August 9, 2019, 2:52 pm
The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá is one of the must-see destinations while visiting Bogotá, Colombia. It’s not actually located in Colombia’s capital city, but the hour ride to the small city of Zipaquirá means you can see this fabulous attraction and still explore Bogotá afterwards.
Serving as a functioning church on Sundays to thousands of Catholics, the cathedral also receives an incredible amount of tourists Monday thru Saturday who come to marvel at the architecture and ingenuity of its existence. The Cathedral is ranked as one of the most visited tourist and religious sites in all of Colombia, so it is definitely worth to include a visit to Zipaquira during a day tour from Bogota.
The modern-day cathedral opened to the public in 1995, but its history stretches way before the time of Beanie Babies and the Spice Girls. Pre-Columbian people called the Muiscas had been extracting salt from the mines in that area since the 5th century. They used the commodity for trading. Builders constructed a church in the 1950s, but even before then, miners carved a little church and alters where they would say daily prayers and ask the patron saint of miners for safety.
The attraction isn’t just one big sanctuary underground. The cathedral is broken up into 14 small chapels connected by tunnels. Each chapel represents the stations of the cross, or Jesus Christ’s last journey before crucifixion. There are spots to kneel and pray at each station, but most people just admire each little chapel and keep it moving.
You can speed walk your way through the whole underground cathedral in about 30 minutes. But tearing through a holy space isn’t recommended. What is recommended is taking a guided tour. Most guided tours in the Salt Cathedral last about 1.5 to 2 hours. It’s better to listen to a guide share information about this unique cathedral so you can learn about each station and the history of the architectural project. If you wish to take a tour from Bogota including the transport and a tour guide, please check here.
If you’re thinking, “I’m not religious,” “I’m not Catholic,” or “I am not one to go on church tours,” let me tell you—you don’t need to be any of the aforementioned to be able to appreciate the unique and impressive architectural design of this remarkable site. Even so, if you’re still not sold on the idea of visiting the amazing and well-worth-the-trip Salt Cathedral, there are many other things you can do in what is commonly called the Salt Park, of which the Salt Cathedral is a part. For instance, you can take a miner’s tour and learn all about the process of extracting salt from the mines as well as the different geological properties of the area or take a tour the actual city of Zipaquira.
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.
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, if you love to learn about the local culture when travelling you can visit a local farm have a traditional lunch and be involved in the daily farm activities, like making cheese or milking a cow. You can do this after visiting the salt cathedral, if would be an interesting additional experience for your tour to Zipaquira, check here for more details.
Some additional tips:
- Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is the week leading up to Easter. Easter Sunday seems to be the most observed day during Holy Week for Christians in the United States and other parts of the world, but in Colombia, the whole week is significant, especially Good Friday. So, it’s just best to visit the cathedral before or after Holy Week.
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