Hidden Gems: Villa De Leyva, Colombia
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Hidden Gems: Villa De Leyva, Colombia

As travel in Colombia is on the increase many are discovering the little know delights of the countryÂ’s charming small towns or pueblos. The town of Villa de Leyva in Boyaca has much to offer the visitor.

In case you haven’t yet heard, things have been changing for the better in Colombia. In recent years violence and kidnappings have dramatically decreased and investment in infrastructure has vastly improved towns and cities. Until recently, few tourists or travelers would have visited Colombia’s interior, preferring the relative safety of Bogota or the port city of Cartagena in the Caribbean. However small town Colombia has much to offer the visitor.

The town of Villa de Leyva (or Leiva) is a three and half hour bus trip north of Bogota in the department of Boyaca. This colonial town was declared a national monument in 1954. As a result there are almost no new buildings, even the streets remain cobbled. The white washed buildings, narrow slopeing streets and the plaza's expansiveness, gives one a sense of the towns former colonial grandeur, and a feeling that time has stood still for the last four hundred years. The town was originally founded by Hernan Suarez de Villalobos in 1572. These days Villa de Leyva has a bohemian, free spirited atmosphere. Indeed, many of the towns residents are artists and intellectuals.

The town of Villa de Leyva is also a weekend retreat for Bogotanos, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Villa de Leyva used to be a place to visit on a day trip, not having much to offer in terms of accommodation. However more hotels and hostels have opened, making it a good base from which to explore the region. There are also some great restaurants and lots of stores selling locally made handcrafts. As in many other small Colombian towns you won’t find a supermarket. Locals and visitors alike buy their produce at the weekly farmers market, where they also serve food and great coffee.

Although Villa de Leyva is pretty by day, it is by dusk that the town’s main plaza becomes charming, as folks begin to fill the restaurants, dinning al fresco style and sipping on wine produced at local vineyards. And all this with a spectacular backdrop of mountains; the town is situated in a valley at an altitude of 6,562 feet. Its climate is often warm and sunny by day and cool by night.

Things to see and do in and around Villa de Leyva.

Because the local region was at one time covered by sea, it is famous for its prehistoric fossils. Just outside the town there is a museum called El Fosil. There you can find an almost complete kronosaurus, which was discovered in 1977. Other local attractions are an ostrich farm, for those who wish to sample ostrich meat, and the Convento del Santo Ecce Homo. A sixteenth century working convent, that offers tours to small groups. The area is also known for its hiking and horse riding opportunities. The town hosts several festivals throughout the year, such as the astronomy festival in January and the Festival de Cometas, ( kite festival) which takes place in August ( August 12, 2011) 

Top, Image credit, Marco Parra, flickr.com. Above image credit Otto Nassar, flickr.com. Primary image Villa de Leyva; image credit Jerome sutter, flickr.com. 

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Comments (3)

great article and such people pictures

What a beautiful place and the garden is really an eye catcher. I'm out of votes but will tweet this one.

Thank you Alma. I agree, I love those Spanish style colonial houses. A freind of mine who lives in Colombia has a house like that. It has the garden in the center with the structure around, so the garden is completely secluded.