Nature, by itself, is already magical and incredible. But with the help of humans, nature’s beautiful creation can be transformed into something absolutely breathtaking.
The magical Wieliczka Salt Mine near Krakow, Poland, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978, which isn’t surprising considering how eerily beautiful it is.
The salt mine, first opened in the 13th century, reaches 1,072 feet at its deepest point. Inside, you will find mesmerizing underground lakes, 2,000 chambers, and intricately-designed chapels with enormous chandeliers. Amazingly, everything in it is made of salt!
The Wieliczka Salt Mine used to be called Magnum Sal, which means Great Salt. It was the largest source of salt in Poland during the 13th century, which really helped boost the country’s economy at the time. Today, it is one of the main tourist attractions in Poland.
All 2,000 chambers—even its corridors, floors, statues, altars—are all made entirely of salt. The magical and massive chandeliers—which were also the handiwork of miners—contain crystal salt, which is the purest type of salt.
Although it’s hard to imagine how salt can make up this entire structure, this material actually has a hardness comparable to that of gypsum.
“The processing of salt itself is not difficult; however, in order to professionally carve in salt, one needs to have a lot of experience with this material,” explained Aleksandra Sieradzka of the Wieliczka Salt Mine marketing and communications department in an interview with Bored Panda.
“Every block of salt is different—it differs not only in size or hardness, but also in color, which can be used in an interesting way in the act of creation.”
There are also select chambers in the mine where people can hold events. One big ballroom and a few smaller ones can cater to events, including New Year’s concerts that take place during the first weekend of January.
The Chapel of St. Kinga—the patron saint of salt miners—is one of the most beautiful areas in the salt mine. Its interiors were built over 25 years and feature recreations of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper,” “Crucifixion of Jesus,” “Madonna and Child,” and salt statues of St. Joseph and Pope John Paul II. It sits at a depth of 330 feet underground.
This place is a must-visit not just for its inherent beauty but also for its purported health benefits. The air inside the salt mine is remarkably clear, which is why some people—especially those with chronic allergies—go in to relieve their symptoms. Hundreds of patients spend up to 14 days in the mine to breathe in its therapeutic air.
A spa that offers saline baths and salt mud baths has also been set up in the 19th century. It is the only underground resort in Poland since 2011.
If you’re too tired to walk all the way back up after reaching the nearly 450-feet deep bottom, there is an elevator that will bring you back to ground level in 30 seconds.
Millions of tourists visit the salt mine every year. Only 2% of the entire underground structure is open to tourists, so you can only imagine how enormous it really is.
Tours always take place under a guide’s supervision since it’s very easy to get lost in the labyrinth. Although it’s available for all ages, the website warns that there are over 800 steps to climb.
This magical place temporarily closed during the onset of the pandemic but reopened on June 7, 2020.
If you plan to visit one of these days, you will be asked to wear a face mask during the tour in line with new protocols. Guests will also have their temperature taken and will be asked to disinfect their hands.
Take a peek inside the gorgeous Wieliczka Salt Mine in the gallery below.
Visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine website for more information.