Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral
Another incredible place to visit outside of Bogotá is el catedral de sal de Zipaquirá – the Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral. This beautiful and sacred cathedral lies 180 metres underground.
To create the cathedral they first had to extract 250,00 tonnes of salt rock. It was built in one of the four underground salt mine chambers, whilst the other tunnels are still functioning salt mines today. It is known as the biggest salt reserve in the world.
You can take a tour to visit Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral through most hostels, however it’s quite the adventure to go yourselves. To find out how to visit a much cheaper way, you must read this post.
How to get to Zipa from Bogotá
To get to Zipa we got an Uber to Portal del Norte for $16.00 COP but we did not enter the station. On the side of the road, heading north, you can grab a local bus with a sign advertising ‘Zipa.’ Alternatively there will be a guy hanging out of the door and risking his life while shouting out his final destination. So you can’t miss it. If you have any doubts, ask the taxi man to drop you where the bus departs from, but it should be opposite Portal del Norte.
The bus to Zipa costs $5.000COP one way and takes 1 hour. You need to tell the bus driver/guy who sells the tickets you want to go to el catedral de sal de Zipaquirá and they will drop you off on the high street in Zipa. From here it’s best to ask some locals where to head to for the cathedral. Although it is quite simple once you get off the bus if you aren’t confident in your Spanish.
You can walk to Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral from Zipa.
You simply cross the road where the bus drops you and take the first left. This will take you towards a surprisingly stunning plaza that comes out of nowhere. It’s completely unexpected; you walk through the plaza with the church to your right and keep going straight until you meet a smaller, less impressive square. This is where you take a left turn towards the hills. If you’re lucky you might acquire a local guide in the shape of a dog. We had Patch take us all the way to the entrance of the cathedral.
You’ll soon realise you have made it to the entrance of the mine, as a white painted salt trail leads you up the steps and to the ticket box to enter Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral. The entrance is $50.000 COP for tourists and includes a guided group tour. I would ask when they have English tours available as they only run hourly. We had just missed one so we relied on my Spanish. It was a bit of a stretch for my vocabulary as I never had the chance to cover words regarding mining and religion. Nevertheless we still found out a lot.
Go deeper to experience more
On the tour, they first take you to what used to be the entrance the miners took to get deep down inside to extract the salt. You walk down the tunnel, which leads you 180m below and reveals a number of chambers.
Each chamber represents the stages of the birth, death and resurrection of Christ. In each chapel you will see a salt cross carved deeply into the walls portraying a story of Christ. They also offer a place to kneel and pray. The Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral is still extremely active, celebrating life and death with weddings, christenings and funerals.
I won’t give anything else away as it’s something you simply cannot imagine would exist so far below. You need to see this for yourself.
If you want to read what other places you can visit when staying in Bogotá, visit my post on how to spend 2 weeks here.