The unlikeliest cathedral in the world?
50km to north of Bogotá is the small town of Zipaquirá home to one of only three salt cathedrals in the world – the other two are located in Poland.
Apparently around 250,000 tons of salt were cleared away to carve out this underground complex. Ethereal and “otherworldly” are words that immediate spring to mind! This must rank as one of Colombia’s greatest architectural achievements.
Tours are conducted in both Spanish and English, being in need of exercising our Spanish language skills, we opted for the Spanish tour as they ran more frequently (plus I rarely listen to commentaries anyway!) .
We descended some 180m below ground through a trail of 14 small chapels each representing the Stations of the Cross – each one a moodily-lit depiction of the cross carved out of the salt. The lighting is constantly changing and is very impressive. However nothing compares to the the trail’s culmination in the main nave, where a huge cross is illuminated from the base up. From a distance it looks like the cross is suspended from the wall closer up we could see that it was carved out of the wall.
After the main nave there are a variety of other sights including some reflecting pools and an emerald mine – complete with emeralds still in the walls. Sadly there is a tacky souvenir stall and a fast food outlet as well with the smell of popcorn all pervasive. But then, I am now being picky!
The DIY approach wasn’t that difficult, did not take any longer than a tour and saved us around $100.
We eschewed the very expensive tours in favour of the DIY approach. We used the Transmilieno. Jumping on at the station three blocks from our hotel, we had to change lines once to get to Portal del Norte TransMilenio station way out at Calle 170. About a 50-minute ride. From there we got a buses to Zipaquirá ( 50 minutes) which seemed to leave leave every few minutes from the portal’s Buses Intermuncipales platform.
We hadn’t a clue where to get off in Zipaquira, so we just asked the bus driver who dropped us off at the end of the Main Street from where we walked up through the main square to the cathedral entrance halfway up a steep hill on the outskirts of the town.
A great day trip from Bogotá.
Adiós Colombia, te amamos!