The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira, Cundinamarca, Colombia
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The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira, Cundinamarca, Colombia

In the town of Zipaquira, Colombia there is an underground cathedral formed in a hill, used for mining rock salt since pre-Columbian times. It has become a popular tourist destination and there are plans to build a salt spa on the site.

In the town of Zipaquira, about 48 km north of Bogota, Colombia, there is a cathedral located deep underground in a halite (rock salt) mountain. This unusual place of worship not only serves up to three hundred parishioners every Sunday, it is part of an subterranean complex that includes a movie theater, restaurant and other attractions. There are now plans to expand the complex with a salt spa, wellness center . The salt cathedral has already attracted over 13 million visitors since it opened in 1995, and with tourism on the increase in Colombia it will no doubt became a major attraction.

Salt has been mined in the hills of Zipa, Zipaquira since pre-Columbian times. The Muisca indigenous people were the first to mine for salt, using the commodity as a form of currency. The Spanish built the colonial town of Zipaquira and exploited the mines. Liberators such as Bolivar and Narino used the value of salt to fund their fight for independence from Spain, creating the republics of Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador.

In the 1930’s workers at the mine were in need of a place to pray and so a chapel was created in one of the tunnels. This led to the creation of the first salt cathedral in 1954. The cathedral became a popular place of pilgrimage for the predominantly Roman Catholic population of Colombia. The salt cathedral was eventually closed because it was deemed unsafe. In 1995 a new salt cathedral was opened at a different site. This cathedral was deeper at a 180 meters below ground and larger with 250,000 tons of rock salt excavated. Image credit.

The salt cathedral has a series of fourteen tunnels with stations of the cross that represent the life of Jesus. Lights change colors and illuminate the dark tunnels. There is a main auditorium area with seating for 300 and adjacent to this there are naves which represents the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Each nave has sculptures, many of which were sculpted by the miners. There is also a sculpture created by the Italian artist Ludovico Consorte in 1950; the sculpture is of a Guardian Angel.

This image belongs to Matthew Winterburn and is published at flickr.com under creative commons licence.

Visitors to the Salt Cathedral can enjoy a 60 minute guided tour about the cathedral. There is also a 30 minute tour which describes the perilous life of a salt minor. There is a large food hall, also coffee shop and gift shop. There is also a 3D video about the geological history of the salt mine. For the kids there is a rock climbing wall, the highest in Colombia.

Image credit flickr.com; published with creative commons licence. Primary image also from flickr.com

In 2009 the mayor of Zapaquira, Colombia, Jorge Enrique Gonzales traveled to the underground salt cathedral of Wieliczka, Poland, to analyze the sites wellness and rehabilitation center. The salt spa at Wieliczka provided the inspiration and is the model for the new salt spa at the salt cathedral in Zapaquira, Cundinamarca, Colombia. Visit the Colombia travel and tourism portal for the best and most up to date information. There is also a salt mine in the near by town of Nemocon, located 65km north of Bogota. Amongst the attractions is a 1,600 kg salt crystal carved into the shape of a heart and an 80 year old salt waterfall.

This Image belongs to Friederick Gunthrie and is published on flickr.com, under creative commons licence.  

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Comments (9)

It's amazing how many of these salt cathedrals exist. I did an article on my travel blog about Wieliczka: Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland . They are incredible are they not

It is amazing to what extent people will go to worship and pray. Fab article, very interesting.

wow, really beautiful and unusual.

yes beautiful and unusual, I never heard of a salt cathedral before

So surprising. Another great write Peter. Thank you.

Thanks for all your great comments guys. I have a freind who visited the salt cathedral in Colombia. Apparently the place is very spiritual, also tiny flakes of wet salt are continually falling so you end up half soaked by the end of the tour. Not a place to wear your favorite outfit.

This is good info. Sorry I ran out of votes. I'll come back later. Thanks.

Wow! This is an amazing region rich with history and awesome sights for the visitors here. Awesome photos and great document of a wonderous and sacred cavern mine. Great work!

geline

Wow!!! Amazing pics!!! Love it..

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