Saturday, January 28, 2017

Villa de Leyva - A quaint Colombian colonial city

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.[1] 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.

Plaza Mayor

The plaza was more interesting in the evening, with more people hanging out. 


The spire of Iglesia del Carmen, a small parish church, is visible from the main  plaza. The truck of soldiers was there the whole time I took photos - about an hour. In front of the church in Plaza Mayor, they have funeral notices, and the photo I took of the inside of the church was of one of the funerals. 

Street Scenes

Construction techniques are primitive compared to ours. They are replacing some of the cobblestones -- it looks like they've making sidewalks out of smoother rock. Students parading over the cobblestones. 


It's very much a rural community. They graze livestock in any convenient location. And, as in many other places in Latin America, dogs have the run of the town! These four congregated on the main street, one block from the plaza. 


There was an outdoor activity center near out hotel, and people were using it early in the morning and until dark. I liked the boys playing soccer - a wide range of ages. I don't know if we see that in Canada. 


Villa is blessed with a profusion of flowers.


On the outskirts of the town there are palatial estates - I figured wealthy people from Bogota buying up property. And in amongst these mansions there are still some little farms and other less stately homes. I wondered if the house in the top right was in disrepair or under renovation.


This restaurant, Aromas de la Villa, offered authentic meals. We had "El Ménu del Día," a small salad bar, lentil soup, juice, the main course of pork, rice, vegies, and yucca, and a piece of cake with caramel sauce for dessert. A great deal for 11,000 pesos (about $5), and a nice little restaurant. Not all our meals were that inexpensive, though. In fact, in a Peruvian restaurant the day before I thought I was ordering us each a "cerveza," but somehow we ended up with an expensive (about $8) pisco sour. It did taste good though!

The Countryside

Besides hiking up to the Mirador, I made some other walks around the town. I used Google Earth to scout out one trail, and went up over a hill and came down into farmland. I had to walk through a farmer's field at one point and came upon the cow in the photo below. It didn't seem too menacing, so I continued on my way, but hoped I wouldn't enrage a farmer by trespassing.

Hasta Luego!

The view from out hotel roof-top terrace


  1. So happy to be part of the "Colombian experience"!

  2. Thanks, John. Very enjoyable journey that you're sharing.

  3. You're welcome Wally. My pleasure.

  4. Your format really provides a lot of information about the locale...really enjoyed it.