Zipaquirá is one of the most important Colombian municipalities in terms of salt exploitation centers. Not only today but also centuries ago when the Muisca indigenous people extracted from this area the precious element resulting from the evaporation of a small sea that was located here millions of years ago.
However, Zipaquirá is also known for hosting a salt mine in which workers have built an impressive underground sanctuary.
It is located 180 meters underground and began to be built in the middle of the XNUMXth century As a result of the idea of Luis Ángel Arango, who was aware of the devotion that the miners had for God when they took divine images with them to the bowels of the earth.
Arango placed the chapel on the second of the four levels that the mine had and the work began in October 1950 and in 1991 the new cathedral began to be built 60 meters below the old one. The inauguration took place in 1995 and years later it received the distinction of First Wonder of Colombia.
The temple was dedicated to the patron saint of miners, the Virgen de Guas and is considered the first Colombian wonder.
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Parts of the Cathedral
Once inside the salt cathedral, the first section of the route is the Stations of the Cross. Its 386 meters long and 13 meters high make up the 14 stations, which are mostly in the void of the great tunnels of the cathedral.
These stations were carved by the miners in rock of salt and represent the different stages of the Passion of Christ. At the end there is access to three naves: the naves of birth and baptism, the naves of life and death and the resurrection naves, each with an altar. In one of them there is a large cross 16 meters high that is considered the largest in the world under the ground.
The dome of the cathedral has a height of 11 meters and a diameter of 8. It is also carved completely in salt and symbolizes the cosmos and the world.
In the upper part of the central nave is the choir, formed by a series of stairs carved in salt that represent the musical scale. We cannot forget the narthex, a work also made in salt through which the unbaptized had to pass as an act of penance as established in the Bible.
In the upper area is located the archangel Saint Michael with a band on his knees that says "you are the salt of the Earth, the prolongation of existence."
What else can be seen in the Salt Cathedral?
Inside there is a rich artistic collection of salt and marble sculptures in an environment full of a deep religious sense.
Currently it is not the seat of any prelate, but it does have an important religious function, being a recognized Catholic sanctuary in the country. As a curiosity, in the Salt Cathedral Eucharists are held on Sundays at noon but it is not possible to get married or celebrate any other sacrament inside.
The place attracts religious tourism, cultural tourism and is also a claim for ecotourism, as it is a natural reserve in a mining complex, and for those who want to appreciate the architecture of the site.
Information of interest of the Cathedral of Salt
The tour around the Salt Cathedral lasts about an hour. It is recommended to wear suitable footwear and warm clothing. The cathedral itself is the biggest tourist attraction in the area, but it is within a complex, called El Parque de la Sal, of 32 hectares.
If you plan to travel to Bogotá, it is worth going to Zipaquirá to know The Salt Cathedral is located only 48 kilometers from the Colombian capital. Admission for adults costs $ 23.000 while that for children costs $ 16.000 although there are special offers for groups.
How to get to the Salt Cathedral?
The most common option is to do it by bus. Both from the Bogotá bus station and from the Portal del Norte, many buses leave frequently. We recommend the Portal del Norte because the journey takes less, just one hour. The price of the ticket is approximately 4.000 pesos. Once in Zipaquirá it will take 20 minutes to walk to the entrance of the Salt Cathedral.
Zipaquirá is one of the oldest cities in Colombia. Located about 45 km north of Bogotá, it is also one of the most visited for its main attraction: the Salt Cathedral. However, it is a small city with some colonial vestiges that can be visited in half an hour.
We recommend taking advantage of the visit to the Salt Cathedral to get to know Zipaquirá through a pleasant walk. The central square where the small Cathedral of the Holy Trinity is located, the school where Gabriel García Márquez studied, the Market Square where you can find a lot of crafts ... without forgetting to sit on a terrace to taste the delicious Colombian cuisine. In the city there are quite a few steakhouses where you can eat very well at affordable prices.