Photo Essay | Colombia’s Psychedelic Underground Salt Cathedral

by Stephanie Walsh on June 10, 2012 · 10 comments

in Colombia, Photography, South America, Travels

The main chamber of the Salt Cathedral, from the ground with church benches lined all the way up to the altar

Yes, you read correctly. A Salt Cathedral…and a very psychedelic one at that!

This marble statue is one of the few things not carved from the salt in the Cathedral

This marble statue is one of the few things not carved from the salt in the Cathedral

The Salt Cathedral, about an hour outside of Bogotá in the lovely small town of Zipaquirá, is the most popular tourist destination in Colombia. People come from far and wide to visit the holy Catholic Cathedral; located 200 metres underground in a salt mine. On Sundays there can be over 3000 visitors to the site…so obviously don’t go on a Sunday as queues are always very long.

Entrance passageway into the Salt Cathedral…a sign of psychedlic things to come

Entrance passageway into the Salt Cathedral…a sign of psychedlic things to come

As it is so far underground, the Salt Cathedral is lit up by a range of coloured lights reflected onto various crosses, changing constantly from blue, red, green, purple etc., giving it a very psychedelic feel in my opinion. Known as the ‘Jewel of Modern Architecture’, the sheer vastness and skill that has gone into hand-carving the whole Cathedral is very impressive. Numerous times we heard distant rumblings that felt like the whole mine was caving in, until we asked and found out it was the sound of dynamite explosions in another part of the mine where salt miners were continuing to excavate.

PS: If you are visiting the Salt Cathedral, save yourself time and skip the lame film, presented by a ‘3D’ robot that they show in one of the caverns. Instead take a well-needed nap…

No, he's not praying…he's taking a nap 200 meters underground…in a Cathedral

No, he's not praying…he's taking a nap 200 meters underground…in a Cathedral

It is hard to describe accurately the bizarreness and yet, the beauty and tranquility of this place so I will let the pictures do the rest of the talking:

Multiple crosses overlook giant empty chambers, all illuminated colourfully

Multiple crosses overlook giant empty chambers, all illuminated colourfully

Illuminated red cross - Salt Cathedral, Colombia

Illuminated red cross - Salt Cathedral, Colombia

One of the many illuminated and eery giant chambers, empty and dark in the Salt Cathedral

One of the many illuminated and eery giant chambers, empty and dark in the Salt Cathedral

Andres and a giant red cross - Salt Cathedral, Colombia

Andres and a giant red cross - Salt Cathedral, Colombia

Me and the same giant cross…now green - Salt Cathedral, Colombia

Me and the same giant cross…now green - Salt Cathedral, Colombia

View of the main cross from the floor sculpture

View of the main cross from the floor sculpture

Floor sculpture of The Creation of Adam - Salt Cathedral, Colombia

Floor sculpture of The Creation of Adam - Salt Cathedral, Colombia

All of the Cathedral is constantly changing colours

All of the Cathedral is constantly changing colours

The higher chambers as seen from the ground of the main chamber - Salt Cathedral, Colombia

The higher chambers as seen from the ground of the main chamber - Salt Cathedral, Colombia

The main chamber in the Salt Cathedral

The main chamber in the Salt Cathedral

Me inside a hollow giant cross - Salt Cathedral, Colombia

Me inside a hollow giant cross - Salt Cathedral, Colombia

A waterfall of salt rocks pour out of an opening in the wall

A waterfall of salt rocks pour out of an opening in the wall

The walls of the Cathedral shine and glisten in the light

The walls of the Cathedral shine and glisten in the light

The salt in the walls is clearly visible in some parts of the mine

The salt in the walls is clearly visible in some parts of the mine

A place of prayer…people come and pray on the stone pews

A place of prayer…people come and pray on the stone pews

I don't even know what this is about...

I don't even know what this is about...

Just when we thought it couldn't get any stranger…we found this hidden, underground conference room

Just when we thought it couldn't get any stranger…we found this hidden, underground conference room

Well it is made of salt after-all

Well it is made of salt after-all

 

Would you visit this Salt Cathedral or do you think it is just another over-hyped tourist attraction?

 

 

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Liz June 16, 2012 at 5:04 pm

WILD- I would never imagine something like that even exists!

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2 Steph June 18, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Kind of strange alright…but utterly fascinating too! You gotta go visit now :P

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3 Patricia GW June 21, 2012 at 9:44 am

Wow, what a fascinating destination! It really seems psychedelic with the changing colors. The conference room looks like a movie setting of a “bad guy’s secret lair.”

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4 Steph June 21, 2012 at 8:19 pm

Haha yeah I know…was the last thing we were expecting to find…what does one discuss in a underground salt cathedral meeting anyway? :P

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5 Pamela August 3, 2012 at 3:33 pm

It’s completely different, I like it. Does people go to pray there or is it a tourist attraction mainly?
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6 Steph August 5, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Both but people really go there to pray…they have pilgrimages there regularly from all over the country! While we were there, there were a lot of people kneeling and praying at the smaller stone crosses…very surreal to see…although the majority of people were there as tourists! Thanks for stopping by and commenting! :)

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7 geno conahan August 29, 2012 at 12:36 pm

I visited the Cathedral many years ago, on a weekday. As I remember it, it was a long walk through the entry tunnel which still had narrow gauge tracks laid. There were no psychedelic lights of any kind. There were a few low watt lights and the altar and statues were wrapped in a gray mist which seemed to float in the air everywhere. It was totally spooky and deadly quiet. I also visited the church at the upper end of the funicular and purchased a small copy of Christ fallen with the cross. The stutue in the case above the altar is purported to be the site of “MILAGROS” as attested to by the left behind crutches, etc.

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8 Stephanie Walsh September 5, 2012 at 11:04 pm

Wow sounds very different to now Geno, especially the quiet part! I don’t think you could go any day of the week now without a lot of tourists and locals visiting. It’s still a very special and unique place though! Thanks for your comment, very interesting to see how it has evolved! :)

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9 Mark November 7, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Thanks for the nice post! We are going in January. Is the salt mine a full day trip, or do you think you can do it in a half day? We have very limited time in Bogota.

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10 Stephanie Walsh November 7, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Hi Mark! Thanks for commenting. I would say you can definitely do this trip in half a day, but you will have to move fast. If you leave as early as possible and go straight to the salt mine (hopefully avoiding the queues), then you can be out in an hour or two and hop on the bus back to Bogota. I hope you have a great time and enjoy your visit :)
Steph

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