A visit to the Wieliczka Salt Mine

A visit to the Wieliczka Salt Mine

Have you ever seen an entire church carved out of salt? What about larger than life statues of saints? Or how about a chandelier made out of salt? No? Well, neither had we, until we visited Krakow and the nearby Wieliczka  Salt Mine. 

About the Mine

Wieliczka is famous for its deep salt mine. It’s an eerie world of pits and chambers, and everything within its depths has been carved by hand from salt blocks. The mine has a labyrinth of tunnels, about 300km distributed over nine levels, the deepest being 327m underground. A section of the mine, some 22 chambers connected by galleries from 64m to 135m below ground, is open to the public. 

The mine is renowned for the preservative qualities of its microclimate, as well as for its health-giving properties. An underground sanatorium has been established at a depth of 135m, where chronic allergic diseases are treated by overnight stays.

The salt-hewn formations include chapels with altarpieces and figures, while others are adorned with statues and monuments, and there are even underground lakes

Registered on the UNESCO World Cultural and National Heritage List, the mine is not only valued for its artistic and historical value but is also popular among pilgrims. 

Routes

At the Wieliczka Salt Mine, there are several different routes you can take. You cannot visit the mine unaccompanied, everyone will have to have an official tour guide with them at all times. The routes are offered in English, Polish, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish. English routes depart every thirty minutes throughout the day.

The Tourist Route; This is the most popular way to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. It allows you to experience the surreal beauty of the mine. You’ll see magnificent sculptures, chandeliers, murals, and 20 chambers.

The Miner’s Route; This route is designed for those who want to experience what life was like for Wieliczka’s miners. If you choose this option, you will enter the mine via the Regis shaft in the center of Wieliczka town. You will be provided with a coverall, mining equipment, a safety lamp, a POG absorber, and a miner’s helmet. You will be given mining tasks by your guide. These tasks which include testing for methane and igging salt will give you an authentic feel of what life for the miners may have been like, and a greater understanding of the mine’s history and geology. 

The Pilgrim’s Route; A special route is offered for the faithful, accompanied by a priest demonstrating the piousness of those who worked in the mine. This route includes prayer stops, specially prepared food, and a Mass at the end. 

Graduation Tower; If you or a member of your family our group are not comfortable to go underground, then another option would be to visit the Graduation Tower. This 22m high observation tower is the perfect spot from which to admire the mine shafts and St. Kinga Park from above. The natural brine mist carried by air is said to be therapeutic for those with respiratory problems. 

The price for the tourist route is 89 ZL for adults. You can get tickets at the entrance of the mine but we recommend you to buy tickets online. Otherwise, you risk having to wait in line for several hours. More info and ticket prices here

How to get there from Krakow

If you are using the Tourist Route, then you need to head for the Danilowicz Shaft which is located at the mine itself. If you are joining the Miners Route, then you need to head for the Regis Shaft, which is located in the center of town. 

By tour; Taking an organized tour from Krakow is the easiest way to visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine. 

By bus; Take bus number 304, which leaves from the shopping mall, Galeria Krakowska. You need to get off the bus at the Wieliczka Kopalnia Soli stop, which is a 5-minute walk from the mine. The bus leaves every 20 minutes and the journey takes around 30 minutes.

By train; Take a train to Wieliczka Rynek from the main Krakow Railway Station. Get off at Wieliczka Kopalnia Soli. The train leaves every 30 minutes and the journey takes around 20 minutes.

By Uber; Uber is not permitted to operate within the Old Town of Krakow, but if you use the Uber app, you can easily locate the nearest point at which you can be collected and taken to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. 

Tourist Route 

The start of the tour begins at the Danilowicz Shaft with a walk down 380 steps to a depth of 64 meters underground. Once we were underground, our tour guide started leading us through various chambers and telling us all about the history, the miners, and the stories of the mine. It was very interesting and incredible to believe that apart from the wooden log supports, everything surrounding us from the ceilings to the floors was made of salt. 

101 meters underground is the Chapel of St. Kinga, which is actually a fair-sized church measuring 54m by 18m, and 12m high. Every single element here, from chandeliers to altarpieces, is of salt. It took over 30 years for one man and then his brother to complete this underground temple, and about 20 000 tonnes of rock salt had to be removed. 

Other highlights are the salt lake in the Erazm Baracz Chamber, whose water contains 320gram of salt per liter, and the 36m high Stanislaw Staszic Chamber. 

The tour ends at the Krakow Saltworks Museum (included in the entry price). From here a fast mining lift takes you back up to the real world. The tour took about 2 hours. 

Tips 

  • The Wieliczka Salt Mine can be visited at any time of the year and in any weather. If you are traveling in high season, try to plan your visit early or late in the day, when there are not as many visitors.
  • You can buy drinks and snacks at a bar and restaurant located in the Drozdowicz Chamber of the mine.
  • Wear good shoes! There are a lot of stairs, tight spaces, and darkly lit areas. If you have trouble walking, you will struggle at the Wieliczka Salt Mine. 
  • The temperature inside the mine is around 17°C, so you will want to dress warmer. If visiting in summer, make sure to bring a warm sweater or a jacket with you.

If you are visiting Krakow, definitely make time to see the Wieliczka Salt Mine!

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