The Abra Valley near to Bogotá is very rich with salt deposits and mines. Of these, two are of local renown: Zipaquirá and Nemocón. The first, well known for its man-made salt cathedral. The second, known for its incredible saline structures.
If you want to delve deep into the heart of Colombia, love caves and want to be surprised, Nemocón is the right place for you! It is a place packed with history, man-made and natural wonder that you can’t miss out.
The small town of Nemocón, like others in the Abra Valley, was once part of the Muisca Federation. And being where it is, it was one of the key settlements in the local, salt-driven economy of pre-colonial times. But, more than just a salt-town, Nemocón was an important cultural spot for Muisca leaders, the Zipas.
After every battle, win or lose, the Zipa would visit Necomón and offer the gods its pain, joy or glory. And from this ritual came the name of the town: Nemocón, which means “the cry of the warrior” in Chibcha.
Before the colonization, the Muiscas would gather water from salty-mountain springs and evaporate it to extract the salt. Salt mines were only excavated after the arrival of the Spanish Empire. Soon, Nemocón became a mining town.
The famous Nemocón Salt Mine is not currently operable. But between 1816 and 1968 some 8 million tons of salt were extracted before it was abandoned. However, 5 years ago the galleries and tunnels were fashioned into a history museum that can be visited by tourists. The site was even used as the film set for Los 33: a movie about the 33 miners that were trapped in the San José Mine in Chile in 2010.
The museum retells the history of the region and, specifically, mining in the region. But the old cave is also home to incredible saline-pool mirrors and other amazing salt-structures, colorfully lit. Also, in the deepest part of the mine, lies “Nemocón’s Heart” a huge salt-crystal, carved into the shape of a heart.
Beyond the mine, the picturesque town is a good spot to have a taste of the local cuisine.