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article imageThe old colonial town of Zipaquirá, Colombia Special

By Igor I. Solar     Jul 2, 2011 in Travel
Zipaquir - Zipaquirá, a village founded in the year 1600 not far from Bogotá, Colombia’s capital city, still retains the vestiges of the ancient Muisca aboriginal culture and a delightful colonial atmosphere.
Zipaquirá, referred to as “Zipa” by the locals, is located in the department of Cundinamarca, about 50 kilometres from Bogotá. Zipa is one of the oldest cities in Colombia. The current location of the city lies close to “El Abra”, an archaeological site discovered in 1967 at an altitude of 2,570 metres. El Abra is recognized as one of the first human settlements in America, inhabited since the late Pleistocene, about 12000 years ago.
By the time the Spanish conquerors arrived to the southern region of the central Colombian highlands around 1537, the area was occupied by the Muisca Indians with a ruler (cacique) which the Indians called Zipa. The economy of the Muisca society was partly based on agriculture, but mostly dedicated to the mining of emeralds, gold, coal and salt. In the hills, just in the outskirts of present Zipaquirá, is one of the largest salt mines still in exploitation, where a large underground church known as the Salt Cathedral has been built. Both the colonial style architecture of the old city centre and the Salt Cathedral are interesting tourist attractions.
The small town has the arrangement of the old Spanish settlements. There is a central square known as Plaza de Los Comuneros, around which some of the most important civic buildings and the main Catholic Church are located.
The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity and St. Anthony of Padua at Zipaquirá  Colombia.
The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity and St. Anthony of Padua at Zipaquirá, Colombia.
The beautiful Cathedral was designed by architect Fray Domingo de Petrés who also designed the Cathedral of Bogotá. Construction work started in 1805 and lasted for 111 years. The finished cathedral was inaugurated in 1916.
Another interesting historic building located at the main square is the Zipaquirá City Hall. Several other well preserved and renovated colonial buildings surround the main square and line the streets around the central Plaza. The historic quarter was declared a National Monument of Colombia in 1982.
Main Square and City Hall (Casa del Cabildo) at Zipaquirá  Colombia.
Main Square and City Hall (Casa del Cabildo) at Zipaquirá, Colombia.
Some of the narrow streets in the city centre have been converted to pedestrian traffic only. Here there are typical restaurants, tourist agencies, Banks, Museums, arts and crafts shops and colonial houses some of which are almost 300 years old. The old Zipaquirá Station of the Savanna Railway (Ferrocarril de la Sabana) to Bogotá was remodelled in 2007 and is now an attractive place for residents and visitors.
Typical street in the Old Colonial City Centre of Zipaquirá  Colombia
Typical street in the Old Colonial City Centre of Zipaquirá, Colombia
Zipaquirá  Colombia. The streets around the central square are dedicated (mostly) to pedestrial tra...
Zipaquirá, Colombia. The streets around the central square are dedicated (mostly) to pedestrial traffic.
The historic Savanna Railway transports local people and visitors about 100 Km round trip between Bo...
The historic Savanna Railway transports local people and visitors about 100 Km round trip between Bogotá and the renovated station at Zipaquirá.
There is plenty of history and culture in this beautiful town. Several buildings in the city have been the residence of important personalities in Colombian history. Among them, the old house where Libertador Simón Bolivar lived during the war of Independence, the house of educator and journalist Santiago Pérez who was President of Colombia from 1874 to 1876, and the old National College for Boys where Nobel Prize winner Gabriel García Márquez lived and received his secondary education from March 1943 to December 1946.
The brief video that follows is in Spanish, but the images are universal.
More about Zipaquirá, Colombia, Colonial city, Historic buildings, Spanish conquest
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