To get to the Wieliczka Salt Mines, a UNESCO world heritage site, one can take bus 304 from Krakow or a mini-bus (same prices, but less comfortable than the main bus and probably not as nice a view). Either costs 2,60 zl each way (less than $1). I always enjoy figuring out how to buy tickets; there always seems to be something new for me in a new country. Here, pretty straightforward: if you have coins, you can buy from the machine in the bus. Some bus stops have a machine that accept bank notes. Either way, don’t forget to stamp the ticket once in the bus!
The ride was pretty smooth and took about 20 mins. We got off the bus when we saw other tourists in the bus do the same but we didn’t know where to go. My thought was to follow them but unfortunately the two parties took an equal number of separate routes, placing us in a quandary. But with some confidence, we followed one of the parties and made it fine. But we got to see some of the area around the mines as we made it there!
At the mines, there are English tours available with groups starting every hour or so. We hadn’t checked ahead with the information office in Krakow (always a good idea, especially with so many info offices in Krakow!) so we got lucky that the next English tour was like in 10 mins. Taking the tour in English cost extra but was worth it.
The tour starts with a climb down a staircase that was maybe 25 stories. You then meander through tunnels between chambers in the mine, each chamber with different decorations (mostly religious and most all made from salt too). Since the miners used to have daily Mass offered down there, a few of the chambers are chapels. The most impressive chambers are at the bottom of the tourist route and well worth seeing. One hardly feels “trapped” while there as it is well ventilated. The salty air is actually quite good for you (which I undid later in the evening by going to a pub with all the smoking that goes on in such places – not by me). People with respiratory ailments supposedly visit longer for therapeutic reasons. The tour took about 2 hrs and the guide interjected the usual funny comments along the way. At the end of the tour, well over 100m underground, there is even a cafeteria in one of the big chambers in the mine.
To go back up, we didn’t have to climb back up but were packed tighter than sardines in a lift about 2.5ft deep by maybe 4ft wide. Good thing the person right in front of me had brushed his teeth and wore deodorant!
The salt mines get a thumbs up, especially because they are so accessible from Krakow and they are simply an experience!