Colombia // Bogotá and around //

The Zipaquirá salt cathedral

The most popular day-trip from Bogotá is a visit to the salt cathedral of ZIPAQUIRÁ, some 50km north of the city. Inaugurated in 1995 to great fanfare – having replaced an earlier one that closed because of collapse – the cathedral lies completely underground, topped by a hill that was mined by local Indians even before the Spanish arrived in the seventeenth century. As you descend 180m into the earth, you’ll pass fourteen minimalist chapels built entirely of salt that glow like marble in the soft light, each a different combination of colours. The main nave is a feat of modern engineering, complete with the world’s largest subterranean cross, and the vast salty cavern is impressive, though the changing lighting is very gimmicky.

Above ground, there’s a museum explaining the history of salt extraction; more expensive ticket combinations include museum entry. You must enter the salt cathedral with a guided tour that’s included in the entrance fee, but once inside, you’re free to escape.