kids need your attention as the lights are low. Thought steps are wooden and not slippery at all. Strollers are not allowed, so if they are too young, you might need to hold them from time to time..
Hope you enjoyed my post and you took useful information about your visit to Wielczka Salt Mines.