The Wieliczka region has been used for salt production for many centuries. Originally, brine springs were exploited but underground extraction for table salt dates from the 13th century. Over the years, the mine has been continuously expanded to a depth of over 300 metres, with the length of passages approaching 300 kilometres. There are also numerous large chambers. Many of these rooms have elaborate carvings.
Extractions ceased in 2007 but the site remains open as a stunning tourist attraction. The main visitor route covers around three and a half kilometres and attracts over a million vistors a year. As well as the underground visit, there are surface attractions including museums, hotels and a centre for speleotherapy.
The Wieliczka Salt Mine was placed on the original UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1978. Their citation includes: ‘The galleries, the subterranean chambers arranged and decorated in ways that reflect the miners’ social and religious traditions, the tools and machinery, and the Saltworks Castle which administered the establishment for centuries, provide outstanding testimony about the socio-technical system involved in the underground mining of rock salt.’
Visiting details which inckude a number of tour and ticket options can be found here.