Despite not actually being a church, Zipaquirá’s Salt Cathedral is one of Colombia’s most popular tourist destinations. Built 200 metres underground, the Cathedral started as little more than a small sanctuary, carved by salt miners in the 1930’s. In 1954 the original Cathedral was completed, but was closed in 1990 due to safety concerns. The current structure was completed in 1995.
The complex is nothing short of fascinating. It’s sheer size is impressive. Huge looming crosses are lit up brilliantly, creating an eerie juxtaposition with the otherwise dark passages. Wait for the tour groups to pass, and pay attention to the finer details- it makes for an otherworldly experience.
Despite its aesthetic marvels, I can’t imagine the Cathedral lending itself well to any kind of deep spiritual experience. Those moments alone with the cave are great, but too regularly punctuated by tour groups. Don’t expect much solitude. Catholics might be disappointed to find that the Cathedral actually has no official status in the Church, as it has no bishop. Moreover, there are a few questionable additions to the complex that I feel undermine it. For example, the light show at the far end of the cave would belong better in a Tokyo night club than a church. The movie explaining the history of the site also feels just a little off, and the 3D just seems unnecessary.
On the plus side, the walls taste like salt.