Wieliczka Salt Mine outside Krakow

 

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Wieliczka Salt Mines are the oldest mines in the world still open. Salt was obtained from the local springs as early as 3000 BC. Magnum Sal (Great Salt) is mentioned in documents from the 11th century. The oldest shaft (Goryszowski) dates from 1280. In 1290 Wieliczka was given town status.


For seven centuries around 7.5 million tons of salt has been mined here, 2040 chambers dug under the ground on nine levels from 57 to 327 meters deep. The chambers are connected by shafts and tunnels, the total length of which is 350 meters. This unique place has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The mine can be entered only in guided groups. The underground route is 2 km long, from 64 to 125 meters deep and crosses 22 chambers. The sightseeing time is approximately 2 – 2,5 hours. Many chambers are ornamented with salt sculptures. The most beautiful Chapel of St Kinga, decorated with sculptures and bas-reliefs from the 19th and 20th centuries can contain up to 500 persons. Chandeliers are decorated with salt crystals. In the Copernicus Chamber stands the 4.5 meters monument of the famous astronomer made of salt. Michalowice Chamber has imposing wooden frameworks. There are also underground lakes with saline water. At a level below the one that tourists visit, there is a small hospital for respiratory disorders.

The tour involves a lot of walking underground so visitors with very young children and the elderly should take it into account before booking the tour. It is important to remember that temperature in the mine remains a constant 15 Celcius degrees all year round.





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