Sitting on everyone’s kitchen counter is the kitchen staple so basic it’s borderline boring. And as I write, I’m already thinking of salt more than I have in this past year combined.
But the Wieliczka salt mine, near Krakow, Poland proves that salt can be a masterpiece on its own. The mine was first opened in the 13th century, and today, it’s a part of the First UNESCO World Heritage List. For a reason! The salt mine, which reaches -1072 ft at its deepest point, features underground lakes, 2,000 chambers, and chapels equipped with enormous chandeliers. And if that wasn’t enough, every little thing is made of salt. The mine is so unreal, it brings to mind a level in Tomb Raider, rather than a place thanks to which I season my dinner.
More info: Wieliczka-SaltMine.com
The history of Wieliczka salt mine dates back to the Middle Ages, when it used to be called the Magnum Sal, or the Great Salt. In the 13th century, it was the largest source of salt in the country, which was crucial to the country’s economy. Today, it’s one of the main tourist attractions in Poland.
According to the information on the Wieliczka salt mine’s website, there were 300-350 salt mine workers during the Middle Ages, and the salt production could have been around 7 or 8 tons per year. The first tourist is said to have been Nicolaus Copernicus, who visited the mine in 1493. To commemorate this event, there’s a salt-made statue of the astronomer placed in a chamber named after him.
Surprisingly, the miners are still at work today. “Miners protect the historic areas of the Mine, backfill in the so-called post-mining voids in its non-historical parts, as well as manage fresh water leaks.” There’s a lot of renovation to be done to the huge historic chambers, mine shafts, and corridors, keeping in mind that 2 million visitors a year flock in to see this complex site.
We can only imagine how enormous the whole underground structure is, because only 2% of it is accessible to tourists. Meanwhile, the salt mine corridors form an actual labyrinth which stretches up to a whopping 498 ft in length. There are 9 levels in total and the lowest one is located at 1072 ft below ground.
But Wieliczka is only the fifth-biggest salt mine out there. Ontario is home to the biggest one in the world, which is located 1800 ft under Lake Huron. Compass Minerals’ Goderich salt mine is as deep as the CN Tower in Toronto is tall. The second-biggest is Khewra Salt Mines in Pakistan, and the third place belongs to Prahova Salt Mine in Romania.
Note: this post originally had 41 images. It’s been shortened to the top 30 images based on user votes.