Wieliczka Salt Mine
Wieliczka Salt Mine – Wieliczka (read: vyeh-leech-kah) which is renowned for its deep salt mine is located some 14 km southeast of Kraków. It’s an sinister world of chambers and pits, and everything within it has artificially been carved from salt blocks. The mine features a labyrinth of tunnels, approximately 300 km distributed more than nine tiers, the deepest is being 327 m underground. A part of the mine, from 64 m to 135 m below ground, some twenty two chambers connected by galleries, is open to the public, and it’s a exciting trip.
The mine is famous for its health-giving properties, as well as for the preservative qualities of its microclimate. At a depth of 135 m, an underground sanatorium has been established, where chronic allergic diseases can be treated by overnight stays.
The salt-hewn formations has chapels with figures and altarpieces, while the others are adorned with monuments and statues, and there are underground lakes as well. The ornamented Chapel of St Kinga (Kaplica Św Kingi) which becomes the showpiece here, is literally a fair-sized church which is 54 m by 18 m wide, and 12 m high. Each single element here, from altarpieces to chandeliers is made of salt. It took more than 30 years (1895) for a man and then his brother to finish the underground temple, and roughly 20,000 tonnes of rock salt had to be picked up. The other highlights here are the salt lake inside Erazm Barącz Chamber, whose water contains 320 gr of salt per litre, and the 36 m high Stanisław Staszic Chamber.
A visit to the Kraków Saltworks Museum is included in the entry price, accommodated in fourteen worked-out chambers on the third tiers of this mine, where the tour completes, but most tourists look like ‘over-salted’ by then. From here a fast mining elevator takes tourists back up to the true world.
The tour takes about 2 hours and tourists are guided in groups. You will walk about 2 km through this mine, so put on comfortable shoes! The temperature inside the mine is about 14°C. In July and August from 8.30 am to 6 pm, English language tours depart every 30 minutes. There are between six and eight daily tours in English during the rest of the year.The minibuses to Wieliczka (3zł) depart Kraków often between 6 am and 8 pm, from makeshift bus stands along ul Pawia, across the street from the Galeria Krakowska shopping mall which is near Kraków Główny train station. Some tour operators, including Cracow City Tours, operate bus tours to the mine for approximately 130zł, which is including admission.