06 March 2013

Zipaquira: Beyond the salt cathedral

Posted in Blog

If you happen to be in Bogota for business or pleasure and you have already explored the city, its museums, cultural heritage and gastronomic choices, it is time to leave the metropolis behind for a day trip and take advantage of the interesting mixture of destinations located outside the city where the landscapes and weathers change significantly from one place to the other.

Within commuting distance from Bogota, you will find lakes, waterfalls, mountains, cloud forests and a variety  of small towns and picturesque villages. Undoubtedly  there is a wide range of activities to do around Bogota. You could go for a trip to visit historic colonial towns like Villa de Leyva, or you may prefer a more interactive experience visiting a coffee farm to learn about the whole coffee process in Fusagasuga. If you are into hiking or bird watching, then the Chicaque Natural Park is worth a visit, and for the most adventurous traveller there is white water rafting in Tobia and climbing in Suesca.

But among all the options above, the main topic of this article is a popular town, located just one hour away from Bogota, called Zipaquira, a historic town very famous for its salt mines and the cathedral carved inside these salt mine tunnels.

There has been a church or a chapel of some kind inside the salt mines in Zipaquira for almost as long as the miners have been working underground here, but the new cathedral is unlike any other in the world, in terms of its innovative architecture. It was opened in 1995 and represents an eclectic mix of religion, architecture and engineering built with the purpose of soliciting God's protection from the ever-present risk of working in a mine.

The stations of the cross path across the mine is a poignant representation of Jesus' last moments, which culminates in the three-part cavernous subterranean cathedral. Visitors are  impressed not only by the incredible engineering work and sculptures but also by the religious meaning and importance of this place for the miners.


Zipaquira Salt Cathedral Entrance - Uncover Colombia
Zipaquira Salt Cathedral Entrance
Uncover Colombia
One of the Stations of the Cross. Zipaquira Salt Cathedral - Uncover Colombia
One of the Stations of the Cross.
Zipaquira Salt Cathedral - Uncover Colombia

Unfortunately, due to the fame of the salt cathedral, most visitors focus solely on this tourist attraction but do not spend time wandering around the town of Zipaquira or its beautiful surrounding countryside. Zipaquira certainly holds a lot of history from the Spanish conquest, religious traditions and it is a palpable representation of the life in the countryside of the savannah of Bogota. The town centre has an interesting architecture and its main square is surrounded by old colonial buildings. The countryside is adorned by beautiful landscapes and working farms. It is definitely worth the effort to spend some extra time exploring the area.


Zipaquira - Beautiful countryside view - Uncover Colombia
Zipaquira - Beautiful countryside view
Uncover Colombia

We went through this same reasoning when we were designing our day tour to Zipaquira and to make the town and its people justice, we have created a Zipaquira day trip covering not only the spectacular salt cathedral but also the surrounding areas.

Agriculture (mainly dairy farming) is very important in this region and many of the farms in the area have been operating for many years with their owners witnessing the changes and progress of the region through generations. So, we thought it would be interesting for a traveller to visit one of these farms, being welcomed in a farmer's house to have a traditional lunch and be involved in the daily farm activities, like making cheese or milking a cow. This would not be a tour for tourists; this is an experience designed for travellers interested on immersing themselves in the culture and traditions of Colombia. If you are not afraid of a little challenge and of getting your hands a little dirty while learning something truly new and being close to nature, this is the tour for you!


A local farm in Zipaquira - Uncover Colombia
A local farm in Zipaquira
Uncover Colombia

At Uncover Colombia we firmly believe that you have not really experienced the best of Colombia until you get the opportunity to interact with local people, discover remote places and immerse yourself in the Colombian traditions and culture. If you come with us to Zipaquira you will have a real chance of doing, seeing and experiencing all of the above.

People who want more than nice photos to take back home from their trip to Colombia should apply here :-)

The Uncover Colombia Team