To many in Britain the church conjures images of spires reaching into the sky, perhaps a solemn graveyard and a peaceful garden. It is a scene common up and down the land and is easily recognisable to those passing by.
But there are no passers-by of the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá and not due to a lack of popularity. Quite the opposite, it draws thousands from Colombia and throughout the world.
No, the reason nobody has ever wandered past the famous Salt Cathedral is because it’s around 600 feet underground and it’s only accessible by tunnel.
Wander down the shaft into the gloom, taking in the smells of sulphur as you go. Before long that dark will give way to light, illuminating the Roman Catholic icons like the Archangel Gabriel. The underground holy site used to be the Zipaquirá salt mine, but was converted into a place of worship in 1932 before becoming a cathedral 22 years later.
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The cathedral is uniquely striking, built as it is into the salt caves first mined by locals more than 200 years ago. Upon reaching the bottom, visitors will see three naves each representing the different states of Christ in birth, life and in death.
Despite the unusual surroundings the cathedral is complete with ornate furnishings such as chaneliers and a floor-to-ceiling cross. Purple lighting is used to brighten what would otherwise dark, but lights or not the strains of the choir serves to brighten the spirits of all those who enter this church beneath the world.
One reviewer, Rosa, wrote of the cathedral: “Such a beautiful place! If you think about how they did it, and in salt! It is truly amazing and a work of art you just can’t miss.”
Another glowing review said: “Out of this world visit. Amazing experience. The guide was excellent. We spend 4 hours below at 150 mts seeing and experience the visit. One of my best ecotourism ever. Recommended 200 percent.”
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Declared the First Wonder of Colombia in 2007, the holy site receives a staggering 50,000 visitors a month, ten thousand of which are foreign nationals. Since opening, it’s welcomed more then 13 million people in.
The cathedral is not the only attraction hidden within the salt mine. Visitors can now enjoy the Brine Museum, a food hall with space for 300, an auditorium used for lectures and seminars holding up to 800, and incredibly, the highest rock climbing wall in Colombia. Who knew that so many of this South American country’s greatest treasures lurked beneath its inhabitants’ feet?
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