When I visited Krakow briefly early this year, I wanted to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Wieliczka Salt Mine, but I only had one day to see both. Whilst I was trying to work out how to fit both into a single day, I came across the answer online, a full-day trip with Krakow shuttle. I made the booking online, and for 70 Euros, I could visit Auschwitz and the Salt Mine both . Lunch, hotel pick up and drop off were also included in the tour price.
I had a confirmation email me shortly after the booking and the night before the trip I received a text with the exact time of my pickup. Following is an outline and a few pictures from the trip.
0815: I was picked up outside my hotel by one of the guides from Krakow Shuttle, exactly on time. It was turning out to be a very cold day, -10 degree C with the wind making it feel a lot colder.
0815 to 0900: This was the hotel pickup phase the trip. Our driver drove around the centre of Krakow picking up passengers from several hotels in before transferring us to a larger mini bus. All in all there were about 20 of us on the mini bus. We received a warm welcome from Michael, who was going to be our driver and guide for the day. Michael gave us an overview of the day. First a visit to Auschwitz, next Birkenau followed by the Salt Mine in the afternoon.
0900 to 1015: On our way to Auschwitz, there was a film on the minibus that set the context for what we were about to see. I had seen TV and read about Auschwitz and its horrors, but still it was not easy viewing.
1015 to 1215: Upon arrival, we had a 10 minute break, before starting the tour . We were accompanied by the guide, who was excellent. Speaking slowly and softly, she brought to life the full horrors of what happened at Auschwitz. I won’t go into the detail of what we saw, because, frankly, it is very difficult to write about, but I have included a few pictures below.
1215 to 1230: After visiting Auschwitz we then got back in the mini bus and were driven to near by to Birkenau.
1230 to 1345: Birkenau is the much bigger than Auschwitz , and more of the tour is set outside. I’m not going to the detail, but a few pictures below.
1345 to 1400: Small break, and we were given our lunch, which consistent of pasta salad, sandwich, chocolate biscuits, and a bottle of water. You could also get a hot drink from the cafe.
1400 to 1530: Drive back towards Krakow, and Wieliczka Salt Mine. Only half the group was going to the salt mine, so there was a brief stop halfway, for some people to swap mini-buses. After this, one minibus went to Krakow and the one I was in headed to the salt mine.
1530 to 1800: We started our guided tour of the salt mine straight away. Wieliczka has been an active salt mine for well over 700 years and it is still operation today. It is one of the largest underground Salt Mines in the World. We were inside for 2.5 hours and covered less than 1% of the total area of the salt mine.
The tour start with a 350 step climb down to the depth of the mine. Inside the mine it is 13 degrees C all year, which was a welcome relief from the -15 degrees C outside.
The parts of the mine we visited consisted of many chambers, rooms and chapels, with sculptures all made from salt. The most impressive of all is the Saint Kinga’s Chapel, built-in 1862. A cavernous chamber, with sweeping staircases ,status and chandeliers, all made from salt.
There are also a number of water channels, made to divert underground water and several underground lakes.
All the structures are used are made of Wood, instead of metal. This is because metal rusts in the presence of salt, whereas wood does not.
There are also 2 shops in the mine, selling many products, all made from (you guessed it), salt!
At the end of the tour, there is a lift to take you back to the top. But be warned, it is a tight squeeze as it is a miners lift that takes up to 6 people. It’s not ideal if you are claustrophobic, but it is only 45 second ride.
We left the salt mine around 1810 and were back in the centre of Krakow by 1845.
Thoughts on the tour and Krakow Shuttle
- The tour was very efficiently organised and designed to maximise our time at the places we visited. Normally day trips like this dedicate an hour or two for lunch or shopping expedition where the provider get a commission. There was none of that on this trip.
- Tour was well organised, There was minimum waiting around at attractions, and guides etc. were ready for us when we arrived.
- The packed lunch was very good, consisting of pasta salad, sandwich, chocolate bar and a bottle of water.
- The Krakow shuttle guides were helpful. Well organised and kept us informed of the plan throughout the day.
- The guides at Auschwitz and the Salt Mine were excellent. They were engaging, and patient and answered all questions. The guides at Auschwitz specially was very good. She tackled a very difficult subject with great sensitivity but still bringing the full horrors to life.
Overall, it was a great trip and if you are visiting Krakow, I would highly recommend this tour.