Zipaquira’s attractive Spanish Colonial center, built with the wealth of the massive nearby salt mines, was founded in the 1760s some 50km (31mi) north of the Colombian capital. Today the “City of Salt,” replete with quaint cafes and souvenir shops, is Bogota’s most popular day trip—you can even make it in an antique steam train.
You are here to see the famed Zipaquira Salt Cathedral, considered one of Colombia’s “Seven Wonders” and its architectural crown jewel. Climb to the Parque de Sal (“Salt Park”), just southeast of downtown, to enjoy the Plaza of the Miners’ great views and evocative art. From here, you’ll begin your journey 180m (590ft) into the heart of an enormous salt mountain.
The structure was carved from the mines, using both heavy machinery and the most sophisticated sculpting tools, thanks to a team led by architect Roswell Garavito Pearl and engineer Jorge Enrique Castelblanco Reyes in 1995. It is most famous for its understated Stations of the Cross, but there are finer pieces of art dedicated to both the church and those who worked here long before it was built. While most of your time is spent wandering through the chill and colorfully lit cathedral, a film at the end of the tour delves into the gritty history of the mines. For an extra fee they’ll even let you mine a bit of salt yourself.
Though still technically just a church, rather than a proper cathedral, some 3,000 of the faithful show up to Zipaquira for Sunday service, and several times that on religious holidays. Plan your visit accordingly.