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Travelers looking to find time for spiritual reflection and family-friendly activities will find a wide range of unique experiences in different parts of Colombia, a country that has over 500 years of religious tradition.
"Colombia celebrates many religious festivals that are manifested in all its splendor during Holy Week, a tradition that dates back to colonial centuries," said the president of Proexport Colombia, Maria Claudia Lacouture. "The different cultures and wonderful temples exhibited during this time of year attract tourists from around the world."
The historical legacy of the country has a rich architectural, artistic and cultural heritage associated with the Catholic religion. But the activities not only last during Holy Week, visitors can find a variety of activities year-round that includes visits to historical and cultural heritage sites, tours and pilgrimages to shrines through the "Routes of Faith", visits to churches, and live processions in cities like Cali, Tunja, Santa Cruz de Mompox, Popayan, Pasto and Pamplona.
In 1995 Santa Cruz de Mompox, a small town in the department of Bolivar in northern Colombia was declared a Historical and Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. This is the only town in the country where marched processions are held.
The town of Pamplona in Norte de Santander is recognized not only by its devotion, but also by the detailed figures that are exhibited during the recreation of the Stations of the Cross; from Christ’s apprehension in Gethsemane or Mount Olive to the grave.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Las Lajas, in the town of Ipiales (in Nariño), is referred to as the "miracle of God over the abyss." This name was given after the alleged appearance of the Virgin of the Rosary at the site in the late eighteenth century. The Sanctuary is made up three naves erected on a bridge that crosses over the Guaitara River. A square unites it with the other side of the canyon, where its rock formation is also part of the structure; it is recognized by experts and visitors as an architectural wonder.
The Salt Cathedral is one of the tourist strongholds of Colombia, described as one of the country’s major wonders. It is located 50 km north of Bogota in the town of Zipaquira. What is most amazing about this place is the architectural ingenuity to create an underground world from a former salt mine. A solemn and majestic temple of 8,500 meters is home to an astonishing representation of the Stations of the Cross with a 16-meter cross carved into the central nave.
Another tourist destination that spiritual travelers will not want to miss is Popayan. The capital of Cauca is located in the middle of the central and western mountain ranges of the country and it is crossed by the Cauca River. It is renowned for being one of the most beautiful cities in Colombia during Holy Week for its procedural traditions, the celebration of the Stations of the Cross, known as “The Way of the Cross," where locals and tourists alike recreate the different stations that describe the moments that Jesus lived from the time he was arrested until after his crucifixion and burial. This act was declared a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2009.
"Colombia has a great potential in this tourism segment because of the unique experiences that are accessible to those who practice the Catholic faith. Only in our country is it possible to worship the Virgin in a church built a more than century ago in the midst of an abyss, or pay a promise by walking up a hill located over 3,000 meters above sea level,” said Lacouture.