According to Zipcodesexplorer, Wieliczka is a small Polish town half an hour from Krakow with a population of only 20,000 people. Every year about a million tourists from all over the world come here to see with their own eyes the famous salt deposits, known since ancient times. Once the Wieliczka mines were the largest in Europe, and today it is the most popular attraction in Poland, since 1978 it has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Under the city, nine floors deep, there is a system of underground corridors with a total length of 300 km, and cameras – there are about 3,000 of them. iconic places in the salt history of Europe.
How to get to Wieliczka
First of all, you need to get to Krakow, the nearest major city of Poland to Wieliczka. From the central station in Krakow (Kraków Główny) to the salt mines (Kopalnia Soli Wieliczka) can be reached by commuter train to the Wieliczka station – Market Square or by bus number 304 to the Salt Mines stop (departs from the Krakow Gallery – Kourniki Street).
From the Krakow Main Post Office (intersection of Westerplatte and Starovislna streets) every 10-15 minutes, fixed-route taxis leave for Wieliczka (direction Wieliczka – Market Square; stop on demand at the intersection of Dembovskogo and Danilovicha streets).
By car, you can get to Wieliczka if you move southeast along the E-40 highway, the distance from the center of Krakow is 10 km.
History of salt mines in Wieliczka
The formation of the mine occurred naturally – from a salt source. The source eventually emptied and turned into a well, and when it was all drained out, the first miners went down the remaining wide tunnel to the salt deposits. Salt was mined here from the 13th to the 20th century, the total length of the mine galleries was about three hundred kilometers at nine underground levels, down to a depth of 327 m. In the 11th century, salt was evaporated from brines in Wieliczka, and in the 14th, rock salt was mined already by the mine method. This is the only mining and industrial facility in the world that has been continuously operating from the Middle Ages to the present day.
Today, excursions are held in the dungeons of the Veliky spears, during which you can follow how salt mining and processing technologies developed and changed, learn almost everything about the thousand-year history of the mine, enjoy the bizarre beauty of underground lakes and the splendor of chapels. Dozens of salt sculptures and bas-reliefs created by the Veliky salt diggers are also available to tourists and make an indelible impression. In the dungeon you can hold a conference, wedding or other solemn event. Sports competitions and concerts are often held here.
How much does it cost and how to get there
Opening hours: The mine is open daily from 7:30 to 19:30 (the closing time of the ticket office and the descent of the last tourists into the mine) from April 1 to October 31 and from 8:00 to 17:00 from November 2 to March 31. Days off: January 1, the first day of Easter, November 1, December 24, 25.
Tickets must be purchased in the building of the overhead structure of the Danilovich mine, where the inspection begins. During the tourist season, organized groups purchase tickets at the box office located outside, near the Danilovich mine. The visit is only possible with a guide. For individual tourists, the cost of a group tour with a guide who speaks a foreign language (Russian, English, German, French, Spanish, Italian) is 89 PLN.
Tour schedule in Russian: from December 26 to January 31: 11.10, 14.10; June, September: 11.10; July, August: 11.10, 16.15.
Those who wish can book an excursion in advance only for their group, in this case it is necessary to pay an entrance ticket for each member of the group and additionally guide services:
- for groups from 5 to 35 people: entrance ticket PLN 64 per person and PLN 250 for guide services
- for groups up to 5 people: entrance ticket 94 PLN per person and 290 PLN for guide services.
Rules for visiting the Wieliczka salt mine
The tour begins with a descent down a staircase of 380 steps to a depth of 64 meters (this is only the first level of the mine), continues with a tour of 20 old mined-out chambers and ends with a study of the exhibits of the Krakow Salt Mines Museum. After the tour is over, tourists relax in the complex of chambers at a depth of 125 m, where you can buy souvenirs, dine at the Miners’ Tavern and even send a postcard to friends directly from the dungeon. The ascent to the surface is carried out along the Danilevich shaft. The time spent underground is about three hours. The constant temperature inside the mine is +14 °C, so even in summer you should not forget about warm clothes. Of course, smoking and the use of open flames are prohibited.
A special – pilgrimage – tour is offered by advance booking for organized groups. Particular attention on this tour is given to visiting the chapels where the miners performed their daily prayers. After the end of the tour, you will have the opportunity to worship in the chapel of St. John.
For those who like to walk everywhere and everywhere on non-tourist trails, a special program “Secrets of the Veliky mines” has been developed. Also available by advance booking only. This is almost four hours of incredible adventures in the bowels of the earth. Each visitor is equipped with a helmet, special overalls, a real miner’s lamp and a protective filter-absorber. Descent into the ground is carried out only after passing the proper briefing. Of course, the price of such an excursion is higher than usual, but amazing emotions that are possible only away from the usual tourist route are guaranteed!
Treatment in Velichke
The healing properties of salt were talked about as early as the 16th century, and in the 19th century it became common to get an appointment from a doctor for a salt bath. Today, there is an underground sanatorium in Wieliczka, founded by Dr. Mechislav Skulimovsky in 1958, for the treatment of bronchial asthma, allergic rhinitis and inflammation of the bronchi. Yes, and a simple stay in a salt mine is extremely useful for people suffering from diseases of the upper respiratory tract and allergies.