One of the must-see places when you visit Krakow, Poland is Wieliczka Salt Mine. Located 16km from Krakow it dates back to the 13th century. The Royal Salt Mines of Wieliczka has chambers, corridors that span over 287 kilometres and a lift that goes into scary depths of up to 327 metres.
Carved Miner Inside Wieliczka Salt Mine ©MDHarding
A Visit To Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland
About Wieliczka Salt Mine
Wieliczka Salt Mine ©MDHarding
Established by Royal degree, Wieliczka Salt Mine is one of the worlds oldest operating salt mines. Producing table salt until 2007, then in the 1990s the mine flooded and all salt mining ceased. It was one of the first UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1978. Dating back to the 13th century, rock salt was really important and helped stabilize Poland's economy. It has been welcoming visitors since 1722.
King Casimir III the Great (reigned 1333–1370) contributed greatly to the development of the Wieliczka Salt Mine, granting it many privileges and taking the miners under his care. In 1363 he founded a hospital near the salt mine.
So large that visitors today only see around 2% of the salt labyrinth. The site is a popular attraction and see's many of its visitors between June and September.
Reaching Wieliczka Salt Mine
Train Travel Between Krakow & Wieliczka Salt Mine ©MDHarding
You can take the number 304 bus from the bus station and it drops you on the main street just a few minutes walk to the main entrance.
The bus costs 4PLN each way per person or you can buy a return ticket for 7,60PLN. We opted for a single ticket as wanted to try the train on the return trip. The bus takes 40 minutes.
The other option is to travel by train. We found this a bit more complicated as the tickets are only valid for a period of time. Read more with Discover Krakow.
Options To Visit Wieliczka Salt Mine
You can visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine in a number of ways including travelling there and buying your own ticket or taking an organised tour.
Here are some options for organised tours;
If you decide to go independently on arrival, there are a number of ticket options including the Tourist Route, Mining Route and also opting to visit the Graduation Tower. Each of these has a family-friendly option available. Though the Mining Route has a minimum child age of 10 years old.
We took the individual group tour of the Tourist Route in English which takes 2 hours across level III, length 1.5 km. The ticket costs 93PLN and includes the guide fee (I was kindly gifted my ticket to both the Tourist Route and Graduation Tower). There is also the option to stay longer, visit the underground exhibition with its many stones and minerals. Don't miss the 3D film about the saltworks, which is really interesting.
The tour takes you up and down the salt labyrinth to a maximum depth of 135 metres, through its multiple shafts and across many levels with a gruelling 300 steps at the entrance Daniłowicz Shaft. Throughout the walking tour learn about the history, visit the Chapel of St. Kingi chamber, see the incredible art salt works including the Last Supper. Over the tour, there are 800 stairs please do wear comfortable and toe covered shoes. The temperature below ground is between 17 - 18 degrees. For me, it was quite comfortable but I was also wearing a fleece. Photography and video inside are allowed but not large bags. Thankfully we only had the camera bag.
Did you know you can stay below ground after the tour and, enjoy a snack or refreshment at Karczma Górnicza 125 metres below ground? It's an incredible place to sit and relax, enjoy good food and company of your fellow tour-goers.
The tours are accessible for children, groups and there is also an adapted version for wheelchair users.
After the really informative tour, visiting the museum, seeing the 3D film and enjoying a hearty dish, we decided to explore further and visit the Graduation Tower.
About The Graduation Tower
Graduation Tower, Wieliczka Spa Town, Poland ©MDHarding
The ancient-looking structure is filled with blackthorn branches, where brine flows creating a microclimate within the tower acting as a natural treatment inhalatorium. Where you can sit and relax and breathe in the health benefiting properties. To get the most of the treatment it is recommended to visit twice a day for between 15 - 30 minutes each time. Afterwards taking a brisk walk afterwards, such as a visit to the top of the tower for the views.
It is said to help alleviate respiratory issues such as rhinitis, sinusitis, laryngitis, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and bronchial asthma.