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“Wieliczka” Salt Mine

The giant salt labyrinth beneath the town of Wieliczka has mesmerized tourists for centuries.

When Goethe visited Poland in 1790, he was less interested in nearby Kraków and its monuments than he was in the Wieliczka adits. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the complex in Wieliczka, along with the nearby twin mine in Bochnia, are the only mines in the world that have been in continuous operation from the Middle Ages to the present day.

Since the dawn of time, salt water has oozed from the ground beneath Wieliczka.

High prices for this spice, essential for preserving perishable meat in the 13th century, initiated regular mining. Salt from Wieliczka was exported throughout Central Europe, and the university in Kraków, for example, was founded on the profits from its mining.

The part of the Wieliczka mine open to tourists is only 2% of the 245 kilometers of salt passages!

What you will remember most is a visit to St. Kinga’s Chapel, whose entire furnishings, including chandeliers and striking bas-reliefs, are carved in salt. Known for its excellent acoustics, the chapel regularly hosts concerts, including early music evenings as part of the Misteria Paschalia Festival. Other famous parts of the mine include the lake-filled Weimar Chamber with its spectacular staircase descent (named after Goethe) or the Michałowice Chamber, whose ceiling is held up by an unusual wooden structure reminiscent of Gothic cathedrals or the Moria Mine from “The Lord of the Rings.”

In addition to the standard mine tour, you can also try the “mining” tour.

Wearing a helmet and headlamp on your head and a miner’s overalls, together with your guide you will try your hand at forging salt with a pickaxe, pulling ore carts or driving a bucket wheel.

A regular tour of the “Wieliczka” Salt Mine takes about 3 hours. You will walk about 3.5 kilometers, climbing almost 800 steps. Underground there is a stable temperature of about 17 – 18 degrees Celsius.

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Salzbergwerk Wieliczka (poln. Kopalnia Soli „Wieliczka”)

“Wieliczka” Salt Mine