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 Cathedral without booking a tour.
A little about The Cathedral of Salt
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.
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 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.
Monday to Friday: 8:00 am to 12:30 pm / 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
Sunday: 9:00 am to 5:40 pm
Cost for non-Colombian passport holders $50MIL COP
This cost includes a guided tour (you have no choice about this)
Getting to Zipaquira
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 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.
How to get to the cathedral
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.
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
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.
Sadly the pictures just don’t do it justice. It really does need to be seen to be believed!
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!
- 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