Take a Train to Explore the Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral

If you’re looking for a neat thing to see outside of Bogotá, check out this cathedral built in a former salt mine!  The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá is a unique attraction.  The town of Zipaquirá is also a nice chance to see a smaller town atmosphere away from the hustle and bustle of Bogotá.  For an even more rustic experience, take the old train line to the Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral like we did.  If you’d like to go yourself, read on for a complete visitors guide to taking the train to visit the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá.

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A girl standing in front of the passenger cars of the train to the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira
Susana in front of the train to Zipaquira. Read on for a complete visitors guide to taking the train to visit the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira.

What is the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá?

Well, it’s a cathedral built into a former salt mine.

However, the history behind it is rather interesting.  According to this article from Semana (in Spanish), indigenous peoples mined salt from the area dating to ancient times.  In fact, the archaeological site of El Arba, one of the oldest known settlements in the Americas is nearby.  It was considered one of the largest deposits of salt in the world.

Given the nature of going underground to work, the miners had erected a small church on the site for daily prayers.  In 1954, an underground church inside the mines themselves was completed.  By 1990, the church had become a local tourist attraction as well as place for worship for the miners.  However, worries about the structural integrity led to the proposal of a new church under the ground.

This new cathedral in the salt mines of Zipaquirá was completed and opened its doors to the public in 1995.  As part of the effort to continue growing tourism, it was named the First Wonder of Colombia in 2007, and receives over half a million visitors a year.

A girl standing on the train engine on the train in Bogotá.
Susana posing on the train engine for our train in Bogotá.

Taking the Train to the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá

Susana read about the Tren Tursitico de la Sabana (Touristic Train of La Sabana) and really wanted to do it.  The former cargo train line stopped working in the early ’90s, and is now a tourist attraction meant to appeal to provide a neat and nostalgic experience.

The train departs from Bogotá and heads to Zipaquirá where it stops so you can see the salt cathedral.  Then it heads to the small town of Cajíca for a shorter stop before heading back to Bogotá.

It’s an all day affair, and a neat experience.  Besides being able to see the salt cathedral, the two towns, you also get great views of the grassland plateaus outside of Bogotá.  I definitely recommend doing it if you have a day to spend in Bogotá as a fun activity for a couple or families.

Do You Have to Take the Train to Zipaquirá?

No.  You do not have to do the train ride to visit the Salt Cathedral outside Bogotá.  In fact, if you’re on a tighter schedule, it may be best to find other ways to get to the salt cathedral.  The train will take you all day, but it is possible to do it in half a day and still have the rest of the day to do other things in Bogotá proper.

If you decide you don’t want to do the train, see below for other ways to get to Zipaquirá.

What to See at the Salt Cathedral Outside of Bogotá

Stations of the Cross

After descending down into the mine, you’ll be able to pass through a series of chambers depicting the 14 Stations of the Cross.  For each, there is an abstract representation of the station carved out of stone in salt in small chapels.  The often neon style lights give them an interesting, almost nightclubby vibe.

Salt Dome

After passing through the Stations of the Cross in the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá, you’ll come to a dome.  It’s quite interesting to see a dome carved out of the stone and salt modeled after a cathedral’s dome.  There you can see the largest stone carved cross in the world.

Photo of the salt dome at the salt cathedral of Bogotá.
The salt dome in the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá.  Image Source:  Wikimedia Commons.

See the Chapels

There are 3 large chapels or auditoriums in the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá.  There is one chamber devoted to the birth of Christ with a symbolic representation of the baptism of Jesus and a salt formation meant to symbolize the river Jordan.

The next, central chamber, has four massive columns meant to represent the apostles of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, as the 4 pillars of the Christian faith.  Finally, you will come to the third chamber meant to symbolize the resurrection of Christ.

See the Light Show

There is another chamber that has a light show inside the mine.  You can also see a short 3D video discussing the construction of the cathedral.

Pretend to be a Miner

For an additional fee (6,000 pesos for adults, 4,000 for children), you can opt to go on a tour deeper into the mine and pretend to be a miner yourself.  On the Ruta del Minero tour, you get outfitted with a hardhat and head light in addition to a pick.  A guide takes you into the mines and explains the geological formations and how the salt is extracted.  This optional tour takes approximately 45 minutes and is a neat way to learn a bit more about the mines themselves.

A girl standing in front of a salt formation in the salt cathedral in bogotá.
Susana in front of a salt formation in the mine.

See the Rest of the Park

Back above ground, there are several other things to see around the Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral.  There is a great lookout point just outside the mine at the top of the hill.  There are also walking and bike paths around the park.  You can also do tree canopying and pick up some artisan crafts as souvenirs.

Explore the town of Zipaquirá

This is a bit harder to do if you take the train given the limited time you have.  However, the town of Zipaquirá is pretty, especially the main plaza with the church.  You can also grab a decently priced authentic lunch.

Visitor Information for the Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral

Costs of Admission (last updated September 2019)

  • Foreign Tourists
    • Adults:  57,000 pesos
    • Children under 13:  47,000 pesos
  • Colombian Citizens and Residents (with Cedula)
    • Adults:  34,000 pesos
    • Children under 13:  26,000 pesos
    • Seniors 60 and Older:  26,000 pesos
  • Buy tickets online via Viator here.
  • Check the latest prices on the Salt Cathedral’s website.

Hours

  • Everyday from 8 am to 5:40 pm (time of last entry)

Check the Zipaquira Salt Cathedral’s website for more information.

Photo of the cross in the Bogotá Salt Cathedral.
The largest stone carved cross in the world in the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá.  Image Source:  Wikimedia Commons.

Ready to plan your visit to Salt Cathedral in Bogotá?

Want to take the train like we did?

We really enjoyed doing the train.  It’s a great way to spend the day and see the scenery around Bogotá as well as see the pretty town of Cajicá.  Do keep in mind it’s a full day tour and the cost of entry to the Salt Cathedral is not included.  The tour includes pick up from your hotel in Bogotá and 1.5 hours in Zipaquirá.

Reserve Via Viator
Reserve Via GetYourGuide

If you want got your admission tickets for the Salt Cathedral ahead of time as well, you can do so here via Viator.

Want to do another tour?

Here are a handful of other tours offered to the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá (all of these do include admission to the cathedral):

Don’t want to go with a tour?

That’s ok!  You can do the Salt Cathedral of Ziapquirá on your own without a tour.

  • How to get to Zipaquirá from Bogotá:
    • You can take the Transmilenio Bus System to Zipaquirá from the North Portal.  To get to the portal, take a bus with Portal Norte as its final destination.  The buses to Zipaquirá will be marked “Zipa.”  Consult Transmilenio’s routes on its website.
    • You can also get buses to Zipaquirá from the Bogotá Bus Terminal.  This will take longer than Transmilenio due to traffic.
    • You could also try to hire a taxi, but given traffic, it’s likely not to be very cost effective compared to just doing one of the tours mentioned above.
Photo with some statues in the Salt Cathedral of Bogotá.
Statues of the Holy Family inside the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá. Be sure to check it out during your time in Bogotá.  Image Source:  Wikimedia Commons.

There you have it a complete guide to taking the train (or not) to visit the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá!  If you do go, I hope this helped you plan your visit, and more important, you have a great time.

Cheers and Happy Exploring!

Looking for a place to stay in Bogotá?

I highly recommend where we stayed during our last visit at the 6 Suites Hotel.  It’s a nice, cozy property with comfortable rooms, located in safe area with lots of nearby restaurants and easy access to many of the Bogotá’s main attractions, and it’s a terrific value.

See my full review of 6 Suites here or check it out on booking.com here Or you can see all the other top properties in Bogotá on booking.com here.

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