Bochnia Salt Mine - Less Touristy Sister of Wieliczka
Is it Worth Checking Out?

19.10.2018

Most visitors to Krakow take a day trip to visit the most famous salt mine in Europe at Wieliczka.

But Wieliczka is not the only salt mine gem in the region.

In fact, a nearby salt mine at Bochnia, which is part of the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List 2013, is as breathtaking.

Both mines date back to the 13th century when Polish kings expanded salt mining in the region to build their wealth during the Middle Ages.

Here is everything you need to know about Bochnia salt mine together with tips to help you make the most of your visit to this unforgettable underground attraction.

 

Introducing Bochnia Salt Mine

The current area of Bochnia Salt Mine began to be mined during the 13th century under the reign of Duke Bolesław the Chaste and his wife, Kinga.

But the history of this hidden gem dates back to 3500 years before Christ. That's when the salt was acquired by from brine wells that slowly gave way to excavating salt with the use of emerging mining methods. Bochnia became an excavating plant in 1248. As a royal facility, it generated a massive income for the Polish kings.

The mine developed more rapidly in the 15th and 16th centuries as more shafts were constructed and the existing ones expanded. The mine was also a site of technological innovation as new extraction techniques were introduced and developed for the benefit of the miners.

However, the 17th century brought political and is the economic turmoil, and the mine's development slowed down significantly.

Following the 1771 partition of Poland, the mine became part of the land that was occupied by the Austrian Empire. In fact, the mine remained under the Austro-Hungarian Imperial control until 1918, the year that Poland gained independence.

During the 20th century, salt mining, in general, decreased due to its relatively small profitability. By the end of the century in1981, Bochnia salt mine was listed in the Polish Register of Historical Monuments and soon opened to the first visitors curious about the history of Polish salt mining.

Today, the Bochnia salt mine is considered the greatest treasure of the region that contributed to its rich history and economic prosperity throughout the ages.

And it's quite a sight to admire. Over the centuries, miners created a series of unique chambers that bear a characteristic shape and geological structure. You'll find here the largest human-made underground room in the world that bears a pleasant and healing microclimate – it's called the Ważyn chamber.

Moreover, visitors get the opportunity to admire the mine's treasures during a special tour that takes them deep below the ground.

Take a tour of the Bochnia Salt Mine

If you find yourself in Krakow, take a short trip to Bochnia salt mine to admire all the best about salt mining from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century. During tours that are held in Polish and English, you will learn what the work of medieval miners looked like and what kind of dangers they had to face as they went down to mine salt. The tour is designed to help visitors learn more about the oldest medieval excavation works at Bochnia salt mine.

The expedition begins in the underground galleries at 70 m of depth and ends at a smashing 176 m underground. Have a look here to see a picture gallery of the tourist route.

The route is almost 3 km long, leading tourists through narrow galleries and ladder sections. In fact, walking to tour takes some effort so make sure to arrive in excellent physical condition.

But all that effort is definitely worth it because of the sights and rock formations uncovered by miners that are simply breathtaking. You will also get to see interesting geological expositions that illustrate the structure of the Bochnia salt deposit.

Visitors to the mine can also enjoy an underground multimedia exhibition that presents the history of salt production together with stories told by Polish kings, local managers of mining districts, and the ghost of a Cistercian monk on whose order Bochnia salt mine was established, according to a legend.

But that's not everything.

Visitors can visit the mine on foot – or by boat!

Try the underground ferry

That's right; you can take a trip on an underground ferry at Bochnia salt mine – the world's only ferry crossing of an underground chamber flooded with brine. Visitors get the change to cross the distance of 120 m, all the while listening to fantastic tales about the mysterious mine.

The boat trip is simply unforgettable as you admire the beauty of salt chamber adorned with strange lights and hear the sound of oars striking the surface of the water.

The wooden boats that operate in the Bochnia salt mine were explicitly made for the needs of this underground crossing and are in fact registered in the Polish Shipping Register, just like vessels that travel the seas.

What you should know before visiting Bochnia Salt Mine?

If you're planning a visit to Bochnia salt mine, you should know a couple of things.

  1. First, it's always best to book in advance and prepare for your trip properly. Remember that only adults and groups of school students up to 16 years of age accompanied by an adult are permitted to visit the mine.
  2. The temperature in the mine is between 14 and 16°C, with relative humidity at around 70% so be sure to wear clothes that will keep you warm. Arriving with suitable clothing and mountain hiking footwear is smart. Other types of protective clothing will be provided during the tour. Visiting the mine is only possible with a guide so during your entire stay underground you will be accompanied by someone who knows the mine like the back of their hand.
  3. Have a look at the official website of Bochnia salt mine for more practical information and directions.

Bochnia mine is definitely worth a visit because unlike Wieliczka, it's not flooded with tourists and offers a truly unique experience to make your trip to Krakow unforgettable.

Did you consider visiting Bochnia Salt Mine instead of Wieliczka Salt Mine? 

Tell in the the comments below, I would love to hear from you!

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