With vibrant cities, renowned hiking, stirring history, and sculpted salt mines, the South of Poland enticed a number of IgoUgo visitors in 2008. As they all want to return, here are a few of their picks and words of advice for first-timers.
You’ll want to see Krakow, says Slug, the city that “captivated [him] with that sense of an almost forgotten and slumbering grand past.” He loves Krakow “for its everyday feel, and its myriad of tiny cellar bars and restaurants to explore.” But his highest of compliments is this: “It wasn’t pretending to be anything, and it most certainly wasn’t pandering to the tourist perception of tidy, cute, and preserved in aspic.”
Located within Krakow’s metropolitan area, the Wieliczka Salt Mine welcomed caromeow in November with “lots of different rooms, salt sculptures, and chapels.” She even got to see one chapel that opens only in winter, for preservation reasons. Between that stroke of luck and her unusually small, off-season tour group, it was the perfect time to go.
Near Krakow, Slug happened upon the Beskid Mountains, “a lovely, undisturbed region with excellent hiking” that’s been lying low behind the High Tatras’ reputation for nature. Perhaps no longer. “Catch the area around Zywiec before it is too late to see the traditional ways of living,” he says. “The old farmers will give you a wave, smile a toothless smile, and say something completely unintelligible to you (unless you know Polish). Just smile back, and hope they haven’t just warned you of a stray bull on the path ahead.”
Meanwhile, at the base of those popular Tatras, Zakopane charmed our own EricLee5000, who says, “Visiting Zakopane was like a mini-vacation in itself during my trip to Poland. It's a major tourist area that thrives in the winter months as one of the top ski destinations in Poland. During the off-season it's just as wonderful and lively with outdoor music, great hiking, and general sightseeing.” Music lover jonbarb709 vouches for the jazz and folk festivals in the summer, as well as the ice cream.