Villa de Leyva

Villa de Leyva Colombia church
••• View from the doorway of the church at Villa de Leyva, Colombia. Mark Siders

Villa de Leyva:

Also called Villa de Leiva, Villa de Leyva, Colombia is a colonial-era town a short distance from Bogotá, and a popular day trip northeast of the capital. It's also a popular weekend excursion, so during the weekend, the streets, restaurants, places to stay and shops are crowded.

The town was founded in 1572 as Villa de Nuestra Señora de Santa Maria de Leyva and looks very much now as it did then.

Cobblestoned streets, red-tiled roofs, balconies and private courtyards retain the heritage.

Getting There:

Created a national historic monument in the 1950s, the town is a popular attraction and home to artisans and many famous Colombians. Refer to this interactive map from Expedia to see the bus route from Bogotá to Tunja, the capital of Boyacá, and then by colectivo, past some intriguing landscapes like these badlands to Villa de Leyva. The trip takes about four hours.

Select flights from your area Bogotá or other locations in Colombia.. You can also browse for hotels and car rentals.

Places to Stay and Eat:

Hospedajes include hotels and hospederías ranging from the very modest, and others like the Hostería Los Frayles to the very expensive and un-missable Hostería Del Molino La Mesopotamia, a hotel in what was once an old flour mill. See this photo of the 400 year old converted flour mill.

You can also elect to stay in a finca or farm. Make sure you make your reservations early for weekends in season and for major holidays.

Restaurants offer local favorites, fast food choices and international cuisine. There are also vegetarian restaurants, and if you trust your stomach, try some of the offerings for typical fast food snacks from street vendors.

Try a local favorite from a pastry shop. Besos de mi novia are a meringue and cake confection that melt on the tongue.

Things to do and See:

Villa de Leyva is a surprise to many who expect to see dense forests and mountain ranges. The road from Bogotá travels through pretty, green valleys before turning at Tunja into a drier climate. It's a marvel to visitors how many varied ecological and climatic differences there are in the country.

In town

The cobblestoned streets are difficult to ride on, but lend themselves to strolling to see the colonial architecture of white-washed houses with their wooden shutters, doors and balconies.

The balconies are worth studying. There are differences between them, but they share the characteristics of wood, usually painted green or a dark color, decorated with plants, hanging pots and flowers. Bougainvilleas and geraniums are a colorful favorite. Many of the front doors are massive, with carvings related to the original owner's occupations or status.

Take a look at the courtyards. Built in true Spanish tradition, they offer masses of plantings, fountains and shady nooks to escape the heat. Some of these contain art galleries, so be sure to browse the local artisanry.

Villa de Leyva's most distinct feature is the huge cobblestoned plaza in front of the parish church. The Plaza Mayor is the largest of its kind in Venezuela.

  • For a view of town and the surrounding area, take the steep and rocky path up the statues of Jesus, arms outstretched to protect the region.
  • Take a horseback ride around town. It's easier than walking the cobblestones and you'll get a better idea of what transportation was like centuries ago.
  • If you like pottery, visit Raquirá, where the pots are handthrown by the women of the town.
  • Photos of the Area:

  • Infiernitos - a pre-Chibcha astronomical observatory, in which eight foot tall phallic statues are the only remaining hints of a vanished culture. The site is four miles from Moniquira.
  • Monasterio Santo Ecce Homo - built with fossils from the area and set in gorgeous scenery

    If you have questions or comments about Villa de Leyva, post them on the South America for Visitors Forum. If you're not already a registered user, you'll need to register, but it is easy and free.

    Buen viaje!