In Bogota? Looking for an exciting day trip? How would you like to visit a church built underground? Until 2008, when I took a day trip with some friends to the small city of Zipaquira, I had never even heard of a cathedral being constructed underground, much less within a salt mine. Boy, was I glad I decided to join my friends on their day trip to Zipaquira!
A small town outside of Bogota, Zipaquira is located within the department of Cundinamarca, and the Salt Cathedral is its most visited attraction. The Salt Cathedral, though, is not only the primary tourist site in Zipaquira, it is also ranked as one of the most visited tourist and religious sites in all of Colombia. 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.
Although a relatively modern structure—reopened in 1995 after substantial alterations and renovations were made to an older structure—the present day cathedral has its roots in a small prayer altar constructed several decades ago by miners in the salt mines. It is also purported that some of the original carvings in the “caves” of the salt mines were left behind by the ancient Muisca civilization. Today, the small prayer altar created by the miners has been converted into an underground cathedral that boasts three naves as well as the Stations of the Cross, many carved completely out of the salt found in the mines, and an impressive salt dome.
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 miners 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 highly recommended tour the actual city of Zipaquira.
If you want to really take advantage of your tour to Zipaquira and the Salt Park and/or Salt Cathedral, you’ll take the Tren Turístico de la Sabana, the Savannah Train. This is a local train that runs from Bogota all the way to Zipaquira and back. In taking the train, you’ll get a spectacular tour of the beautiful landscape surrounding the outskirts of Bogota, through the Savannah of Bogota (la Sabana de Bogotá), as well as a quick “passing through” of the towns of Cajica and la Caro. Although the train will take a little longer than a trip by car, the scenery and atmosphere of the train is a spectacular experience not worth missing.
However you get there, a day trip to Zipaquira and the Salt Cathedral should be on anyone’s itinerary when visiting Bogota. In order to best plan your tour to Zipaquira, check out the following websites:
Tren Turístico de la Sabana: http://www.turistren.com.co/
Paige M. Poole
About the author:
“Paige M. Poole is an Alabamian and traveler at heart who has settled, for now, in Barranquilla, Colombia, and earns her living as an English professor at the Instituto de Idiomas (Language Institute) at la Universidad del Norte (University of the North). When not teaching English, she enjoys blogging, traveling, relaxing on the beach, and spending time with her partner and two cats, Milo and Sophie. You can see more of Paige’s traveling experiences in her personal blog www.trotamunda.wordpress.com
- Zipaquira: Salt Cathedral and Countryside tour (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- Zipaquira: Beyond the salt cathedral (www.uncovercolombia.wordpress.com)
- Colombia: A Jam-Packed, Fun Week of Exploration (atlantablackstar.com)
- Two reasons Colombia should be at the top of your travel destinations (uncovercolombia.wordpress.com)
- Subterranean Wonder (uncovercolombia.wordpress.com)