Underground Magic in the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá, Colombia

Posted on February 21, 2013 by

 Our editor Kenza Moller is currently traveling in Colombia from the colonial city of Bogotá to the Andean town of Pereira and wildlife-rich Cocora Valley. Follow her journey here or on Twitter@Kenzamoller.

Just outside of Bogotá, nestled into a mountain in the colorful town of Zipaquirá, lies the first wonder of Colombia: the Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral. Its entrance is unassuming: a couple of stray dogs roam around the ticket booth, and a girl smacking bubble gum offers up snacks and advice. A miner mannequin is propped up at the mouth of the mine-turned-cathedral as the little sunlight of the overcast day filters into the hollow tunnel.

Built in 1992, the cathedral haunts the tunnels of an abandoned 1928 salt mine. The first salt cathedral, in the same location, was built in 1950 by 128 miners who wanted to honour their patron saint, the Virgen de Guasá – the virgin of salt and water. The second and current cathedral was built to replace it by carving out an astounding 250 thousand tons of rock salt, only 5% of which became the Mí Sal table salt in Colombia, with the rest going into the chemical production of everyday items like chlorine, plastic, and shampoo.

DSC03381The main nave of the Salt Cathedral

Inside, LED lights lazily cycle from one pastel tone to another, illuminate the glimmering rock surrounding us – mostly rock, with bits of pyrite and other minerals streaked through it. The walk leads us through twelve prayer chambers, designed by different Colombian artists to represent the stations of the cross.

Three naves with altars are carved out, complete with pews, altars, and a baptism area. A massive hallway can fit a limousine leading up to the main nave to accommodate any brides who would rather avoid a traipse through a mine before walking to the altar. Past the naves, the Salt Cathedral boasts an impressive theatre and an acoustically-rich room where they hold light shows, LED lights waving across the ceiling.

DSC03420One of the many statues found in the Salt Cathedral

To complete the Colombian experience, a café near the exit offers up baked goods and coffee 180 meters below the surface of the ground. Sipping a rich mochaccino, we wandered over to the Water Mirror: a pool merely 10 centimetres deep, it’s impossible to see its bottom, its placid surface an unblemished reflection of the salt rock around it. Nearby, a child’s blue bucket tests the luck of the cathedral visitors as a wishing well, coins glittering under turquoise light.

DSC03457The Water Mirror

DSC03452
Colombian coffee is even better when 180 metres belowground

 DSC03328One of the twelve stations of the cross

The Salt Cathedral was an unforgettable experience, akin to going scuba diving for the first time: on emerging, you can’t believe how unaware you used to be of the magic that sleeps below the surface.


Disclaimer: This trip was made possible by Proexport Colombia and Maupintour, but all opinions are our own.

About Kenza Moller

Kenza is WildJunket's editor. She is originally from the Dominican Republic and currently wrapping up a writing degree in Victoria, BC. She ran a non-profit foundation for animals and also interned at Canadian Geographic, and is happiest when traveling, scuba diving, writing or running. Check out her blog at www.kenzamoller.com.

9 Responses to “Underground Magic in the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá, Colombia”

  1. Renee Meyrink February 21, 2013 3:18 pm #

    Makes me want to visit this place…seems magical;

  2. Migration Expert February 25, 2013 6:42 pm #

    I can't believe that there is a cathedral that was made of salt. It's very interesting to know it!

    • Kenza February 25, 2013 7:08 pm #

      It's so impressive! Trying to capture the vastness of it in a picture is impossible.

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    Everyone loves it when people get together and share opinions. Great site, keep it up!

  7. Debbie May 13, 2013 11:16 pm #

    The photos sure make the salt cathedral feel magical. Amazing photos and great article. Hope to be able to visit some day!

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  1. Behind the Scenes: Interview with Our Magazine Editor, Kenza Moller | WildJunket MagazineWildJunket Magazine - May 21, 2013

    […] in Colombia’s Salt Cathedral was pretty amazing – it was breathtaking to know that I was wandering around miles below earth. I […]

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