If a two-hour walk along the dark, underground passages of a salt mine seems like a strange tourist attraction, think again. A stroll though the Wieliczka Salt Mine is nothing short of an exciting journey through crystal chambers and labyrinthine passages that seem to lead straight to the centre of the Earth. Along the way you will encounter unique salt monuments, lakes, and even entire churches hidden more than 65 meters below the surface. If you are not into sightseeing, then in Wieliczka you can always stop for a drink or have a pleasant meal in a nearby restaurant.
In continuous operation since the Middle Ages, the Wieliczka Salt Mine has always been recognized as much more than simply an excavation site. Listed among the UNSECO World Cultural Heritage Monuments, the site has been a popular destination since the late 17th century, drawing such names as Copernicus, Goethe and John Paul II, along with hordes of other people. One of the factors contributing to the popularity of this place is its microclimate, consisting of highly mineralised humid air and a temperature that remains at 7-12°C, regardless of season.
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is in the Lesser Poland Voivodship, some fifty kilometres south-east of Cracow. Located beneath a small and rather industrialised village, also called Wieliczka, the salt mine descends to about 135 meters below the surface, with its numerous passages, underground lakes and chambers carved from huge blocks of crystalline salt. The areas surrounding the mine are typical for the region – rolling hills, thick forests and occasional streams. You can get to Wieliczka most easily by one of the minibuses that run from Cracow's main train station. You can also go by train, which will take you the village station located about 15 minutes away from the mine.
The history of the Wieliczka Salt Mine dates back to the 10th century, which makes it the second oldest mine in Poland (the oldest is the Bochnia mine located some 25 km from Wieliczka). The first records of Wieliczka date back to the 11th and 12th centuries, when it was officially recognized by the Polish king, Bolesław the Brave (995 – 1025). Almost from that moment the Wieliczka Salt Mine became the main economic foundation of the area. This should come as no surprise, considering the fact th... ( more >>)