Why you must visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine near Krakow
In all honesty, visiting the Wieliczka Salt Mine near Krakow wasn’t high on my list of things to do in Krakow. Having had some claustrophobic moments in the Cango Caves, one of the many family-friendly things to do in South Africa, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go on a tour 135 metres underground. I couldn’t ignore the rave reviews though and we were passing right by it on our way down to our Zakopane ski holiday, so we decided to give it a go. If you’re going to be visiting Krakow, you should definitely consider adding a Krakow Salt Mine tour to your itinerary.
Here’s a little background information on the Krakow Salt Mines and what we thought of our visit.
History of the Wieliczka Salt Mine
Salt mining began in the mines during the 13th century. During the tour, you’ll hear the legend of how the mine was discovered. We won’t spoil it for you. Mining continued until 1996 when, due to falling salt prices and flooding of the mine, mining of the salt stopped. In 1978 the mines became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and they are now a huge tourist attraction in Poland.
Where is the Wieliczka salt mine?
This Polish salt mine is located in a small town called Wieliczka in the south of Poland. It is sometimes referred to as the Salt Mines Krakow but is actually a little out of Krakow (around 14km to the south). It’s easily accessible if you have a car and a taxi wouldn’t be more than about £10 from the centre of Krakow. If you are relying on public transport, here’s a great guide to public transport options to get to the Wieliczka Salt Mines from Krakow. You can also pick up a tour departing from Krakow.
Wieliczka Salt Mines tour
There are a couple of different tours that you can do, although only one of them is suitable for children under 10. Note that you cannot visit the salt mines without doing a tour because the salt mine is a labyrinth of nearly 250 km of tunnels and you can easily get lost. You need to stay with the guide at all times. We hadn’t done our research properly before arriving and weren’t expecting to do a 3-hour tour. Bear in mind before you visit that there are a LOT of steps.
The tourist route is 3.5 km long and the tour takes about 3 hours. The temperate in the mine is a constant 16 – 18 degrees so even if it is mid-winter above ground, it will feel quite mild underground. There are 800 steps in total on this tour (350 at the very start down a mine shaft) so you need to consider the suitability of this before you start. You’ll see saline lakes, tunnels, chambers with beautifully carved salt sculptures and even a few chapels, with one of them being nothing short of spectacular. The enormous chandeliers in the largest chapel are made almost entirely out of pure salt so the ‘crystals’ are almost completely transparent and look just like the real thing. It’s really an incredible sight.
During the tour, you’re encouraged to touch the salt walls and there’s even mention of licking walls (at your own risk) to check that it is indeed salt. Of course, once the kids heard this, they were determined to lick the walls! Everyone, even the kids, gets a headset to amplify what the guide is saying so you can hear at all times. The tourist route tours are in Polish, English, German, French, Italian, Russian and Spanish. If you need anything other than English, we recommend checking the website for specific tour times for your language of choice.
English tour times
English tours are every 30 minutes so if you haven’t managed to check the times, you won’t have to wait too long.
The miners’ route tour is only available in English and Polish. Tour takes place at 10.30 and 2 pm in English. It’s 2 km long and takes about 3 hours. Visitors will be required to wear protective clothing and have some training before the start of the tour. There are no restaurant facilities on this tour or toilets so you should make sure to go before the tour starts. The temperature on this tour is between 14 – 16 degrees Celsius. We did not do this tour so we can’t comment on it.
Wieliczka Krakow Salt Mine ticket prices
For up to date tour prices, check the Salt mine website. To give you a rough guide, here are the prices for 2020. Children under 4 are free.
Wieliczka Salt Mine tourist route ticket price
Adult 93 PLN
Child (4+) 73 PLN
Family (2 + 2) 259 PLN
Wieliczka Salt Mine miners’ route ticket price
Adult 93 PLN
Child (4+) 73 PLN
Family (2 + 2) 259 PLN
Facilities in the Wieliczka Salt Mine
There are toilets in the mine on the tourist route, but you will have to wait until the ‘rest point’ which is a little over halfway so make sure to go before you start the tour. There is a cafe at this point too and a small gift shop and free wifi (there’s no phone signal in the mine). At the end of the tour (still down in the mines) there is a large cafeteria and toilets. There are no facilities on the miners’ route.
Top tip for visiting the Salt Mines
- Wear sensible clothing. The temperature on the Tourist Route will be between 17-18 degrees and 14-16 degrees on the Miners’ Route.
- Wear sensible shoes. There is a lot of walking and a lot of stairs to navigate.
- Take water and a snack with you, particularly if you’re visiting with kids or doing the miners’ route.
- Consider leaving your tour a couple of minutes before everyone else (at the very end where the exit is in sight). There are only a couple of lifts back up to the surface taking about 6 at a time and you may have a long wait.
Despite being a lot longer than we had thought, the tour was really interesting and like nothing we have ever done before. There’s definitely something to be said for trying something new! We highly recommend it if you are ok with the length of it and negotiating the stairs.