This Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira is situated 180 meters underground, and it will most definitely leave you in awe. It is divided into three sections that make a total of 10 hectares, and it is located in the Zipa hill, at 2652 meters above sea level. This was the first declared National Wonder in Colombia in 2007.
Many years ago, this place used to be a regular salt mine. Since before colonial times, Muiscas, the native tribe who inhabited the region, used to take salt out of the caves located around the hills, to use and trade for other goods. In around 1801, proper mining works started in this place.
Miners had the custom to say a few prayers before start working, and they also used to place pictures of saints on the walls of some of the tunnels, asking for protection. A chapel was built around 1932, and after that, a cathedral that lasted for about 60 years. The latter eventually closed down many years after because it was not considered safe. They built a new one, that was inaugurated in 1995: this cathedral is still open to the public nowadays.
The visit to this architectural wonder, which should take approximately one hour, begins with a tunnel of more than 300 meters length, located on the upper level. Further inland, the visitor can admire the "14-way Stations of the Cross," including crosses carved in the salt. There are not human representations, and each is different because various sculptors commissioned them.
During the tour, you can also see a large dome and the largest cross in the world carved in salt rock: it is 120 meters long and 22 meters high. Throughout the tour, you can see an extensive artistic collection, mainly of sculptures made of salt and marble.
Zipaquirá is located one hour away north from Bogotá by car. To get there by public transport, you can go to the Transmilenio station, called Portal del Norte. Direct buses to Zipaquirá leave every 30 minutes from there, and the ticket costs around 2 dollars.
Once in Zipaquirá, you will see various signs pointing to the Cathedral. You can either walk from the terminal or take a taxi that also costs around 2 dollars.
The historical center of Zipaquirá has been declared a "Historical and Cultural Colombian Heritage." This is a lovely town with good weather and a chill atmosphere. It is nice to walk around, eat some typical food and even to spend a night out in one of the local bars. You can also visit the cultural center, Gabriel García Marquez, which was built in honor of the literature Nobelist, who spent his last four years of high school in town.
The main reasons for visiting Zipaquirá and the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá are religious, either to make a special request to God or to thank him. But its value and importance are also in the admirable of its architecture and meticulous construction, for which no steel or cement was used.
This is truly a very unique place. So if you get the chance, make sure to spare some time and visit the underground Salt Cathedral in the lovely town of Zipaquirá!
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