A dozen or so kilometres southeast of the city centre is the town of Wieliczka, famous for its salt mine which has been in operation for at least 700 years. Like the Old Town of Cracow, Wieliczka has been honoured by being included on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Even today, one can see how salt is being mined. The highlight of the place, however, is the part of the mine open to visitors. Created partly by nature and partly by the very capable hands of Wieliczka miners, the tourist route of the museum takes us through an eerie world of pits and chambers; hand-hewn from solid salt are chapels, with altarpieces and figurines, statues and other adornments, all carved in salt! Here, there are even underground lakes. The mine is renowned for its microclimate and health-giving properties; therefore, an underground sanatorium has been established, where respiratory tract diseases, motor problems as well as rheumatic conditions are treated.
Nestled at the foot of the Tatras, approximately 100 kilometres south of Cracow, Zakopane is the most famous mountain resort in Poland and the winter sports capital. Tourists continue to flock to Zakopane all year round, as they did in the second half of the 19th century.
The International Festival of Mountain Folklore in late August is the town’s leading cultural event. In winter Zakopane hosts such sports events as the FIS (Fédération Internationale de Ski) Championship, the New Year’s Run, the Continental Cup, the National Winter Sports Championship and the Student International Sports Championship. Poland’s winter sports capital is also a well-known health resort and an important centre of highlanders’ culture.