Looking down at Villa from Mirador del Santo
On Monday, January 23, we flew from Manizales to Bogota, (1 hour), and took a taxi to "Portal Norte," a bus stop on the north-east outskirts of Bogota. Upon leaving the taxi, the first busita (van) had "Tunja" displayed on the front window. We managed to snag the last three seats and the 15-passenger van left shortly after. It was a smooth ride most of the way to Tunja, and we marveled at the agricultural development alongside the divided highway.
Once we departed the van in Tunja, we thought we'd have to search for a connection to Villa de Leyva; however, we had just retrieved our luggage when a man approached saying "Leyva." He grabbed Susann's and Christa's suitcases and we followed him to another van. This one too was almost full, and departed soon after. And one hour later we were in Villa de Leyva.
Located away from major trade routes in a high altitude valley of semi-desert terrain, and with no mineral deposits nearby to exploit, the town has undergone little development in the last 400 years. As a consequence, it is one of the few towns in Colombia to have preserved much of its original colonial style and architecture: the streets and large central plaza are still paved with cobblestones, and many buildings date from the sixteenth century. This has resulted in Villa de Leyva becoming one of Colombia's principal tourist attractions, and it was declared a National Monument on December 17, 1954 to preserve its architecture. The town and the surrounding countryside, which contains several sites of interest, are popular weekend destinations for citizens of Bogota, and attract an increasing number of foreign tourists. (Wikipedia)
We stayed 4 nights at Santa Maria de Villa de Leyva, a cute boutique hotel on the main road into Villa, and three full days was a little too long for the town, although it was nice to have some time to relax and not feel we had to get out and see as much as we could in the short time we were there.
The #1 attraction in Villa, according to Trip Advisor, is Plaza Mayor, believed to be the largest cobblestone plaza in South America. The cobblestones might be nice to look at, but they weren't much fun to walk on! And yes, the plaza is big, but it has no benches, one little fountain, little for artwork, and the surrounding buildings, although attractive, are not impressive. The church, Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Rosario, is quaint.