15 February 2017
Day Tour From Bogotá: Zipaquira Salt Cathedral and Guatavita
Day tours out of Bogotá, Colombia are the perfect opportunities to leave the bustle of the city and soak up the views of rolling mountains and charming colonial towns. I happily joined Uncover Colombia’s tour of the Zipaquira Salt Cathedral and Guatavita. Here’s the rundown of the day:
The bus picked us up in one of Bogotá’s business districts, from there we said adiós to the towering skyscrapers and hola to beautiful green mountains and lush pastures outside the capital.
It took about an hour and a half to get to the charming colonial town of Guatavita la Nueva. Terracotta-colored roofs rested on white-washed walls, making it seem like the small town was frozen in time. Our guide told us about the history of Guatavita la Nueva and its people.
After meandering through the cobblestone streets and literally stopping to smell the roses our tour guide pointed out, we hopped back in the bus and headed to the nearby Lake Guatavita. The steep climb up to the lake only took about 20 minutes. The high altitude wasn’t the only thing that took my breath away during the hike to Lake Guatavita, the view of the surrounding mountains was breathtaking as well. Our knowledgeable guide explained how important the lake was to the native Muisca people. Lake Guatavita is also the site that inspired the legend of El Dorado. Spanish conquistadors trekked to the lake in hopes of finding gold after learning the Muisca people used to throw precious metals in the lake as part of a ritual. We peered into the blue-green water, but didn’t spot any gold. It seemed we were a few hundred years too late.
Once we were done “hunting for treasure,” we ate lunch at a traditional Colombian restaurant. The food was delicious and the juice that came with the meal was made from the many succulent fruits of Colombia.
The afternoon was devoted to the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira. I was really excited about visiting this Colombian landmark because everyone told me how amazing it was. It turns out they were right.
Part of the mine still harvests salt. Down we went into the cool, dark mine where tunnels led us to various stations depicting the life and death of Jesus Christ. All the stations featured different crosses illuminated by colored lights, but I thought the final chamber was the most gorgeous. And apparently others agreed since couples can even tie the knot down there.
Once we were finished exploring the chambers of the underground cathedral (and resisting the urge to lick its salty walls) we resurfaced and returned to the bus. The bus driver and guide took us to see Zipaquira’s town square and taught us more about the history and culture of the area. Afterwards, we headed back to Bogotá and the tour ended where it had begun.
My favorite part of the tour: I loved how the tour was small and intimate. The group size made it easier for the guide to answer our specific questions and the whole experience felt more authentic.
What you should know before the tour:
• The bus driver will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel or hostel, so you don’t have to worry about navigating Bogotá on your own.
• Bring a jacket as the underground cathedral is chilly. You should also wear sunscreen because many people get burned hiking to Lake Guatavita.
• It’s possible to go to both Guatavita and the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira on your own from Bogotá, but I wouldn’t recommend it because figuring out transportation in Colombia can be challenging, especially if you don’t speak Spanish.
You can read more highlights from the Zipaquira Salt Cathedral and Guatavita tour here.
About the author:
Anneliese Delgado is an American writer living in Bogotá. Her mother is from the United States and her father is from Venezuela, giving her the unique opportunity to blend in on the streets of Colombia, while still viewing the country from the eyes of an outsider. When she’s not writing, she’s playing soccer, wandering around stores with no intention on buying anything and binge-watching Netflix. You can read more about her adventures on her blog at abroadincolombia.com.