The Salt Cathedral

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Just a short bus ride out of Bogotá is the city of Zipaquirá, home to the Salt Cathedral. The Salt Cathedral, dubbed the “First Wonder of Colombia” in 2007,  is a cathedral built underground in a salt mine. Though this stunning cathedral is not officially recognized by the Catholic church, on average 3,000 visitors attend mass in this cavernous sanctuary every week.

I referred to the bus ride from Bogotá to the cathedral as “short.” It is only 48 km (30 miles) from Bogotá to Zipaquirá but, as my life typically goes, it had to be more of an adventure than that.  We had been told by the hotel to take a cab to the southern Bogotá bus station. After having fought with cab drivers through our entire trip, when this kind soul of a driver told us we should take the bus to Zipaquirá, we promptly ignored him. This was our first mistake. Instead of the one hour this trip should have taken, we left the station on the bus and spent the next hour driving through the city with a man hanging out of the open door calling our destinations out, picking up stray folk along the road. Eventually we stopped for ten minutes at the northern bus station and were on our way for the “short” bus trip we had been promised.

I think it is fair to say that the driver did not value the relationship between the bus wheels and the black top nearly as my as I do. On more than one gigantic speed bump our bus, the Rapido El Carmen, demonstrated their emphasis on the rapido and took liftoff. I can only assume that El Carmen is a saint who kept us alive as the bus driver careened along.

We got off the bus on the side of the road in Zipaquirá and traipsed through the town, asking for directions along the way. For some reason, no matter where I am in the world, whatever I am looking for is always seems to be up the hill from me. So, up the hill we trekked. It did make for a nice view of the city along the way.

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Zipaquirá had a beautiful square where we saw a trolley tour of the city. I was very disappointed that it stopped running before we finished our tour of the cathedral. We eventually reached a gate that we thought was the top of the hill, but of course when the guard came out and directed us, she pointed up the hill again. This time it was stairs. We made it to the top where we saw the Plaza of Flags and purchased tickets for the cathedral and the archaeological museum.

The Salt Cathedral was incredible. The stations of the cross were carved out along the path leading into the main sanctuary. Each station’s cross had a different design to symbolize that station’s event.

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The sanctuary was breathtaking. The pictures don’t begin to do it justice to represent the magnitude of the space.  Sculptures and other religious art were hidden in alcoves throughout the tour.

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Though no part of the tour would make you forget that you were underground, it was easy to lose sight of the fact that this place was at one time a working mine. A short video giving the history of the mine was included in the tour.

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After touring the cathedral, the archaeological museum was a let down. It was filled with ancient pottery and pieces of pottery. We did find this little lady in there.

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I would not recommend the museum unless you have a burning passion for ancient Native Americans art and life. The trolley tour of the city would have been more our speed, but now we know for next time. The Salt Cathedral was indescribable! Even in pictures. I would definitely recommend a visit there.

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