The first time I visited the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá was in 2014. I was staying in The Click Clack Hotel in Bogotá and they helped me coordinate a shuttle. I returned a couple of times to this Colombian city but had not returned to the Salt Cathedral.
In November of 2018, Roger Waters, singer of the band Pink Floyd, had a concert in Bogota. I wanted to go to the concert, because bands like that never come to Panama, but I didn’t buy the ticket on time. By casualty, I received a call from one of my best friends who had an extra ticket. The friend who was going to accompany her had a family mishap and couldn’t go. She asked me do you want it? And of course I said yes!
After seeing that concert we had the next day free. My friend told me that she wanted to go to the Salt Cathedral since she’d never been. Our driver picked us at our hotel en Bogotá and took us to Tramonti, an Italian restaurant that has a beautiful panoramic view over the city.
Towards the Salt Cathedral
We left for the Salt Cathedral at 2:30 p.m. on a mountainous road that passes through industrial zones on the outskirts of Bogota. I told the driver that it was not the same route as last time and he told me that we had probably taken the highway. Bogota has a very serious traffic problem but luckily there are different ways to get to places.
Irrelevant of which route you take, it takes about an hour and a half to arrive. You must take into consideration that the opening hours are from 9 a.m. to 5:40 p.m. You can stay a little after that time but you must enter earlier. On the way we stopped at a place to buy tickets at the price of nationals. It is quite expensive to enter, for locals it costs 34,000 COP (about $11-13) and 55,000 COP (about $18-20) for foreigners. We said that we were from the coast of Colombia that is relatively true since Panama was part of Colombia.
When we arrived at the Salt Cathedral I noticed that the site had been repaired. Now there is a very complete cafe, shops and a wall to climb. It was raining hard but it did not matter. Upon entering we pass through a tunnel decorated like Christmas and then another red one that is ideal for taking pictures.
The religious Viacrucis
Your ticket gives you an audio guide that comes in several languages. If you go on a tour the guide will give you the explanations. To use the equipment you must press the button that goes according to the place where you are inside the Salt Cathedral. As soon as you enter you will see a sign that says “Viacrusis” and an arrow to follow.
For those who are not very religious (like me) the audio becomes repetitive after a while. It basically explains the steps that Jesus took since he was arrested until his death and resurrection. There are 14 stations in total.
The Salt Cathedral is divided in three vessels: birth and baptism; life and death, and resurrection. Each one has its altar.
At the beginning of the mine, workers made a small chapel in 1932. The cathedral began its construction on October 7, 1950. It was inaugurated on August 15, 1954 in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, the patron saint of salt miners. It cost $285 million dollars but was closed in 1992 due to structural problems.
The first wonder of Colombia
In 1991 they began constructing the new cathedral about 200 feet below the first. It was inaugurated on December 16, 1995. To build it, 250 tons of salt rock were extracted. A curious fact is that this is the largest salt rock mine in the world. This mine has been used since pre-Columbian times by the ancient indigenous Muiscas.
In 2007, the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá received the distinction of being selected as the First Wonder of Colombia in a contest organized by the newspaper El Tiempo.
It has the largest underground cross in the world with 16 meters high by 10 meters wide. The most fascinating is the play of lights that illuminate these sculptures carved in salt. When you go down you will see a dome and the stations.
The mineral smell is not too strong and it feels fresh inside the Salt Cathedral. I am a little claustrophobic but everything is so big that I did not feel it at any time.
When you finish the religious part you will enter a commercial area where they sell emeralds in a small museum. They have many souvenirs and works of local artists.
In addition to a curious mirror of water that perfectly reflects the roof. Formerly it was a brine, a place for salt saturation.
It is possible to stay in a hotel in Zipaquirá which is a pretty picturesque town. If you are in the area you can take advantage of seeing other salt mines in Nemocón or go to dinner at Andrés Carne de Res in Chia, which is half an hour away.