Wieliczka Salt Mine, a Trip to the Underground World


The Wieliczka Salt Mine is located on the geological rock salt deposit in southern Poland. It is one of the earliest and most important European industrial operations. Because it is not far from Krakow, the Wieliczka Salt Mine becomes one of the perfect day trip destinations from the city.

There are 287 kilometers of tunnels in the mine, around 3,5 kilometers are actually accessible to the public. It is even hard to imagine that there are more than  two thousand chambers in the mine. However, only a few are open to the public. The only way to visit the salt mine is to join a guided tour, for example, Wieliczka Salt Mine Tour Including Hotel Pick-Up. Please click here to see further details.

Alternatively, you can choose one of the following tours with different options.

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About the Tourist Route Tour to Wieliczka Salt Mine

The Tourist Route starts at the Danilowicz Shaft and takes about 3 hours.  The tour visits numerous ancient chambers and chapels in which almost everything in surrounding is made from rock salt, including the tiled floors, chandeliers, sculptures and stringy stalactites that hang down.

The underground tunnels link to chambers in Wieliczka Salt Mi
The underground tunnels link to chambers in Wieliczka Salt Mine

The guided tours are available in many languages.  At the entrance everyone will get a headphone and a small receiver.  The receiver receives the messages from the tour guide. During the entire excursion the tour guide will tell tourists everything they want to know about the mine history and its secrets. The tour covers only 1% of the entire underground world.  Therefore, all visitors must stay with the group and not go off wandering in other parts of the mine which are not open to tourists.

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The underground journey starts with 350 steps at the beginning which take tourists down into the mine.  Visitors don’t need to climb up the stairs but to take elevators to get back to the surface at the end. The following chambers are the highlight during the entire tour I have joined.

Salt Statue in Copernicus Chamber

The first one is the Copernicus Chamber. The salt statue there commemorates the famous tourist Copernicus who visited the Wieliczka mine. Goethe and Pilsudski were also among those famous visitors. During the tour we have also seen their status.

Wieliczka Salt Mine, astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus sculpture in Copernicus chamber
Wieliczka Salt Mine, astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus sculpture in Copernicus chamber

Janowice Chamber

Here the life-sized salt statues illustrate one of the oldest and the most beautiful legends of the Wieliczka Salt Mine. It was said, when the Hungarian Princess Kinga married, she received as dowry one of the salt mines in the Marmaros region, and she cast her engagement ring into the mine.  Her ring, together with salt deposits, miraculously traveled to Wieliczka.  Kinga ordered to dig in a particular place. In the first block of salt the miners found her ring. Since then salt has been plentiful in Poland.

The legend of St. Kinga is illustrated by a group of sculptures located in the Janowice Chamber in the Wieliczka Salt Mine
The legend of St. Kinga is illustrated by a group of sculptures located in the Janowice Chamber in the Wieliczka Salt Mine

St. Kinga’s Chapel

The story is a fairy tale but St- Kinga was a real person, a Hungarian Princess. As a patron saint of salt mine workers, St. Kinga’s Chapel in the Wieliczka Salt Mine is dedicated to her. Made exclusively of rock salt, the world’s biggest church built underground is located at the depth of 101 meters in the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Chandeliers made of salt crystals light the entire area. The chapel has amazing acoustics and features bas-relief carvings from the New Testament done by miners on the walls. These are incredible scenes. There are many religious figures carved in the walls of the chapel. In my opinion, it is rather a ballroom than a chapel.

Saint Kinga’s Chapel at the Wieliczka Salt Mine
Saint Kinga’s Chapel at the Wieliczka Salt Mine
Bas Relief of the Last Supper at Saint Kinga’s Chapel
Bas Relief of the Last Supper at Saint Kinga’s Chapel

Spalone Chamber

The chamber is a recreation of dangerous mine jobs. In old times, methane explosions were a great danger for the mine. This colourless gas accumulating under the chamber ceiling was burnt out by experienced miners, known as the Penitents who dressed in wet clothes with torches on long poles, and crawled on the floor of the excavations.

Grammarly Writing Support

Sielec Chamber

There weren’t a lot of machines back in old times. A lot of the work was done by humans or animals. It was very dark as well, with torches as the only source of light. In the Sielec Chamber, tourists can see a collection of authentic devices used to transport salt in underground galleries. In the old time, the miners used wooden carts, known as Hungarian dogs, chests, and special sledges to carry out their jobs. Fine salt was put into barrels, and large blocks of salt were stored as barrel-shaped rolls and rolled on wooden platforms. Horses were used for helping miners in transporting salt to the ground level.

Horse driven winch for Dragging salt to the surface The Sielec Chamber
Horse driven winch for Dragging salt to the surface The Sielec Chamber

An underground saline lake

Along the way, we followed a narrow shaft which leads us to an amazing saline lake. It would inspire scenes for a fantasy movie in the darkness.  The lake holds more than 300g of salt per litre, It is so salty that no single gram of salt will dissolve in them. The lake had a nice shade of blue even in the darkness of the chamber. I don’t know if it is a natural one or not.

We were entertained a moment for hearing the music of Chopin accompanying a light and sound effect on the shore of the saline lake.

An underground saline lake
An underground saline lake

Michalowice Chamber

The chamber has an incredibly high ceiling. It is so high but still underground. What is impressive here is the wooden mine support system which has been built to prevent the collapse of the chamber. The extraordinary timber constructions, for example, the monumental cluster pillars in the Michalowice Chamber are definitely the carpenter’s masterpieces.

Support wooden structure in Michalowice Chamber
Support wooden structure in Michalowice Chamber

Józef Piłsudski Chamber

It has also wooden supports painted in white much like the Michalowice chamber’s support. What makes this chamber different is that there is a pool of water here as well as a tunnel which connects to another chamber. The illumination alone the wooden stair look stunning and mysterious.

Stanislaw Staszic Chamber

This is the largest chamber accessible to visitors. Here is also the end of our guided tour.  It took us two hours to see all the things described here. Our tour guide told us that we would not be possible to get lost in there and would find our way out. The eye-catcher is a large UNESCO marker. The Wieliczka Salt Mine was one of the first among 12 sites from all around the world to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The 12 UNESCO sites are listed on the marker.

UNESCO Marker at the Wieliczka Salt Mine
UNESCO Marker at the Wieliczka Salt Mine

A shop is now selling souvenirs such as salt crystal products. There are some seating areas for visitors to relax. Toilets are also available there.

Restaurant, Museum and Ballroom chambers

We followed a long walkway to the underground restaurant where fresh and appetizing meals are prepared and served. The sitting area is decorated in a modern way.  There is an exit with a high-speed elevator that shoots you back up to the surface.

The underground restaurant in Wieliczka Salt Mine
The underground restaurant in Wieliczka Salt Mine

Be aware that the tour does not end at the restaurant.  Those who still have enough strength can continue the journey to the Krakow Saltworks Museum.  It is included in the price and will take an hour or so to look around.

A corner of the mine ballroom in Wieliczka Salt Mine
A corner of the mine ballroom in Wieliczka Salt Mine

Thanks to EU co-financing in April 2014 the “Wieliczka” Salt Mine opened two new chambers 125 meters within the depths of the mine: Lill Gorna and Kazanow.  We were able to visit the multimedia exposition “Salt of life” in the excavations.  This the one-and-only in the world underground 5D cinema.

We were able to see a film in the 5D cinema area, a spectacle at the salt crystal and use over 20 interactive multimedia stands, games and applications. It is a good education centre for kids as well. The main theme of the exposition is salt presented from many points of view and in various applications.

Grammarly Writing Support

Conclusion

The historic Wieliczka Salt Mine shows an underground metropolis.  During the journey, I have seen unusual places and the power of human hands that once excavated rock salt. Having walked through kilometres of meandering corridors and ramps, I was so much attracted by impressive chambers, wooden structures, lakes and breathtaking salt statues.


Besides, those who eager to learn more about the mine can benefit from the multimedia technology coming across along the route. That makes the tour being very informative and attractive. It is definitely a place worth a visit.

Tips

Where to buy tour tickets

You can book a  Wieliczka Salt Mine Tour online. It includes door-to-door transportation, English guided tour and the entrance ticket.  It saves your traveling time and administrative effort.

Or, you can buy tickets on site and check the outside display for the time of the next guided tour in your language (tours are offered in Polish, English, Russian, French, Italian, Spanish and German). As it is a well-visited place, you should expect a waiting time.

Sculptures from rock salt in Wieliczka Salt Mine
Sculptures from rock salt in Wieliczka Salt Mine

What to wear

We visited the place in May. The mine is constantly around 15 degrees Centigrade. So you might need to wear a warm jacket during the visiting. It is recommended to wear comfortable shoes.

How to get to Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka Salt Mine is located 16 kilometres southeast from Krakow. There are many ways to get there from Krakow, by bus, by train or by car. Check here to get the detail information.

Walkway towards the exit of Wieliczka Salt Mine
Walkway towards the exit of Wieliczka Salt Mine

 

 

2 Comments

  1. This is so cool! Almost like something out of Indiana Jones 🙂 I’m hoping to visit Krakow next year and will definitely be going to the salt mine.

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