1: Błędów Desert
Did you know that there is a desert in Poland? I didn’t either until I moved here. It’s actually Central Europe’s largest accumulation of sand, apart from beaches. It’s about an hour from Kraków by car
The desert was actually created by human activity which lowered the water level so much that plant , life could no longer grow there. Deforestation in the Middle Ages was partially to blame.
It was also used by the German Afrika Korps to train during WW2 prior to deployment to Africa.
If you’ve never seen a true desert before, it’s worth a trip out here. It’s easiest by car, but there are also buses. You will need to take a bus to Klucze from Kraków's main bus station, which takes almost an hour. Once in Klucze, you will need to head for Czubatka which is a viewpoint including an observation tower and the start of the yellow walking route that takes you through the forest and into the sandy areas. From here two further trails begin.
2: Bochnia Salt Mine
I’ve mentioned this one before, but while most people will head to the more publicised salt mine in Wieliczka, there is a smaller but older one in Bochnia. It’s right in the centre of the town and therefore easily accessible. You can take a little minibus from opposite Galeria Krakówska and this will drop you right outside. Or you can take the train from the main station and it’s a 15 minute walk from there. http://bochnia-mine.eu/
This is actually the oldest mine in Poland and one of the oldest in the world. There is also a hotel there - http://www.kopalniasoli.pl/en/obiekty/bochnia-salt-mine-health-resort.html as the air & climate are supposed to be extremely good for your health.
3: Dolina Kobylanska
A beautiful, old limestone valley with plenty of nature trails. This is a really nice area to go for a relaxing walk, or chill with a picnic. It’s about a 40 minute drive from Kraków and you ideally need a car.
Many famous Polish climbers and mountaineers begin their careers here and you will often see people climbing up the sides of the gorge.
There is also a chapel, hidden away in a cave which can be reached via some steep steps. It also provides a great vantage point over the valley.
Tarnów is a little further outside than Bochnia, but can also be reached by train from the main station. It’s a historic city and some of the architecture is really nice.
It’s also one of the warmest cities in Poland, and it’s claimed to have the longest summer in all of Poland.
Nowadays, it’s known for several chemical plants and being a transport hub, but there is also plenty to see there. You can visit the market square, the 14th Century town hall, remains of the Old Synagogue, the City Park or Tarnów Cathedral.
This is a small village about 90 minutes from Kraków, and is famous for its intricately decorated wooden cottages.
You’ll need a car to get here, and there isn’t much else beyond the houses so you probably won’t spend a whole day here. But the trip is worthwhile, as the houses are incredibly beautiful.
6: Krynica Zdroj
This is a lovely spa town in the mountains, south of Kraków. You can get a train from the main station directly to Krynica Zdroj. There are a couple of places to try the local mineral water and it’s pretty cheap. The main place to try is right in the centre of the town, in what looks like a large, old hotel.
You can also take a trip on the cable cars, up to the top of the mountains or just wander through the forests and enjoy nature. I love it here and find it really relaxing. If you want to stay a couple of days, there are some excellent spa hotels including Dr. Irena Eris’ resort on the mountainside, or the slightly less expensive Mercure hotel which is where I stayed previously.
7: Lipnica Murowana
This is a lovely little village, just south of Bochnia. There isn’t too much here but it has St. Leonard’s church, which was built in the 15th Century. This is one of six wooden churches on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in Lesser Poland.
However, the best thing here is the little ice cream shop on the corner of the market square. It’s all hand made by the owner, and includes only natural ingredients which are available at the time. So the flavours change, depending on the season. He also does a very nice selection of honey from his bees.
8: Nowy Wisnicz
Nowy Wisnicz is a small town just south of Bochnia and it has a Baroque style castle surrounded by forests. There is a pretty nice little coffee shop in the corner of the grounds too.
You can take a walk around the grounds of the castle for free, but to go inside you need to join a guided tour. When I last visited, much of the interior was being renovated but hopefully that’s all now complete and should provide a much more interesting trip.
Again a car is easier here, but you can also catch a bus from Bochnia’s main stop.
9: Bialka Tatrzanska
If you saw my trip to the mountains post earlier this year, you’ll know that I learned to ski. It was at Bialka Tatrzanska. This is another one where a car is easiest, and it’s about 2 hours’ drive from Kraków.
It’s a really nice ski resort with a variety of slopes, but would also be a nice trip in the summer. You can also visit the thermal baths and really relax!
This one’s a little further out than the rest, at around 3 hours by car from Kraków. It’s also in another country, Slovakia. This is another of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.
It’s got a really beautiful market square and is dominated by the Church of St. Aegidius. In the centre of the square is the Town Hall which dates back to 1505. It’s no longer a town hall and is now the oldest museum in Slovakia.
There are some great cafes and restaurants around the square for you to relax while watching the world go by. The coffee is rich and strong, and the fried, breaded cheese is excellent!