Wieliczka Salt Mine in Krakow
Uncover the historical Wieliczka salt mines Krakow and explore its labyrinth of mysterious chambers and winding tunnels. You’ll find these spectacular salt mines just 14km southeast of Krakow, which will only take you around 20 minutes on the bus or by car. The salt mines are a popular tourist attraction in Poland, where you can navigate through the underground mines and marvel at the sheer beauty of your surroundings.
History of the salt mines
The salt mines in Krakow have provided a great source of sodium chloride to make table salt since the 13th century. Back in World War II, Germans used the mine as a base to manufacture items, tools and weapons. Locals enjoy telling the legend about Princess Kinga, who is said to have thrown her engagement ring into a shaft of a mine in Maramaros before fleeing to Poland. Then, miraculously, miners came across a rock and, upon splitting it in two, found the engagement ring inside.
Exploring the mines
When you’re down in the mines, you’ll discover sculptures carved from the salt formations. You’ll have 22 chambers to explore as you venture 135 metres beneath the earth’s surface. Interestingly, there are chapels down there too, which is probably one of the last things you’d expect to come across. Your guide will take you through the mines and as you explore, you’ll eventually come across the salt lake within the enchanting Erazm Baracz Chamber. The waters of this salty lake are denser than the Dead Sea.
When you’re finished exploring the chambers and caves of this UNESCO World Heritage site, you can take a large elevator to the surface.
The Chapel of St. Kinga
The Chapel of St Kinga is found in a chamber measuring 54m by 18m and 12m high. Salt crafted chandeliers dip from the high ceilings and even the elegantly carved altarpiece is made entirely from salt. This church took around 30 years to complete and the dedication of its three craftsmen is evident with every detail of the church. The glowing chandeliers provide a romantic but mysterious atmosphere inside the chapel, which lies 101 metres underground.
Around 400 people can fit in the chapel at any one time. Special events are often held in the church such as weddings, concerts and Sunday mass.
Krakow Saltworks Museum
After the tour ends, you’ll have walked a distance of around 2km. Comfortable shoes are a must. It can get quite chilly down in the salt mines too, so bring a jacket with you when you visit. There’s more to see in the Krakow Saltworks Museum, which occupies 14 chambers on level three of the mine. Some of the most famous sculptures to look out for during your tour of the mines is Leonardo’s The Last Supper, which is expertly carved into a rock salt wall. Another must-see sculpture is the statue of Pope John Paul II and St. Kinga, both of which are made entirely out of rock salt.
At the end of your tour, you’ll have the opportunity to search through the museum and visit the underground restaurant too.
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