A World Class Attraction:
"The Salt Mine of Wieliczka"
Temperature in the Wieliczka Salt Mine stays uniform 15 degrees
Celsius, i.e. 59 Fahrenheit, round the year.
Except it's closed on January 1, Easter Sunday, November 1,
December 4, Christmastide (i.e. December 24-25), and December 31.
April through Octobervisitors may see the Wieliczka Salt Mine between
7:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., and November through March from 8 a.m. till
4 p.m. All visitors need to join a guided tour.
We took a tour to Wieliczka Salt Mine about 10 km from central Krakow. I thought the place wasn’t at all appetizing when we arrived at the mine. We hop on a lift and went down to level one which is 64 meter underground and met the tour guide. I have never seen anything like it. To me it’s like a museum showing how the miners used to live and work. From level one you followed a passage to level three which is 135 meter deep. Within the passage you’ll stop at chambers and the tour guide will explain the significant of the chamber. There were chambers with preserved traces of mining works, machines and devices. You can even handle the devices and pretend you were the salt mine worker. There were chapels, and cathedrals for the miners to keep in touch with god. It is almost like living in underground village. The star of the show is the Saint Kinga Chapel and everything in the chapel is from rock salt. The chandelier, carving of the Last Supper, Virgin Mary statue, the Altar, other statues, the floor all carve from rock salt. The model in few of the chambers like the Janowice Chamber and Kreciny Chamber was also carved from rock salt. Along the passages you’ll struck a small monument of Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, Joseph Pilsudski, Miko Kopernik all carved from rock salt. The other high lite is the underground lake.
The actual mine is 327 meters deep and 300 km long. For visitors you can only go from 64 meter to 135 meter deep. You can either walk down to level one or catch the lift.
The mine was built in the 13th century. In the medieval time salt were expensive commodities and commercially it was equivalent to today’s oil. Wieliczka Salt Mine was one world’s largest company and oldest in the world. No longer used as a commercial mine till 1996 and now is a tourism industry. The mine is also beneficial for the treatments of asthma, respiratory system and allergies. Oh yeah the salt mine is nothing like the colour of table salt it's greyish in colour.
I thought visiting the salt mine was a great experience. The Wieliczka Salt Mine is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
"The salt was worth more than silver"
Legend says that when the Hungarian Princess Kinga (Kunegunda in Hungarian ) went to marry with the ruler of Krakow, she wanted to give the Poles something unknown, so she threw her ring into a salt well , and when she came to Wieliczka , she ordered to make a hole in the ground and pulled out a rock salt crystal where it was Kinga's ring
There is evidence that the mine is in operation since 1040 and has produced huge profits for its entire history for the monarchy in Poland
The mine has 300 km of tunnels and reach 327m deep. Today no longer they extract salt and it is exploited for tourism, such as was done since the fourteenth century when it had access to the nobility of the court and the Kings with important visits
As it took a long time for miners to leave the mine for their religious devotions they decided that Catholic services were held inside the mine and for that they carved statues, churches and even a cathedral, Santa Kirga, where absolutely everything is made of rock salt : the saints, altar , rceilings ... even the chandeliers
For hundreds of years unknown miners have carved tunnels, chambers, figures, saints, shrines and even St. Kinga cathedral that you may know during the visit of several miles (3.5 km) that are made after descending almost 100m (see the photo) with an staircase of 400 steps. The advantage is that to go up they take you with a fast mine elevator that takes a few seconds
Although it seems unbelivable there are in the cave lakes, music halls, restaurants and medical treatments
"La sal valía más que la plata"
La leyenda dice que cuando iba a casarse la princesa hungara Kinga (Kunegunda en húngaro) con el regidor de Cracovia , quería regalar a los Polacos algo desconocido , por lo que tiró su anillo a un pozo se sal y cuando llegó a Wieliczka mandó hacer un agujero en el suelo y sacó una piedra de cristal de sal en la cual estaba el anillo de Kinga
Hay datos de que la mina está en explotación desde 1040 y de los grandes ingresos que ha producido durante toda su historia a la monarquía de Polonia
La mina tiene más de 300 kms de túneles y alcanzan los 327m de profundidad. Hoy en día han dejado de extraer sal y en ella se explota la actividad turística , tal como se venía haciendo desde el siglo XIV cuando accedían a ella los personajes de la corte y los Reyes con sus visitas importantes
Como les llevaba mucho tiempo a los mineros salir para realizar sus devociones religiosas se decidió que los servicios católicos se realizaran dentro de la mina y para ello se tallaron estatuas , se hicieron iglesias y hasta una catedral , de Santa Kirga , donde absolutamente todo es de sal de roca , los santos , el altar los techos... hasta los candelabros
Durante cientos de años mineros desconocidos han labrado túneles , Salas , figuras , santos , altares y hasta catedrales como la de Santa Kinga que se ven durante la visita de varios kilómetros ( 3.5 Kms ) que se hace después de descender casi 100m por una escalera ( la de la foto ) con 400 peldaños . La ventaja es que la subida se hace en un rápido ascensor de Mina que tarda 30 degundos
Aunque parezca mentira también hay dentro de la cueva : lagos , salas de música , de concierto y tratamientos medicinales
"the historic salt mine in wieliczka is the only site in the world (!) where mining has continued since the middle ages. lying on nine levels, its original excavations (longitudinals, traverses, chambers, lakes, as well as lesser and major shafts) stretch for the total of 300 kilometres: reaching the depth of 327 metres they illustrate all the stages of the development of the mining technology over time."
it's on the unesco's list (as the old town in krakow) and it's a must to see!!!
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is an incredible thing to see.
Most of the time you will spend about 150 m underground. Everything is made entirely out of salt: the floor, the steps, the walls, the carvings, wall art even the chapels and the church. If thats not amazing enough, make sure to check out the underground orchestra and the art exhibit. You can also visit the museum and send a postcard to a friend from 150 m below the earth's surface. There is also a restaurant there in case you get hungry. The wieliczka also holds 2 Guiness Recors. Amazing!
PS Its also a rehabilitation site for those with weak health (particularly those with thyroid disease).
The Wieliczka Salt Mines are located less than 10 miles east of Krakow and is easily visited in a day.
It is the oldest salt mine in Poland and has nine levels, with a total depth of close to 900 feet. Only a small portion of this is able to be toured. On this tour you will see an underground lake, several salt chapels, and numerous salt carvings. In addition, if you are interested in geology you can tour a geologic museum before returning to the main level in an operating mining elevtor!
Tours last approximately an hour and a half and are availible in many languages.
The salt mine is amazing! The trip is well worth it. However, if you are unable to or have trouble walking you should consider paying extra to take the elevator as there are slightly less than 400 steps to descend and the tour is about a mile long.
This place is fabulous. quite unbelievable.
You go so deep underground and marvel at the skill of the miners.
The cathredral is actually used for weddings.
At the end of the tour, there is a bar/restaurant that is the furthest underground in the world
This place is truly astonishing
Wieliczka salt mine, which is on the UNESCO world heritage list, is definitely worth visiting. The tour gives you a view of what it was like to work at 160 meters underground, excavating salt.
What I didn't appreciate, was the "forced" shopping at the end of the tour. Instead of sending everybody back up after the tour finished, you had to stay down for another half an hour, so you had time to browse the little shops. We don't like that kind of tourism, so we went up before the time our guide had told us.
I notice that people here, and elsewhere, aren't too impressed by the salt mine. Me, I thought it was absolutely fascinating and it certainly was a unique experience (and our 60 year-old guide added some great personal touches ;)).
It has everything you could possibly want from a tourist attraction: history, architecture, art, social commentary and even bars! The 700 year-old mine (slightly older than our guide) descends some 327 metres and has an estimated 300 kilometres of shafts and tunnels, most of which were hand-hewn, for the purpose of extracting the salt. This came from an ancient sea which dried up during the early Miocene period which subsequent tectonic movements then covered and compressed to form a series of strata of pure rock salt.
This all took place about 13.5 million years ago and the site has been mined, albeit shallowly, since pre-history. Serious underground mining began about 700 years ago, as legend has it at the behest of Queen Kinga who wanted the site as her dowry, and in the mid 16th to 17th centuries the mine employed over 2000 miners and was one of the main contributors to the Polish economy.
As the mine deepened and became more complex the miners constructed chapels at strategic points in order to perform their ritual worship. Caverns were hewn and simple altars constructed from the salt itself and because of the constraint of bring flammable materials underground the iconery and other religous paraphernalia were also carved from the material available - once again the salt.
As modern methods of salt processing advanced the mining operation became uneconomical and in the early 1960's Wieliczka ceased commercial production. The chapels and chambers though provided a unique touristic opportunity (the mine already had a rudimentary tourist appeal) and so subsequent development has been to that effect.
The earlier salt sculptures were by a trio of self-taught working miners, which led to the mine being recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, and more modern pieces are now being added by internationally-renowned artists. The mine manages to both tell an industrial tale and to be a gallery of unique artworks, religous and secular, and is still very much a work inprogress.
The modern tourist route begins with a 378 step descent to the 65 metre below ground First Upper Level and over the course of a 2 kilometre journey takes you down to the the 101 metre deep Kinga's Chapel, which is definitely the highlight of the tour. And, of course there's a bar at the start and a bar at the end which are pretty necessary IMHO as salt-walking is very thirsty work (Oh and there's also a strategic loo break about midway!).
For all the useful info, such as opening times, prices etc., visit the website below:
The largest among the underground chapels in the Wieliczka Salt Mine, the CHAPEL OF SAINT KINGA or KAPLICA SW. KINGI, is actually a sizable subterranean church carved in rock salt and embellished with salt sculptures and bas-reliefs.
The Chapel has been a place of worship since 1896. Its ornamentation has been created over a period of more than a 100 years.
When I first glimpsed the Chapel (photo #1) , I was struck with awe at its vastness and beauty. The first thing noticeable are the beautiful chandeliers (photo #5) , made up of rock salt crystals. The focus of the chapel is the wonderful altar (photo #2). To the left is the replica of Da Vinci's "The Last Supper" (photo #4) carved in a wall of rock salt.
There is also a wonderful carving of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (photo #3).
The newest addition to the chapel is the salt statue of Pope John Paul II
An excellent website for the Salt Mine:
Sunday May 30, 2010 - VT Group Tour to Wieliczka Salt Mine
The Historic WIELICZKA SALT MINE, located 10 km from the centre of Krakow, is the only mine in the world where mining has been continuous since the Middle Ages. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site September 9, 1978. Every year the salt mine (we called it a Gold Mine) attracts millions of tourists from around the world.
Constructed on nine levels, these excavations stretch for 300 kilometres and reach a depth of 327 metres. To enter the first chamber, visitors have to descend the stairs (380 steps in all) at Level I which is 64 metres below ground level.
The walk through the Salt Mine takes about three hours. As you walk, you will see magnificent formations such as chapels cut in the salt (Chapel of Saint Kinga situated 101 metres under the ground), underground lakes and hundreds of stalagmites and stalactites. You will see on display, the tools used by the miners when they worked underground and the many sculptures made of salt.
A vast underground city, the Salt Mine also contains a restaurant and souvenir shops. The underground chambers also serve as venues for organizing conferences, banquets, parties, concerts and even weddings.
Going back up to the surface (135 metres) you use a special express lift up the Danilowicz Shaft from Level 3. Seven people were crammed in there at once. Remember, thousands of tourists visit every day and there is only one way up. In just minutes, we were up to the surface - amazing!
Prices: Regular 65 zl
Reduced 51 zl
photo/video permit 10 zl
An excellent website is the official Kopalnia website:
The Wieliczka Salt Mine was a very impressive place to visit.
It´s an old salt mine that is considerd world heritage because it´s not just a salt mine but also a whole underground village with chapels, staues and churches built in to it.
All made in salt.
It´s really hard to describe, but has to be seen.
One thing i would certainly recommend is to pay the little extra cost for a photo permit there as it is certainly worth it.
This was a fabulous place. I went as part of the Euromeet2010 tour and would have had a great time no matter where we went but this was something special. I would definitely want to go here if you were visiting Krakow. The rock salt carvings are magical as are various chapels but the main one is something else. It was one of those few places that took my breath away when I saw it. The photos do not do this justice so you'll have to go yourself.
You have to pay extra (10pln) to take photos inside and get a sticker/permit to allow you to do so. At the end of the tour there is a restaurant which serves food and drink and a few souvenir stalls.
The guided tour that we had was fab but as ever, at your own pace may be better. There is an audio guide available.
It was a main operation for mining for 700 years, and some still is mined in side routes. At one time during the heh day, the salt supported 1/3 of the Poland economy. There are 180 miles of routes underground, and only 2 miles are on tour. It is 9 levels, or 1000 feet down via elevator. That would even guarantee you to have a chance to get lost, though. It is a large and winding passageway. The miners sculpted many characters in working pose and also fairy tale elves.
The cavernous church called Saint Kingas was built down under in the 20th century and was used as a church for everyday services, and is still used for mass and events/weddings. It has two chandeliers and an altar with Jesus at the alcove. It took many years (est 20-30)to carve out of the salt base. The miners did this to commemorate their dead comrades and to use as praying services for the risk they take in going down into the mine. Sculpture Anoyo did a piece of Pope John II. This church is the highlight of the walking tour, but also the impact of the large size of the mine is beyond belief.
The real drawback is the tour, in a language of your choice, takes you to stop at no less than 6-maybe 7 souvenir places along the way and almost force you to "want to buy" something. I did not like that at all. I was on a tour, and was pushed into a situation to shop for trinkets at all of these stops. The tour itself is for about one mile walking.
I had never been to a saltmine before and boy! -- was I in for a treat when I visited the Wieliczka Salt Mine on the southeast outskirts of Krakow!
To reach the mine, I had to walk for about 2000 m down claustrophobic stairs and to go around the subterranean museums and cathedral took about three hours. But going up was thankfully through a quicker elevator!
The mine was worked on for 900 years. It used to be one of the world's biggest and most profitable industrial establishments when common salt was commercially a medieval equivalent of today's oil.
Nine centuries of mining in Wieliczka produced a total of some 200 kilometers of passages as well as 2,040 caverns of varied size. The tourist route starts 64 m deep, includes twenty chambers, and ends 135 m below the earth surface, where the world's biggest museum of mining is located with the unique centuries-old equipment among its exhibits. Still below, some 210 m deep, there is a sanatorium for those suffering from asthma and allergy. Occasionally concerts and other events take place in the Wieliczka mine’s biggest chambers.
There's also a chamber there that serves as a gift shop and I was able to buy some "salt" statues and wall hangings (12 apostles). But if you missed buying here, there are also gift shops up at the entrance. I did buy this very nice necklace for my Mom which she still treasures to this day - I think it was made of amber. I got something else for my wife in Poland.
UNESCO has entered the Wieliczka Salt Mine in its World Heritage Register.