When visiting Krakow, we took a day to go to Wieliczka (a village close to Krakow), where is one of the oldest and biggest salt mines in Europe. With a length of about 300 km, the mine was built in the 13th century and has actively extracted salt until 2007, being one of the oldest mines still in operation.
The Wieliczka salt mine reaches a depth of 327 meters and is over 287 kilometers long. The rock salt is naturally gray in various shades, resembling unpolished granite rather than the white or crystalline look that many visitors may expect.
A guided tour takes about 3 hours and costs 20 EUR. The tour features corridors, statues, chapels and the underground lake. The guide that took us through the mine was very nice, well prepared, knew a lot of insight info about the mine and the village and answered all our questions, not only had a long speech with no possibility to intervene.
What I really liked about this place is that it presents the history of salt mining with scenes and statues of miners and their way of extracting the salt.
Specific to this place is everything you see is sculpted in salt. The Wieliczka mine is often referred to as “the Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland.” In 1978 it was placed on the original UNESCO list of the World Heritage Sites. Even the crystals of the chandeliers are made from rock salt that has been dissolved and reconstituted to achieve a clear, glass-like appearance.
You can easily get to the Wieliczka Salt Mine with bus 304 departing from the main commercial center in Krakow – Galeria Krakowska (about 30 minutes trip). The bus will leave you just in front of the mine. The visiting hours are from 9AM until 5 PM and there is a English guide every 30 minutes.
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