Do you know what halite is?
It’s the name of kitchen salt, a mineral with the chemical formula NaCl. This mineral undergoes crystallisation – but rarely are the crystals as big and beautiful as those in the spaces of the “Wieliczka” Salt Mine, hidden from human sight.
Imagine now that you enter the caverns, located tens of meters below the ground, their existence previously unknown to anyone. Inaccessible for millions of years, they hide the greatest treasure of Wieliczka. Welcome to the Crystal Caves!
The discovery of this place was made in the second half of the 19th century, during intensive work in the north-eastern region of the Mine. And like many such events, finding the Crystal Caves was accidental and unexpected. How great must have been the joy and pride of the miners who came across this underground treasure?
The Caves are located at a depth of 70–114 m, between Levels I and IIn. The crystals in the Caves are much younger than the Wieliczka deposit, which means that they were formed as a result of secondary crystallisation of salt. The Caves are currently an inanimate nature reserve, which consists of the Lower Crystal Cave with a volume of 706 m³ and the Upper Crystal Cave with a volume of 1000 m³. Access to them is strictly limited, possible only for scientific or teaching purposes.
Good to know:
- The discovery of the first of the Crystal Caves took place in 1860.
- The Caves are made up of halite crystals – the purest rock salt in the world.
- The largest halite crystals are even dozens of centimetres long.
- This place is an extremely valuable natural monument, because no caverns like these ones have been discovered anywhere else in the world in the Miocene geological strata.
- The Crystal Caves constitute extraordinary natural heritage, which was protected in 2000, creating the first underground inanimate nature reserve in Poland.