10th International Conference on Geomorphology
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Selected issues of geoheritage, cultural geomorphology and geotourism in Krakow city and surrounding areas, Poland

Adam Lajczak and Roksana Zarychta
Adam Lajczak and Roksana Zarychta

Krakow is located in southern Poland on the Vistula river, at the border of large geological and geomorphological units: the Western Carpathians, Subcarpathian Basins and Polish Uplands, which makes this town extremely attractive. The most interesting areas, regarding protection of geological heritage and geotourism, are located in the town and the adjacent areas within Polish Uplands, at the border of the Carpathians and Subcarpathian Basins and in the Vistula valley. Numerous tectonic horsts, built of Jurassic limestones overlain by Cretaceous marls and loess sediments occur within Polish Uplands. In the western side of the town, there are veins of volcanic rock present in the horsts, as well as fossils is the exposed Palaeozoic rock formations, and amethyst nodules visible in quarries. In valley bottoms travertines occur. In this area, in the western and central part of Krakow, there are caves in limestone rocks and some of them are available to tourists. Along faults, slightly increased radioactivity of groundwater was determined. Limestone and marl outcrops in numerous quarry pits show local geology and fossils. Miocene sediments at the border of the Carpathians contain rich deposits of rock-salt, which have been extracted for over 1000 years. In this area gypsum deposits are also extracted. There are also brine springs used for medical purposes. In loess deposits covering limestone hills there are bone remains of mammoths; this is why these deposits were called mammoth clay until the 19th century. In the places of former or current extraction of loess or gravel deposits, it is possible to observe the geology of shallow substratum.

The relief of Krakow, especially its centre, has changed for the last ca. 1000 years as a result of the increase of cultural sediment layer, which resulted in land surface raising, its flattening and backfilling of fluvial landforms in the Vistula floodplain. Many historical buildings became this way “plunged”, and their intentional exposure in the underground museums of Krakow makes it possible to observe initial morphology of land surface and structure of anthropogenic sediments containing artefacts which are used to determine the age of individual layers. Much information come from extensive archaeological and geoengineering investigations which have been carried out for over 100 years in Krakow area.

Expanding geoturism in Krakow and surrounding areas includes most of important sites regarding geoheritage and cultural geomorphology. Many of these sites are protected as nature reserves. They include valleys with exposed Palaeozoic rocks outside the town borders and The Old Salt Mine in Wieliczka town near Krakow available for tourists. This salt mine is planned as a future first underground national park in Poland. Geotourism in the town includes among others: underground museums (where you can see one of the oldest early Romanesque church of the 10th century and adjacent cultural deposits), some pits of the closed limestone quarries where aquatourism is possible in deep basins. Geotourism offer in Krakow and surrounding areas is very extensive, it still develops and enjoys great interest. In this respect, Krakow takes the leading position in Poland.

How to cite: Lajczak, A. and Zarychta, R.: Selected issues of geoheritage, cultural geomorphology and geotourism in Krakow city and surrounding areas, Poland, 10th International Conference on Geomorphology, Coimbra, Portugal, 12–16 Sep 2022, ICG2022-696, https://doi.org/10.5194/icg2022-696, 2022.