Next to Bogotá, the city Zipaquirá (47 km away) holds a Colombian treasure: the Salt Cathedral (Catedral de Sal). Named the first wonder of the country and entered the contest of the New Seven World Wonders in construction. Besides that the Colombians are very proud of it, the cathedral is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the country. The impressive temple was built inside a salt mine, 180 meters below the earth.
You can visit Zipaquirá and the Salt Cathedral easily on your own. From Bogotá to get to the city, just take a Transmilenio (BRT) to the North Portal station (the ticket costs 1,500 COP during normal hours and 1,800 COP in peak hours) and from there take another Transmilenio to Zipaquirá or take a bus from outside the North Portal station. We took the bus from the outside and the stretch per person cost 4,500 COP. The journey takes an average of 40 minutes and the bus stops a few meters from the historic city center.
In fact, the historical center of Zipa, as the municipal is called, is very beautiful, with very well preserved colonial buildings. During that period, the city became the most important one in Colombia, because of the salt trade, which at that time was worth more than gold. In the surroundings of Plaza Mayor are the city’s cathedral and the municipal palace. And just a few meters away, is the route to get to the Salt Cathedral.
Anyone walking upstairs has to face several steps to get to the ticket office. And at an altitude of 2,650 m, it is normal to feel a little tired.
When you arrive at the ticket office, you should make a plan for your visit to the salt park because within the park are several attractions you can see. The ticket for the Salt Cathedral, including a guided tour and a 3D film, costs 25 thousand COP per adult and 17 thousand COP for children between 4 and 12 years. The guided tour to the Cathedral takes almost 2 hours.
The other attractions are paid separately: Museo de la Salmuera (3,000 COP / 25 minutes); Muro de Escalada (6 thousand COP, Climbing Wall) and Ruta del Minero (6 thousand COP / 35 minutes; Route of a miner). The route is to understand the miners’ experience in a guided tour with work and safety equipment. But we didn’t do it, because we were already in the mine of Potosí, Bolivia, in a much more tense experience!
The guided tour through the Salt Cathedral starts at Via Crúcis, divided into 14 parts which show the different stops of Jesus along his path and goes all along to the cathedral. The current complex of the cathedral was built by the miners, with a government support, between 1992 and 1995. As they had support and investment from the state, the complex became more sophisticated with adequate structure and security to receive visitors, from infants to senior citizens.
Miners have a tradition of creating religious sanctuaries within the mines. Therefore, the first cathedral was built on the initiative of the miners themselves between 1942 and 1952, for devotion to Jesus Christ and Our Lady of Rosary of Guasá, to whom the construction was dedicated, and was open to the public for 40 years until it was unsafe to receive visitors due to security and structural failures.
The current structure is so large that there is scenic lighting at the different stations and in the cathedral, a sound system with Ave Maria, jewelery and handicraft shops, cafes, snack bars and even a movie theater inside the mine, where the 3D movie of 15 minutes is presented. The movie tells in a funny and well-structured way the story of Zipaquirá from prehistory, how a mountainous region can be a source of salt (all of Colombia was an ocean millions of years ago); and how it has been the process of exploring salt over the years. I highly recommend to watch it at the end of the guided tour.
An interesting detail is that in the cathedral are realized ecclesiastical services, with the celebration of the Holy Mass on Sundays at noon. Recently they are accepting weddings and also renewal of marriage vows.
We visited Zipaquira and the Salt Cathedral on our last day in Bogota and it was a great way to say goodbye to the city that welcomed us very well for eight days.
Cathedral de Sal (Salt Cathedral)
Visiting hours: every day from 9 am to 5.30 pm
Read other posts about Bogotá here.