Wieliczka Salt Mines (try saying that three times) is located in Southern Poland, approximately 30 minutes away from Krakow Galleria. This is the oldest operating salt mines in the world and was producing salt until 2007. Currently, Wieliczka Salt Mines is a popular tourist destination. It’s estimated that the mines are 327 meters (roughly 1,973 feet) deep and is over 300 kilometers (190 miles) long. The tour only went down 1/4 of that or roughly 56 flights of stairs deep.
My friend, Mike, was very interested on seeing the salt mines. We decided to take the city buses, which proved to be quite challenging. Unlike Hawai’i's city bus, where you pay as you enter, we had to buy tickets from a ticket dispenser. With no bus employee or any English speaking person around, I’m sure we purchased tickets at a much expensive rate. Mike was smart enough to ask around and he quickly found out that Krakow’s mini bus can take us near there. After we got of the bus, we were dropped in the middle of a town that seemed to be deserted. We saw a salt mine sign pointing up the mountain. Naturally, we started to follow the sign and a nice Polish man stopped us and told us that we had to walk down the mountain instead. To this day, I thank that man. I don’t know what he looked like, but I’m grateful that he told us the right direction.
Our tour was roughly 15-20 with an English speaking tour guide. In the mine, there are many passageways, which are confusing. Definitely not a tour you can guide yourself in. Each stop told us the history behind the mine, as we went further down the mine, the more current the history became.
The whole mine is built out of salt, except for the doors and beams. There are different types of salt, if you can believe that. The only two names I remembered are the spaghetti and cauliflower salt. The names are pretty explanatory on the look of the salt. The look of the salt doesn’t alter a different taste. It all taste the same….salty. There are different colors as well. The most common is white, but a rare color is reddish pink.
There are amazing treasures inside the mines, like a huge cathedral with huge chandeliers made out of…yep, you guessed it, salt. It’s common to have weddings in the mine, which seems odd. BUT…once you get a look at the cathedral, you understand why people want their weddings down there.
When our guide had mention that everything in the mine is salt, I didn’t quite believe her. She was quick to say, “Go ahead, if you are adventurous and lick the walls.” Well, with an invitation like that, can’t be turned down.
Another treasure in the mines are the statues. There is a great statue of Pope John Paul II and Di Vinci’s Last Supper.
So…is the Wieliczka Salt Mines a must see? Yes and no. Do you want to experience something different that most people won’t have the opportunity to see? The salt mines are for you. Do you hate tours and statues? You shall pass on this. I enjoyed myself. I don’t regret it.
***TIP*** Right before you leave the underground mine, we were given an opportunity to shop at the gift shop. Everything in the underground gift shop is DOUBLE the price then the above ground gift shop. They had the same things and it was the same company.
Why is the underground more expensive? Beats me, but I feel like it was a trick. We were never told that there was another gift shop upstairs, so we all thought this was our only opportunity to buy our Wieliczka salt. Don’t do it. Wait until the second ABOVE ground to buy your merchandise. You’ll thank me later.