The Salt Cathedral Bogota Without a Tour

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If you are staying in Bogota for more than a few days there are some pretty incredible places you can visit that are just a short bus ride from the city. One of those places is The Cathedral of Salt in Zipaquirá. In this guide, I will go through everything you need to know to get from Bogota to the Salt Cathedral without booking a tour.

A little about The Salt Cathedral Bogota

One thing I will say for Catholic Colombians is they really are dedicated! Building a cathedral in a salt mine is no easy task. It is HUGE. I took lots of photographs, but honestly, this place needs to be seen to be believed. The photos just don’t do it justice.

The Cathedral isn’t actually in Bogota. The cathedral is in a place called Zipaquira, just a short journey from Bogota.

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about the history etc here as they actually have a really great website full of information that you can access here. But here are a few facts about the Salt Cathedral to get you interested:

  • The tunnels of the mine were first constructed in 1801, with the first cathedral opening in 1953.
  • The reason for the cathedral was because of the devotion of the miners before they entered the mine each morning. Mining is notoriously dangerous so this dedication is understandable.
  • For safety reasons that cathedral was closed and the second cathedral (the one you will visit) began construction in 1995 60 meters below the old one.

Opening hours of the Catedral de Sal de Zipaquira:
Sunday to Sunday. 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Offices: Monday to Friday. 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. / 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Cost for non-Colombian passport holders $98MIL COP
This cost includes a guided tour of the Salt Cathedral (you have no choice about this)

Need to book transportation in Colombia?

I highly recommend booking all of your Colombia transportation with GuateGo. You can search for buses, shuttles, ferries, and Flights on their website. What I love most about them is their customer service. I know these guys personally from my time living in Guatemala and they really do look after their customers. So if anything happens and you get delayed and miss your bus, you can just call them and they are always there to help.

If you book through them you will pay a little more than if you book in person at the bus station. But it’s worth it for the ease and security in my opinion. Click here to search for transportation in Colombia.

Getting to Zipaquira from Bogota

The best way to get to Zipaquira from Bogota is to take the bus from Bogota to Zipaquira.

The Bogota Zipaquira bus is actually very easy to find and Colombians being the wonderfully helpful people they are will make sure you don’t get lost!

Getting to Zipaquira from Bogota is really easy. When traveling around Latin America I have never had any trouble on public transport because the ayudantes ALWAYS help. Maybe it’s because I stick out like a sore thumb (being 5f8in, blond with blue eyes haha) but as long as I tell them where I’m going they always kick me off at the right place and normally shout a friend over to make sure I get on the next bus. Anyway, I digress.

Here is how to get to Zipaquira from Bogota on the bus:

Take the Transmilenio to Portal Norte. There are lots of buses that go there just get to a station and ask or download the Moovit app to figure out the best route.

Take a small local bus to “Zipa” Once you get to Portal Norte remember you are heading north out of the city. You can either stay in the station and find the area where all of the small mini-busses are look/ ask for a bus to “Zipa”.
You can also leave the station and cross the road (towards EXITO) find where everyone is standing and waiting for buses and then just flag one down that says “Zipa” on it.

Once you have been on the bus for a time the ayudante will come and take your money. I paid $5.5MIL COP there and $5MIL COP back. Tell him where you are going and then enjoy the journey. Once you get to Zipa he will tell you to get off.

Did You Get Travel Insurance Yet?

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that you need to be prepared for anything! Travel insurance has always been high my list of things to get before I travel but now more than ever its at the top of my list.

I’m pretty sure we have all had travel plans messed up because of COVID and not all insurers covered this. So when looking for travel insurance it’s important to check it covers travel disruption due to COVID-19, Hey Mondo, Passport Nomads, Safety Wing, and Travel Insurance Master all provide cover for this.

Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single trip cover, annual multi trip cover, and long term travel cover. You even have the option to start the cover when you are already on your trip, although you won’t be covered for the first 72 hours. For me my favourite feature is their app which offers you a 24/7 Dr chat and the ability to file a claim direct in the app.

Passport Nomads provides the most comprehensive cover for Digital Nomads. The game changer with them is that you have a red card and if you find yourself in need of medical care you just contact them and they will pre load your card with the funds to cover your treatment, meaning you won’t need to pay out of pocket and then put in a claim later.

Safety Wing is great value with monthly cover starting at $39. It’s super easy to use and it just renews each month. They have an excess of $250 and it’s simple to make a claim through their website. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy and I like that it renews on a monthly basis, so I don’t have to pay out a big lump sum up front.

I also use Travel Insurance Master for some short vacation type trips.

If you are doing shorter trips or an extended backpacking trip then Hey Mondo or Travel Insurance Master are the best option. If you are a digital nomad or planning travel of at least 6 months then go for Passport Nomads or SafetyWing.

How to get to the Salt Cathedral from Zipaquira

Once you arrive in Zipa ask the ayudante for directions if you aren’t sure. But you just keep walking in the direction of the bus for a few meters until you get to the street corner. Cross the road and take a left heading up the hill. As you get towards the top of that part of the road you will probably be greeted by a friendly English-speaking tourist information guide.

From here you can buy your ticket and take a “train” ride up to the cathedral. I didn’t as I was a little worried about getting ripped off… I read the entrance fee was $20MIL COP and this guy told me $50MIL COP (quite a difference). So I opted to walk. Just so you know it was legit and would have been fine to buy the ticket from him and take a nice easy ride up to the cathedral.

Colombia Guides | The Cathedral of Salt Zipaquirá

If you want to walk however it’s about 20 minutes uphill with some steps involved. I really enjoyed walking through the town of Zipa so I didn’t mind the walk. Ask the guide to point you in the right direction. You basically just keep walking up the road and then turn left towards the top. You will see the signs though. It’s a really small place and hard to get lost.

Inside the Cathedral

To tour Catedral de sal zipaquira you have to be with a guide, which means you will be in a group. You have no choice in this!

I’m never a big fan of tour groups. But you don’t have a choice and it was actually really interesting.

There are a lot of crosses.

All in all, I think I spent around 3 hours in the cathedral. There is a short film which is worth watching. Although it is very dramatic, I couldn’t help but laugh!

Top Tips

  • Skip the light show! I went in for a few minutes and left. It’s just some flashing lights set to some very dramatic music.
  • If you are worried about going on your own don’t be. There were 3 others on the bus and we ended up staying together for the day. It was really nice to have some people to speak English with!
  • The first part of the mine really smells of sulfur (rotten eggs) but it get’s better as soon as you get further into the mine.
  • If you want to attend a service they have one each Sunday
  • Check their website for details of special events and concerts! If you are there when they have an event on I bet it would be incredible!
  • Make sure you have shoes with a decent grip as it can get a little slippy

Wondering where to stay in Bogota? I recommend staying in Chapenero over La Candelaria if you are staying longer than 24 hours.

Hotels I recommend are:

Hotel Morrison
Selina Chapinaro
Republica Hostel Chapinero
Hotel Living 55
93 Luxury Suites & Residences

If you are only in town for 1 night then I recommend staying in one of these places in La Candelaria:

Selina La Candelaria
Casa artistica 
Arche Noah Boutique Hostel

If you need a hotel close to the airport then I recommend the Radisson AR Bogota Airport.

Day trips from Bogota | The Cathedral of Salt Zipaquirá

Concerned about safety in Bogotá? Take a read of my safety guide to Bogotá.


This post was proofread by Grammarly