Auschwitz-Birkenau Half-Day Trip from Krakow (Day 1; 6.5 hours)
After pickup from the central meeting point or your hotel, start the 1.5-hour drive by minivan to Auschwitz-Birkenau, located outside the town of Oswiecim. During the ride, watch a documentary film about the concentration camp. When you arrive, meet your tour guide at the visitor center, and then proceed into the barbed-wire encampment through the gate that still reads “Arbeit macht frei" (Work sets one free).
Established in 1940, the Auschwitz complex saw the deaths of nearly 1.5 million people, most of whom were European Jews. The complex, today a UNESCO World Heritage-listed museum, comprises the Auschwitz I camp and the Birkenau (or Auschwitz II) camp with a total of about 150 buildings and 300 ruins. Auschwitz was only partially destroyed by fleeing Nazis when the camp was liberated, so you are able to see many of the original brick buildings as you walk around. Explore the exhibitions, housed in some of the prison blocks, some of which are dedicated to victims from particular countries.
You’ll also see Birkenau, once home to 300 prison barracks and four large gas chambers. Most of this camp was destroyed, but you will get an idea of the vast size of the area, fenced off with watchtowers, and you can enter some of the surviving barracks.
When your Auschwitz-Birkenau tour ends, you'll be driven back to the original meeting point.
Wieliczka Salt Mine Half-Day Trip (Day 2; 4.5 hours)
Your tour begins with meet-up at the central meeting point or your hotel followed by a 30-minute drive to the Wieliczka Salt Mine, southeast of the city. The 700-year-old mine and UNESCO World Heritage Site houses nearly 200 miles (300 km) of eerie tunnels, all carved by hand from salt blocks, and you’ll see the section that’s open to the public.
With your guide, visit the three upper levels of the mine, at depths of 209 to 443 feet (64 to 135 meters). Begin with a descent down the stairs to the first level, where you’ll be led through chambers and shown underground lakes, shrines and salt monuments. Admire the showstopper – the Chapel of St Kinga – and marvel at how every one of its features, from chandeliers to the altar, is made of salt! Hear from your guide about the chapel’s history and how it took more than 30 years for two men to complete the wonder, which required more than 200,000 tons of rock salt.
Then head to the Eram Baracz Chamber to see another mine highlight, the salt lake whose water contains 11 ounces (320 grams) of salt per liter. You’ll also see a collection of mining equipment, some of which dates back to the Middle Ages. By the time your tour ends, you’ll be 443 feet below ground!
Take an elevator back up, and then head back to Krakow by minivan.