Located in southern Poland with Krakow as its capital city, Malopolska is one of the most visited regions in all of Poland.
While Krakow is nothing short of spectacular and you should set aside at least 2-3 days to explore this city itself, there are plenty of awesome day trip options in this area that will show a completely different side of Poland.
Start by exploring the marvelous underground Wieliczka Salt Mine, go rafting in the Pieniny mountains, visit a few dreamy castles and unwind at one of Poland’s largest thermal spas – this region has it all!
If you are planning a trip to southern Poland, here are 6 wonderful things to do in the Malopolska Region:
- Wieliczka Salt Mine
- Wieliczka Vineyard
- Dunajec River Rafting
- Niedzica Castle
- Chocholowskie Termy Spa
- St Michael Archangel Church
Wieliczka Salt Mine
There’s a reason why the Wieliczka Salt Mine has over 10,000 reviews on Google.
As one of the most important monuments and top attractions in Poland, the Wieliczka Salt Mine can get quite busy but is well worth a visit. Plan accordingly and you’ll have a wonderful experience exploring the 3 km (1.9 miles) of underground tunnels that used to be part of an active salt mine.
Full of chambers furnished with elaborate chandeliers hanging from the ceilings, statues carved out of salt and even its own Catholic cathedral, this mine is quite unique and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
Now a part of the protected UNESCO world heritage sites, the Wieliczka Salt Mine was once one of the largest economic drivers in Poland and the main reason why Krakow became such a wealthy and scientifically advanced city during the 14th century.
If it’s your first time visiting the Wieliczka Salt Mine, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- The tour of the salt mine takes about 2-3 hours to complete and includes walking up and down tiny stairs so make sure to wear comfy walking shoes.
- The entire tour takes place 400 feet underground with little access to ground level until the tour is over. If you are not a fan of tiny dark spaces, this tour might be a bit challenging for you.
- Mid-day is the busiest time to visit this location. Try to come early in the morning or before closing to avoid the crowds.
- The salt mine is located about a 30-minute drive from Krakow. You will need to arrange transportation to the salt mine and back.
Cost: Regular tickets for international visitors cost around 89 Polish Zloty ($24 USD)
Getting There: Grab a cab or an Uber from Krakow to do it on your own or sign up for a Wieliczka Salt Mine tour like this one that will make all the transportation arrangements for you.
If you’re looking for a more comfortable way of getting around, another option is to arrange a car through a private company. A private car to the Wieliczka Salt Mine costs around 340 Polish Zloty ($90 USD) for a group up to 4. Transfer Airport Krakow is the company that we ended up booking all of our transportation needs within the Maloposka region.
Hours: Open daily from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm
Where To Eat After: After touring the Wieliczka Salt Mine grab a bite to eat at the Karczma Halit restaurant, just a 5-minute walk from the salt mine. It’s the closest restaurant to the salt mine and serves local Polish comfort foods like mushroom soup and pork chops.
As much as I love exploring historical landmarks and monuments, I am always open to visiting places off the beaten tourist path.
Poland, a place known for ageless traditions, also has a side that’s quite innovative and not afraid to think outside of the box. When the local tour agency suggested for us to visit the organic Wieliczka Vineyard, I was quite intrigued. After all, I had no idea that Poland produced wine – but in my experience traveling is all about keeping an open mind and trying out new things.
The Wieliczka Vineyard is located just a 10-minute drive from the Wieliczka Salt Mine and a 30-minute drive from Krakow. If you’re interested in a wine tasting tour here, one option is to combine a visit to the Wieliczka salt mine and the Wieliczka winery on the same day.
Wieliczka Vineyard is the first organic winery in Poland and proudly uses no chemicals or pesticides in the grape farming process. The owners of the Wieliczka winery studied wine all over the world for 30 years before opening their own winery in Poland and use only natural methods to fight pesticides and to protect the grapes.
When we arrived at the Wieliczka vineyard, we met with Arthur who walked us through the history and origins of this vineyard. We also tried some of the local wines produced at this winery like Chardonnay, Riesling, Rose, and a few others.
One of the coolest things that I learned on this tour is that organic wineries don’t add sulfites into their wine which apparently is one of the main causes of a hangover. Even after trying out a few glasses of wine, I didn’t feel a headache or sluggishness the next day!
Cost: Wine tasting costs around 80 Polish Zloty ($21 USD) per person and needs to be arranged 48 hours in advance
Hours: Email email@example.com for tour options
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Dunajec River Rafting
If you are interested in something a bit more adventurous, rafting on the Dunajec River is one of the most popular outdoor activities to do in the Malopolska region. Don’t worry – we’re not talking about the type of rafting where you’re holding on to the boat for your dear life, but rather a leisure day on the tranquil Dunajec river in the Pieniny National Park.
Not only was this rafting tour stunningly beautiful but also one of the most entertaining things that we did in Poland. Our rafting guide Martin spoke perfect English and kept us amused with funny jokes while also incorporating interesting facts about this region.
Sromowce is the starting point of this rafting tour and this is where you can purchase tickets and get assigned to a boat. The entire tour is about 11 miles (18 km) long and takes about 2-3 hours to complete. The tour ends at Szczawnica from where you have the option to pay a few Polish Zloty and hop on a bus to take you back to Sromowce.
A few tips for the Dunajec rafting tour:
- This tour takes place outdoors and offers very little shade so make sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat to protect yourself from the sun.
- Try to arrive at the earliest time possible to avoid the hottest part of the day.
- You won’t have any breaks or lunch during the rafting tour so pack along some snacks.
- Although this experience overall is pretty mellow, some water did get into our boat. Wear clothing that you don’t mind getting a bit wet or dirty.
- This location is two hours away from Krakow so you’ll need to arrange transportation there and back.
Cost: Around 57 Polish Zloty ($15 USD)
Location: Kąty 12, 34-443 Sromowce Wyżne, Poland
Hours: Every day 8:30 am – 5 pm
Where To Eat After: The chances are, after a 3-hour rafting tour you’ll be pretty hungry so head down to Restauracja Dwór for some filling local grub. This place serves excellent Polish pierogi, tomato soup (my favorite) and a local chicken dish garnished with cranberry sauce.
The Niedzica castle (also known as the Dunajec castle or the Nedec castle) is one of the most scenic castles in all of Poland. Perched on top of a hill surrounded by a lush forest and a lake, this castle feels like something from a fairytale come alive.
If you’re already heading to southern Poland for the Dunajec River rafting tour, make sure to add an hour or two stop at the Niedzica castle after.
The Niedzica castle was originally built in the 1320s and over the centuries belonged to a few Hungarian families until WW2. After the war ended the Red Army destroyed much of the castle’s interior but since then many efforts have been made by Polish Ministry of Culture and Art to restore parts of this castle and open it up back up to the public for visiting.
This castle showcases a museum, courtyard, dungeons and even a torture chamber. End the visit by taking in the stunning panoramic views from the castle rooftop overlooking the Pieniny Mountains in the distance.
If staying in a castle is something that has been on your bucket list, you can even arrange an overnight stay at the Niedzica castle with rooms starting as low as 200 Polish Zloty ($53 USD) – but be aware that this castle has a reputation for being haunted! For more info on rooms and pricing check the Niedzica castle website here or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cost: Polish Zloty ($5 USD)
Location: Zamkowa 2, 34-441 Niedzica-Zamek, Poland
Hours: Depends on the season. From May 1st to September 30th the castle is open from 9 am to 7 pm
Chocholowskie Termy Spa
After spending a day or two exploring southern Poland, relax and unwind at the Chocholowskie Termy Spa. The Chocholowskie Termy is one of the largest wellness spas in Poland and offers everything from swimming pools, to jacuzzis, saunas, water slides, and even a gym.
This facility is fairly new and was built very modern with stainless steel pools and giant glass windows making it feel very open and welcoming. After checking in your will be redirected to lockers that can be opened with special wristbands which can also be used to purchase drinks and food at the spa.
The Chocholowskie Termy spa is known for having therapeutic and healing properties. As a bonus, the property is also surrounded by beautiful scenery that can be enjoyed from the lounge area on the second floor – it doesn’t get better than this!
This spa is very kid friendly and offers plenty of activities to keep the whole family entertained for hours. We highly recommend setting aside at least 2-4 hours to fully enjoy all of the Chocholowskie thermal pools.
The only downside is that it can get quite crowded especially in the summer. If you’re looking for a relaxing experience, avoid going on the weekends.
Cost: Varies depending on the season and time spent at the spa. Basic entrance price is around 69 Polish Zloty ($18 USD)
Location: Chochołów 400, 34-513 Chochołów, Poland
Hours: 9 am to 10 pm
St. Michael Archangel Church
Poland is known to be a religious country and you will find important Catholic artifacts throughout the entire Malopolska state.
During your time in southern Poland, make sure to stop by the St. Michael Archangel wooden church in the Lesser Poland Voivodeship countryside. As one of the few remaining wooden churches in Poland the St. Michael Archangel church is quite valuable and was even designated as a UNESCO site.
The St. Michael Archangel wooden church was built in the 15th century and still remains in its original state. A tower was added to this church in the 16th century but beyond that, no other alterations have been made.
The exterior of the St. Michael Archangel church is made of wooden pieces and the interior is covered with stunning decorations in a mix of baroque, gothic and renaissance styles. These paintings are quite elaborate and cover most of the church’s interior across the walls, beams, and the front.
One of the most important artifacts at this church is a piece from an easel painting dating back to the year 1280. It is considered one of the oldest paintings in Poland.
If you have extra time, this wooden church is quite a wonderful landmark to visit. Surrounded by rolling hills, trees, and cute sheep it offers a lovely contrast to the busy city life in Krakow.
Location: Kościelna 42, 34-434 Dębno, Poland
Hours: Monday & Tuesday – 9 am to noon, 2 pm to 5 pm
Wednesday to Friday – 9 am to 5 pm
Saturday – 9 am to noon
I hope we have inspired you to add a few new places to your Poland travel itinerary. If you have any questions, let us know in the comments below!
Special thanks to @Polska.Travel group for hosting us and showcasing all of the best attractions in the Malopolska region. For more Poland inspiration and assistance in trip planning visit the Poland Travel page here.