The tunnel is dark and deep. The fluorescent lights throw an eerie glow on the floor. As I walk deeper into the blackness the lights take on shades of purple, orange, green and blue.
A pleasant drive of around 2 hours brought me to the colorful and happy town of Zipaquirá or Zipa as it is fondly known.
The town is well known across Colombia due to the presence of the salt mines that hold a unique architectural creation.
Before going to work, the salt miners had an informal place of worship seeking protection of the saints. Later on there was a bigger construction done and the Salt Cathedral or Cathedral Del Sal came into existence.
The mine’s instability led to some more strengthening and new construction of the Cathedral. Today the Cathedral Del Sal is considered as an outstanding achievement in modern Colombian architecture.
The exceptional feature about this cathedral is that it is several feet underground, in a salt mine.
As I continue to walk in the darkness, the tunnel leads to the Stations of the Cross, a well-marked pathway.
The walk from the tunnel entrance towards each station of the Cross is marked with prayerful silence. I see salt embedded in the ceilings and wall which reminds me that I am 200 meters below the earth, in a mine.
Each station is represented with a big Cross. Lights change colors around each station. As I walk in silence I see that the tunnels branch out and go deeper. I am tempted to explore, but I realize that they are closed for visitors.
The walk ends at a viewing balcony and the view is stunning from up here.
A huge cross carved out of halite salt dominates the altar. This main area of worship is divided into three sections depicting the birth, life and death of Jesus.
I descend down to have a close look at the Cross and also to have some time for prayer and reflection.
You can take a guided tour of the Cathedral, however I personally felt it is not necessary.
Just outside the main altar are shops selling souvenirs, snacks and coffee. This marks the end of the tour and the exit signs guide me to daylight.
Having some time to spare, I explore the town of Zipa. The streets are flanked by colorful, pretty houses. Children with toothy grins and friendly waves peep out shyly from lacy curtains.
There is another Cathedral located in the town square known as the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity. This is popularly known as Zipaquirá Cathedral.
Huge columns of stone welcome me inside. Stained glass windows depict bible passages. Sunlight streams from the window panes, lighting up the area.
The Cross is the center piece at the altar. The presence of stone and wood in the architecture and the absence of opulence is a pleasant sight. The creator of this Cathedral has sent out a well-meaning message about beauty in simplicity.
The church is a good place to wind down after all the walking in the tunnels.
It was a day well spent and now it was time to head back to Bogota. I had traveled alone to Zipa and was really nervous about it. However all went well and I was looking forward to my next destination.
Getting to Zipa
From Bogota – The Transmilenio Bus Station terminates at Portal Del Norte. Exit the bus station to the west and walk down straight towards a petrol pump. There are many buses with the Zipa signage which stop near the petrol pump. Wave and the conductor will pick you up.
There is also a main bus terminal a little walk ahead where you can book tickets at the Zipa counter and get on the bus.
It costs around 2000 pesos one way and takes around 2 hours to get to Zipa. When in Zipa get off at the main bus stand and walk for around 15 minutes towards to the Parque Del Sal. You can ask for directions as the locals are very helpful and will show you the way.
On your return walk back to the bus terminal and take the bus going to Bogota. Check with the conductor before entering the bus.
For non Colombians the ticket is priced at 50000 pesos which I found expensive. The cost includes a Spanish tour guide, which was of no help to me.
Even though I did not know a word of Spanish it was only due to the helpful locals that I could do this trip on my own.
If you have a free day in Bogota, I would recommend Zipa as an excellent day trip destination.
For more stories about my solo travel to Colombia read HERE