Southern Poland, from Krakow through the Tatra Mountains
Best for great Old World churches and grand mountain hikes
Fly into Krakow, the historic city that escaped bombing (but not the elimination of its Jews) during World War II. Stroll through Old Town, shop for well-priced amber jewelry, and explore one of the richest, most colorful medieval squares left in the world—teeming with life. Don’t miss Wawel Cathedral, high above the Vistula River, and consecrated in 1364. Poland’s kings were crowned there. Leaving Krakow, drive southwest to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau, the Nazi’s largest death camp, grim, moving, and important to see. Then drive south to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Center Wieliczka Salt Mine, a world of underground lakes and medieval sculptures in salt, including the magnificent Chapel of the Blessed King, carved by miners. Continue south to the High Tatra Mountains, where snow caps are dotted with tall evergreens (Pope John Paul II liked to slip away from the Vatican to ski in his beloved Tatras). At Zakopane, a rural village of ornately carved wooden farmhouses, a cable car takes you higher in the Tatras to get the view. These towering mountains share a border with Slovakia, also worth a visit.