Wieliczka Salt Mines

When Peter Jackson was scouting around for locations for The Lord of the Rings, Poland wasn't on the list. But had the director nipped over to this neck of the woods, he might have changed all his plans. Because Poland - and above all southern Poland - is bursting at the seams with Tolkienesque treasures. Take the lush landscape of Ojcow Park or the River Dunajec in the Pieniny Mountains. They're straight out of Tolkien's world. But if you're searching for something that'll truly send your mind spinning, then the salt mines at Wieliczka have the answer - a real life rival to the dwarf kingdom of Moria.

Wieliczka is a historic town that's a twenty minute drive from Krakow. Mining has gone on here since the thirteenth century, and the salt mines were a major source of revenue for Polish Kings. Over the years the miners carved out chapels in the salt. In those superstitious times, it was good to feel that you had some benevolent spirits on your side, as the subterranean kingdom was said to be haunted by all kinds of ghouls and goblins.

The showstopper at the Wieliczka Mines is the gargantuan Chapel of Saint Kinga. In fact the word ‘Chapel’ doesn’t really do this space justice as at 400 metres squared it's more akin to a church - albeit one that's a hundred metres below ground. Everything that you see in this enchanted chamber is made of salt. Even the chandeliers. The meticulously carved reliefs on the walls are the work of a pair of extraordinarily gifted miners, which could give many professional artists a run for their money. A statue of Polish Pope John Paul II was also recently installed here, and the chapel is a longstanding favourite for weddings and classical concerts.

There are dozens of chambers to explore, and you'll even come across an underground lake on your wander. One negative point is that you have to take a group tour, which means that quite often you can't linger long enough in the most inspirational chambers. That said, few will regret witnessing the Chapel of Saint Kinga, which counts amongst the wonders of Poland.

* If you would like to be driven to and from the salt mines, please feel free to contact Krakow Tours . Have a great time in Krakow!