Welcome to Colombia, where they build churches out of salt!
Located an hour or so north of the capitol city of Bogota, the Parque de la Sal is a huge tourist attraction for both locals and international visitors. The Parque de la Sal attracts thousands of visitors every week with weekends becoming especially busy. The park is home to a number of attracts but the one most people come for is the world famous Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá.
Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá
Built into the old tunnels of the salt mine, this unique church sits around 200 meters underground. Originally the church was carved out by the salt mine workers who would spend nearly every hour of the day in these dark tunnels. The church was built to protect them and allow them to pray during their dangerous daily work.
Over the years, the Salt Cathedral began to attract the attention of people outside the mines. It became a popular pilgrimage site and a place where families from Bogota would gather on the weekends. In 1995 a new Cathedral was opened that would accommodate the growing crowds.
The new Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá slowly winds its way down into the mine with a path representing the 14 Stations of the Cross. Each station has a cross and kneeling platforms for prayer. The crosses at these stations were carved by both ordinary salt miners and also world famous sculptures who were welcomed to contribute their art to the project.
At the bottom of the tunnels the mine opens up into the main Salt Cathedral. The cathedral has three sections that represent the birth, life, and death of Jesus as well as four large salt pillars that represent the Four Evangelists. The central cross is reportedly the largest salt cross in the world.
The Salt Mine
Besides being a church, this is still a working salt mine. Every day tons of salt are mined out for industrial and commercial use. You wont see any of the work being done though as the active section of the mine is separated from the Salt Cathedral.
You can get a sense of the work that is done in the mines though by opting for the “Miner for a Day” tour. You will be given a miner’s hat and led off into the restricted area of the mine. Here the guide will show and explain how the miners worked before modern technology. It is a fun adventure but not for the claustrophobic as part of the tour you are led through a very tiny, completely dark tunnel.
Other Parque de la Sal Attractions
The Salt Park has enough activities to easily take up a whole day.
In the Mine…
Ever watched a 3D movie 200 meters underground? Well you now can! The salt mine has not only a movie theater (that shows educations films about the mine) but also a coffee show, museum, and gift shop.
Out of the Mine…
The whole area around the mine entrance is actually part of the Parque de la Sal. There is a food court with a few restaurants serving traditional treats, a maze, a self-guided tour through the old salt mine refinery, and nice hiking trails in the surrounding forest. You can also pay extra to climb a rock wall.
Couple Travel Tips
- Practice your Spanish before heading out to the mine. While there are English tours, the Spanish ones are much, much more frequent and you wont have to wait as long to get into the mine.
- A great way to finish off the day is to walk back down into the small town of Zipaquirá at the bottom of the hill. The town has a very cute central square and great restaurants.
- Feeling a little adventurous?! You can actually get married in the Salt Cathedral. It would make for quite the elopement story!