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Churches have a reputation for being some of the most impressive structures in the world, and while Germany's Cologne Cathedral and England's St. Paul's Cathedral rightly receive a great deal of attention, a popular stop on South America tours may have them both beat. The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá in Colombia is a Catholic church built more than 650 feet underground.
The cathedral gets its name because it is built at the bottom of one of the world's largest salt mines, but its appeal extends well beyond the sheer novelty of an underground church. Often recognized as a crowning architectural achievement, the church is comprised of several sections dedicated to the life and death of Jesus.
Visitors will likely point to The Stations of the Cross section as the church's highlight. This area is located in the front of the building and features 14 smaller chapels, each one dedicated to a different station of the cross. Aside from being a unique portrayal of the story of Jesus' crucifixion, the breathtaking lighting adds an impressive element.
There are a number of other appealing aspects of the Salt Cathedral. You can choose to take a guided tour, which takes about an hour, or you can also take a tour that's more focused on the role of the salt mine itself. The Coffee Chamber, rock climbing wall and The Brine Museum all make for a varied experience.
The salt mine itself has an important place in the history of Colombia, and was even used during the pre-colonial days. There was an original church built on the site (above ground) in the 1930s, but about 20 years ago construction workers began to build the new cathedral, eventually completing it in 1995.
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