Even though it has been low on my list for things to do around Bogotá, I was really amazed when I finally got to the Salt Cathedral. I had the idea that it’d just be too crowded with loads of loud Colombian visitors. On one hand, it actually was. But on the other hand, inside this cathedral carved out in the halite rock 180 metres below the ground, there’s so much space that this isn’t even a problem.
Salt crystals still covering the walls.
Located in Zipaquirá, just north of the Colombian capital Bogotá, it is the only church in the world to be located in a salt mine. These salt deposits were created 200 million years ago, and the salt extraction was an important economic activity for the indigenous Muiscas, long before the arrival of the Spaniards. Eventually, the Catholic miners created a small sanctuary in the mine, to please the miners’ saint and ask for protection during the work in the tunnels. The first ‘cathedral’ was closed due to years of water filtration that made the site too dangerous. The present church was carved out in the halite rock in the old tunnels a lot deeper than the first, and opened in 1995.
To be precise, it is not really a cathedral, since it has no bishop. But Roman Catholic mass is celebrated every Sunday.
Main square of Zipaquirá village
The visit took us a bit more than two hours. We joined some different guided groups during our strolling in the tunnels. By the time we got up again, it was good to see the sun and we were quite hungry.
We had been told that the best ‘fritanga’ in Cundinamarca is served in Cogua, a village five minutes from Zipaquirá. We took off for the restaurant El Pino in Cogua. Fritanga, a giant tray of grilled meat and homemade charcuteries with plaintains, potatoes and yuca, in the countryside is probably the most typical Colombian way of ending a Sunday excursions. And at the end of the day we agreed, the best fritanga is to be found in Cogua.
The façades of the colonial houses in central Zipaquirá are all painted in blue and red.
Catedral de sal de Zipaquirá
Good: It’s a stunning engineering project, with a well-organized infrastructure for visitors and it’s really a rare and unique church. The wide subterranean corridors have good air and fairly high ceiling, it felt safe and didn’t cause any claustrofobia. Easy to reach from Bogotá, either by car or bus from Portal Norte.
Bad: Expensive entrance 28.500$ for us and 50.000 pesos for foreigners. However, if you try to dress up as a Colombian and speak good Spanish, it shouldn’t be a problem to get a national/resident entrance ticket.