View of the upper terrace of the graduation tower (thorn house) in Wieliczka sided with barriers to protect walkers from falling down from the height onto the surrounding green lawns, behind which white buildings with red roofs can be seen. Standing in the far left against the azure blue sky with some white tufts of clouds is the tallest part of the graduation tower made of countless buckthorn buckthorn twigs and boughs.
Graduation tower in Wieliczka

Salt’s in the air.


Breathing air imbued with microscopic droplets of salty water has curative properties as such a salt aerosol is restorative for lungs. Supported with observations, that knowledge prompted opening of underground spas in the salt mines and the construction of graduation towers.


A view of a chamber roughly hewn in grey salt with comfortable wooden deckchairs arranged against the walls. Its floor is strewn with fine white salt.
Ważyn Chamber in Bochnia Salt Mine

With high concentration of salt in the air you breathe, the time you spend in the mine is the time of natural restorative inhalations. Moreover, the specific microclimate of the saltworks ensures that the air you breathe is almost germ free. Little wonder Wieliczka and Bochnia salt mines, have developed underground spas and welcome you to take advantage of their curative airs.

Whether at the depth 820 (Ważyn Chamber in Bochnia) or 440 (Stajnia Gór Wschodnich Chamber in Wieliczka) feet under the ground, treatment here is a real adventure, and – as the mines feature underground exhibitions, a night stay doubles for a true night in a museum. To encourage deeper breathing, they have been installed with underground gyms with stationary bikes. Depending on your preferences, various treatment/stay packages are available, apart from the overnight visits offering healthy sleep in the healing microclimate, there are packages of 5, 10, and 15 sessions, each lasting for 2.5 hours, supervised by medical personnel. As such visits relieve your respiratory tracts from the accrued particles of dust, they are helpful in the treatment of various, notably chronic, diseases of upper and lower respiratory tracts, and have recently also been hailed beneficial in post-COVID-19 rehabilitation.

Another unique way for drawing benefits from brine-infused air in treatment of respiratory ailments are graduation towers also, though rarely, known as thorn houses. Two such structures were built in Wieliczka and Bochnia – next to Małopolska’s both visitable salt mines – and provide not only an additional tourist attraction but also an opportunity to inhale air rich in salt aerosol. As water in such towers slowly trickles through massive amounts of blackthorn twigs, and some of it is blown away by wind, it produces a mineral-rich spray of miniature water droplets. Inhaling it gives the effect of breathing “concentrated” sea air.

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Subterranean air therapy started in Wieliczka nearly 50 years ago, and the mine’s underground therapeutic chambers have enjoyed the official status of a spa for over a decade.
Originally an element of salt production, graduation towers became highly popular in the Bads – the historical spas of Germany – in the 17th and 18th centuries. Many of them operate to this day. Blackthorne, Britain’s only graduation tower, was recently built in Ayr in Scotland, and is used for salt production.
Małopolska also boasts its third big tower in Nowa Huta district of Kraków, some smaller ones (e.g., in Rabka Zdrój), and dozens more in the pipeline to be delivered by the coming season.

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