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Heading out of the city

Colombia day three

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Station of the Cross, Salt Cathedral, Zipaquirá

After a good night's sleep I awoke feeling more human than I had for the previous two days! We checked out after breakfast and were picked up at 8.00 by Doriel, who had met us on arrival at the airport a couple of days before, and Miguel who was to be our driver for the next two days.

We drove north out of the city on roads busy with commuters. Eventually the traffic thinned, and we left the urban sprawl of Bogota behind. We passed through several smaller towns and after an hour or so arrived at our first stop, the Salt Cathedral in the town of Zipaquirá.

The Salt Cathedral

Although called a cathedral, this is really a Roman Catholic church which has been constructed in the tunnels of a salt mine 200 metres underground. It was created relatively recently, in the mid 1990s, after a earlier church here became unsafe new to structural problems. This new one lies much deeper underground. It utilises the caves left behind by previous mining operations.

Above the entrance

The walking route leads visitors past a series of carved crosses symbolising the Stations of the Cross, and into the church proper. Doriel led us through the complex and gave us a thorough description as we went. We stopped at each of the Stations of the Cross and he explained the symbolism behind the design, for example the crosses getting smaller as Christ got weaker, and the rounded chapel representing the arms of his mother Mary.

Two of the Stations of the Cross

On the route into the church

He also told us about the cathedral's three naves and pointed out various details. The naves are connected by a crack, symbolising the birth and death of Christ. The huge cross behind the main altar is an illusion. It appears from a distance as if it has been carved from salt but it is in fact a hollow opening in the rock behind, cleverly lit to appear solid.

The church with its cross

In the central nave there is a carved representation of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, but set in the floor rather than the ceiling.

The Creation of Adam


We retraced our steps to exit the mine and drove the short distance to the centre of Zipaquirá. We had a coffee and cake in Juan Valdez, the big Colombian coffee chain (Doriel's choice, I would have opted for an independent) and then walked the short distance to the main plaza. This has an appealing mix of colourful single storey traditional buildings and the more imposing cathedral and council offices. We popped inside the cathedral but there was a service in progress so we went no further than the entrance.



In Zipaquirá

Puente de Boyacá

Miguel picked us up in the corner of the square and we set out on the longer drive to Villa de Leyva. At first we were on a main road with relatively little of significant interest to see. We made a short stop at the memorial marking the battle of August 7, 1819, known as the Battle of Boyacá, which achieved independence for New Granada. We saw the statues of Santander and Bolivar here, but didn't climb up to the latter.

Monuments to Santander and Bolivar at the Puente de Boyacá

Soon after this we left the highway and the road became more interesting, with great views (though impossible to photograph from the moving car). We passed fields and fields of potatoes, and later many more of onions. Miguel paused briefly so we could photograph some onion pickers at work.

Onion pickers

Villa de Leyva

We arrived in Villa de Leyva around 3.00 pm and checked in at the Posada de San Antonio. Our room wasn't ready so we left the bags and had a short stroll around the nearby streets, getting our first look at the huge main square.

The Plaza Mayor, Villa de Leyva

Back at the hotel we had a further short wait which we occupied in taking photos of the many interesting objects dotted around. Once in the room we were charmed as it was as full of character as the lobby and very spacious.

La Posada de San Antonio

Reception area

Around the hotel


Our room

For dinner Doriel had recommended the Mercado Municipal restaurant, almost opposite our hotel, which he assured us had good Colombian specialities and where they spoke English. While he might well have been right on the first point, he was definitely wrong on the latter, and there was no English menu either. A bit stuck we settled for a bowl of guacamole to share as a starter, at our waiter's suggestion, and burgers to follow as we could understand most of the accompaniments to these. The guacamole came with vegetable crisps (plantain and beetroot) and was tasty and very generous. The burgers were good too, so on one point, the quality of the food, Doriel had been right!

After dinner we took a stroll down to and around the huge main plaza, for some night photography, but didn't stay out late as we had another quite early start to come.

Plaza Mayor at night

Posted by ToonSarah 14:59 Archived in Colombia Tagged monument history hotel church square cathedral colombia salt_mine

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The underground salt church looks fascinating and so unusual.

by irenevt

It was Irene - I was expecting something like the one in Poland but this is very different.

by ToonSarah

Hello, Sarah! Thanks for taking us along your route in the salt church! Your travel stories are always great to read !

by Vic_IV

Thank you Victor, I'm glad you enjoyed reading about this amazing church!

by ToonSarah

How unusual church, interesting for sure! :)

If I am not too hungry it is rather exciting if you are not 100% sure while ordering what you will be getting in a restaurant! :)

by hennaonthetrek

Haha yes, it can be interesting, I agree :D

by ToonSarah

We must have seen the old salt cathedral when we visited in 1990, so it was interesting to see the new one through your eyes. We were only in Colombia briefly before moving on to Peru, so it will be good to read more about other places in the country.

by Grete

I'm adding more gradually Grete :) I mainly focus on my WordPress blog these days but I still like to keep this one up as a journal of our trips!

by ToonSarah

Two questions:

Who arranged your trip to Colombia


Can you share a link to your WordPress blog please.

by Grete

We booked through Rainbow Tours (https://www.rainbowtours.co.uk/), who also arranged our Costa Rica trip last year. And we've just booked to go to Madagascar with them in October :)

Here's the link to my WP blog: https://www.toonsarah-travels.blog/ I mainly use it for photography and shorter travel pieces.

by ToonSarah

another interesting day! I guess when on the move, you see the most beautiful things!

I just read about your plans of Madagascar! Sounds amazing and was on my to do list this year as well, but because I don't have that much holiday, I have to settle with lesser options of a week ... but looking forward to them as well!

by Ils1976

Thank you Ils :) Yes, Madagascar later this year, plus some small trips between now and then!

by ToonSarah

I am more than interested in what is coming next. It is a bit of travelling for me as well. You are a true inspiration that's for sure! 😎

by Ils1976

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