Zipaquira vs Nemocon, salt mines around Bogota
Many tourists during their visit to Bogotá go to see the famous salt cathedral of Zipaquira. But not many know that there are two ex salt mines near Bogotá and both are impressive and worth of visit. Of course they are not just simple mines but more like museums with tunnels, galleries, lights, sculptures etc. Zipaquira vs Nemocon, which on to choose depends on you, I’ve been to both and prefer Nemocon. My main reason it’s less touristy and more authentic. Zipaquira is bigger with more decorations; crosses, sculptures, chapels etc.
- Beautifully decorated, many salt sculptures, crosses, lights etc.;
- Nice park/garden outside with a beautiful view over the town and the main square.
- Very touristy, most foreigners and locals come here;
- The entrance fee is quite expensive.
Zipaquira, from the salt mine to the salt cathedral
The construction of the first mine in Zipaquira started in 1816. Indigenous people “zipa” used to extract salt in the area before the Colonial era but the way they were doing it was very inefficient and expensive. Alexander von Humbolt suggested an alternative method of digging tunnels or drift mining that was the beginning of the mine. In the 19th century people considered Zipaquira as the biggest salt deposit of this type in the world.
The first chapel inside the mine was built in 1932 by the workers as a place where they could pray and ask to protect them in their dangerous daily routing. Later in 1950 the government started a project aiming to convert some parts of the mine into a real cathedral. The works were finished in 1954. Some years later Zipaquira was closed for public for safety reasons. The salt cathedral in its current state was opened in 1995 and has some constructive improvements and enforcement compare to the original one.
The highlights of the salt cathedral
- The stations of cross;
- Old cathedral;
- New cathedral;
- Sculpture Holy family;
- The Dome;
- Narthex labyrinth;
- Creation of Adam;
Entrance fee for foreigners
COP 50 000/$17 for adults, COP 34 000/$11,5 for children and persons over 60 years old.
How to get to Zipaquira from Bogotá
The town is 48km away from Bogotá. Buses to Zipaquira leave regularly, every 20-30 min. from the Portal del Norte bus terminal, price COP 4800/$1,6 one way. To get to the terminal from La Candelaria or any other central city area you can by Transmilenio bus system.
- Not many people, especially if you go in a week;
- More authentic;
- Recreated room of miners from The 33 movie.
- Excursions only in Spanish due to the majority of tourists are locals. It wasn’t a problem for us but if you don’t speak Spanish you’ll walk with a group for an hour or so without understanding anything.
History of Nemocon
Salt was the reason this region has been inhabited for many centuries. First salt extraction dates back to 1st century BC. Nemocon means “The cry or sadness of the warrior” in the Chibcha language. Most of the tunnels lay 263 feet underground, it took 150 years to create them, miners extracted about 8 million tons of salt from here.
Modern history of Nemocon is very different, it’s not a working mine anymore. Nowadays it’s a tourist attraction and sometimes even a set for Hollywood movies.
The highlights of Nemocon
- Natural Mirrors of Salmuera;
- Salt waterfall;
- Phoenix capsule (copy);
- Miners’ room from The 33;
- Chapel of the Virgen del Carmen;
- Cave of “Palpitated Lovers”;
- City of stalactite;
- Santa Barbara tank.
COP 22 000/$7,5 for adults.
How to get to Nemocon from Bogota
Buses to Nemocon leave from the Main bus terminal (Terminal Salitre) in Bogotá every hour, price COP 6300/$2. From the nearest stop of Transmilenio it’s about 25 min. walk to the terminal.
The other option is to get to Nemocon via Zipaquira. First take a bus to Zipaquira from Portal del Norte (COP 4800/$1,5) and then from Zipaquira a local bus to Nemocon (COP 2800/$1). The advantage of this way is that you can get to the Portal del Norte all the way by Transmilenio.
Sometimes there are direct buses to Nemocon from the Portal del Norte, ask around first. On the way back we took a bus from Nemocon that drove all the way to the Portal del Norte in Bogotá.
Visit two salt mines in one day
It’s possible to visit Zipaquira and Nemocon in one day but you have to start very early. To visit each one you’ll need about 2 hours, plus driving to, between and back. Luckily Nemocon and Zipaquira are not far from each other, just 20 min. drive and there is a bus that runs between two towns.
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