Villa de Leyva is a charming old colonial city in Boyacá in Colombia. Calm and tranquil on weekdays, it gets flooded by tourists from Bogotá on the weekends. Villa de Leyva is one of the few towns in Colombia that conserved all its colonial architecture. It is located 150 km north from Bogotá and has a nice dry and warm weather (with an anual average of 62-64ºF), although it gets windy and cold in the evening.
- From Tunja : minibuses leave every ten minutes. (1 hour / 6500 COP / 39 km)
- From Bogotá : Minibuses leave hourly in the morning and mid-afternoon. Los Libertades bus line has luxury buses that leave twice a day (4:40 am and 2:40 pm). The travel time is about 3 hours and it costs $20.000. (180 km). Buses bound for Tunja leave from Portal del Norte throughout the day (including the nice Libertades buses for 15 000 Cop), from where you can easily transfer to a minibus for the last part of the journey - note that this mini bus is 6 500 Cop.
There are the odd direct buses from Portal del Norte, so ask around, the total price of the direct journey should be 20 000 Cop. You can find more information regarding routes and bus companies through redBus.
If driving, take the North Motorway (Autopista Norte), follow on to route 55 and just after the Puente de Boyacá turn left towards Samaca. Keep following the signs to Villa de Leyva. Route 55 is in optimal condition, but roads deteriorate and become winding after the turn. Once in Villa de Leyva drop your car - there is no point driving around town.
- From Chiquinquira: Vans leave hourly - approximately a 1 hour trip.
To reach the main plaza, take a right when you exit the terminal and head on that street (Cra.9) for a couple blocks.
- To combine a trip to the Salt Cathedral on the way to Villa de Leyva, take a bus to Zipaquira and then take a taxi to the Cathedral. Then take a taxi to Plaza de la Riena for a minibus to Chiquinquira. The minibus is operated by Transportes Reina Agencia and the departure location is at Carrera 36, 8-532.
Another option is to hail a small bus headed to Ubate. They are very frequent, every 15 minutes or so on Carrera 15 From the main drop off area in Ubate you can catch a small bus to Chiquinquira and from there the minibus to Villa de Leyva. To do it this way is about 3 1/2 hours.
Villa de Leyva was founded on June 12th 1572, by Captain Hernan Suárez de Villalobos, as instructed by the first president of the New Kingdom of Granada Sr. Andres Díaz Venero de Leyva. Initially Villa de Leyva was established close to the Indian Astronomic Observatory in a place called Zaquencipá Valley, and then twelve years later was moved to its actual location. During the colonisation, Villa de Leyva was a principal producer of olive oil and some cereals, especially wheat and barley. It was chosen as a favorite place for Spanish families and especially as place to rest for viceroys.
Villa de Leyva was home of the Captain Antonio Ricaurte, a hero in the San Mateo battle during the war of independence. The General and President of the New Republic Antonio Nariño spent his last days in this town. In 1812 there was the meeting of the first congress of the United Provinces. In 1830 the construction of the road to connect Villa de Leyva with Tunja which passed by Arcabuco began. The construction of this road started the development of this beautiful village. In 1954 Villa de Leyva was declared a National Monument.
The architecture of Villa de Leyva has a Spanish style. You can see in the construction of most of the houses in the village, their wonderful balconies, arcs and main doors (it is possible to appreciate this in the old buildings such as Casa del Primer Congreso, Casa de Don Antonio Narioño, Casa de La Real Fabrica de Licores, Claustro de San Agustín). Villa de Leyva is a place of inspiration to poets and writers. They can find peace in its stone paved streets or just contemplating the majestic main square, unique in Latin-America.
Villa de Leyva is located at 2.143 meters above sea level, with a lovely temperature of 18oC and a population of 12.000 inhabitants. Its size is 128 km2. Villa de Leyva’s borders are: Arcabuco and Gachantiva in the north, Sachica and Chíquiza to the south, Chíquiza and San Pedro de Iguaque to the east and Santa Sofia, Sutamarchan and Gachantiva to the west.
The Iguaque’s Sanctuary of Flora and Fauna is an ecological reserve (6.700 hectares). It is home to a great variety of native species and is a part of the National Parks Unit. The reserve goes from 2.800 to 3.800 meters above sea level, and it is possible to see different kinds of ecosystems like the Andean high jungle, and the Stunted Jungle which reaches the majestic Moor called Paramo. Apart from these reasons, The Iguaque Sanctuary is also a very important reserve of water for the entire region. Also, it has eight glacier lakes, one of which contains the origins of the Bachue legend.
A variety of fossils have been found around Villa de Leyva. These have been deemed important because of their sizes and their very relevant contributions made to paleontological investigations. Found in 1945, the Plesiosaurus is more than 115 million years old, and is part of the National Geological Museum’s collection. It is also the finding place of The Ichtyosaurus, a marine reptile that lived between 110 and 115 million years ago, which is 8 meters long and without a tail, and is very similar to another similar specimen found in Australia. These discoveries show that Villa de Leyva was below sea level before the Andes Mountains were formed.
In agreement with the Muisca’s mythology, the Iguaque lake legend says that a beautiful woman called Bachue, walked out from the lake with a boy of three years of age (Iguaque). They were the origin of the most important Indian tribe in Colombia called the Muisca. Anthropologic research says that the Muisca civilization was a very clever tribe, especially for their knowledge of agriculture, pottery and astronomy. The evidence of this is possible to see in the ‘Infiernito’ (the little hell) well known as the Muisca Astronomic Observatory.
Villa de Leyva is small enough to be covered on foot, although you may want to rent a bicycle if you're going to see the dinosaur fossil and Muisca Observatory. The surrounding villages like Raquira would need a taxi or private car as they are difficult to get to by bus.
There are a handful of museums in town. Not all of them are impressive.
- Museo Paleontológico. Open : Tu-Sa 9am-12am & 2pm-5pm / Su and holidays 9am-3pm. A collection of fossils. Entrance : COP$ 2,000. edit
- Luis Alberto Acuña, Carrera 10 No. 12-83 (Located in a corner of the central square), ☎ 732 0422. Open : M-Su 9am-6pm. Pictures and sculptures collected by this painter. Entrance : COP $4000. edit
- Prehistorical garden, ☎ 732 0214. Open : M-Su 9am-6pm. edit
- Museo del Carmen, Plazuela del Carmen. Open : Sa, Su and holidays 10am-1pm & 2pm-5pm. Impressive collection of religious art. edit
- Antonio Ricaurte, Calle 15 No. 8-17, ☎ 732 0252. Open: W-F 9am-12am & 2pm-5pm / Sa, Su and holidays 9am-12pm & 2pm-6pm. Air Force museum in the former house of Antonio Ricaurte edit
- Casa Museo Antonio Nariño, Carrera 9 No. 10-39, ☎ 732 0342. Open : Th-Tu 9am-12am & 2pm-4pm. Last house of this independence hero. Displays some of his possessions. Adult : COP$ 2,000 / Student : COP$ 700 / Kids : COP$ 500. edit
- Climb up to the mirador named "sagrado corazón" or just "santo". It's a Jesus statue on the hills to the east of the town on the hillside. To find the path, first head towards the mountain on Calle 12 until you reach a white gateway:entrance. Go through it (next to the kid's football stadium) and stay to the left of the running field. Start climbing through the forest and follow the white arrows (these mostly don't exist any more! so don't worry if you can't see them the path's fairly obvious - if in doubt go UP). The climb to the top is steep with some portions on rocks. The whole walk is about 1 hour 30 mins - wear proper shoes because it is steep! and put on suncream if you're fair skinned because it's around 2 500 m high so the sun is burny.
(Note: after you've reached the statue, do not continue for the peak! The path ends and the mountain is soon covered with painful briers, sudden dangerous cliffs, and general misery. The peak is really not worth seeing, and definitely not worth cutting yourself to shreds and risking death.)
- Visit the La Periquera, (15 Km from town, on the way to Arcabuco). Take a bus from the terminal for 4 000 Cop (one way) - they leave in the morning and then 2pm, 4pm and 5pm. The last return bus back to Villa de Leyva is around 6:45pm. You see 7 pretty waterfalls. The walking track does a loop, first going down along the successive waterfalls and then coming back up along the mountain edge. Rappel down the waterfalls possible. Entrance : 5,000 COP
- Visit the Pozos Azules. This is a park about 2km outside the town that offers a short loop hike around a series of bright blue sulfuric pools. They make a pleasing and picturesque contrast with the red dirt and green trees. Follow Carerra 12 out of town and you'll see the sign. Entry is COP5000. Bathrooms located halfway around the loop cost COP500. There's also a sheltered table good for picnicking. Swimming is not allowed.
- Wander the pretty colonial, cobbled streets - lots of little artisanal shops, nice cafes and very pretty nooks and crannies. The arcitecture and detail is lovely.
- Taxis offer trips to some of the surrounding attractions.
- Tourism agencies offer day trips to the surrounding attractions, bike and horses rentals as well as extreme sports activities (canyoning, paragliding, speleology, rappeling..). :
- The Chocolate Museum, off the main square on Carrera 9. More of a chocoalte shop with the possibility to buy freshly coated chocolate strawberries as well as many chocolatey goodies. Very cool, little shop smelling of caramel.
- Supermarkets SCOOMEXAOC and Don Manuel are both located on Cra 9 between Calle 9 and 10. There are also plenty of tiendas and other small supermarkets around town
- Numerous butchers, fruit and veg shops
- Plenty of artisinal shops selling the traditional 'string' bags (mochillas) for around 60 000 Cop (made there!), woolen scarves and so on
- Shopping Center Casona Nariño - In front of Parque Nariño, one of the most beautiful pmaces in town, one block from main squre, there is a colonial shoping center, a colorful inside where you can buy books, handmade notebooks, hand knited clothes and the typical mochilas, gifts, food and more. Also a beauty parlor specialized in weding
Thera are HEAPS of restaurants and many, many cafes around the village. Have an explore and find your own place to sit and enjoy a good meal!
- Pastelería Francesa, Calle 10 No 9-41. Closed : Tu and W. Tasty french bread, postres, huge chocolate tarts, coffe (around 2 000 Cop) and hot chocolate (3 500 Cop). edit
- Restaurante Los Kioscos y Caciques, Carrera 9 between calles 14 and 15 (near bus terminal). Classic colombian food with a fish option in the almerzo menu. Served between 11:30am and 5/6pm w/ wifi hotspot. Very good value includes soup, main and juice - very filling! would recommend 8 000 Cop almerzos. edit
- Portales, Northwest Corner of the Plaza. Italian food w/ wifi hotspot. edit
- Tartas y Tortas de la Villa, Cr 10 #11-39 (Two blocks from the main plaza, walking along the street opposite to the church.). Closed : Wednesday. Offers coffee and desserts. edit
- La Terrassa, Main Plaza (Facing the church it is to the right hand side, one of the fancies with view on the plaza.). Offers pizzas, pastas, wine, etc. Great view on the plaza for cheaper prices than in other fancies on that side. Friendly service. 22000 for medium pizza, 14000 for 400 ml of vino de la casa.. edit
- Some almuerzo place, Calle 10 (just 3 blocks from the plaza mayor). daily. Daily set meals for lunch and dinner (soup, main dish and juice), with choice of chicken and meat. They supposedly do breakfasts too. COP 7000. edit
- La Galleta, Carrera 9, between calle 12 & 13 (one block from the main square). 11:00-20:00. They have good tea and coffee and great cakes. edit
- Estar de la Villa, calle 13, No 8-85, Villa de Leyva (20 meters from the plaza on the top left corner, upwards (when facing the church)), ☎ 732 0501. Extremely delicious and good quality food, from local almuerzo menu (9000 for soup, main, salad bar, natural juice and desert) to home made italian pasta and other dishes (fish-meat, approx 16000 cop). Very friendly owner, and good service. 9000. edit
- Santa Lucia, Carrera 10 No 10-27, Villa de Leyva (one block off the main plaza, towards the bus station, on the road opposite the church), ☎ 31 880 1022. The best ice cream in town, all home made gelato, at a reasonable price. Also serve pizzas.. edit
- Café de la Barra, Plaza Mayor, Cra 9 No. 12- 52, ☎ 3202237175, . All of their coffee is 100% Colombian and prepared with a smile; the owners are a charming Colombian couple who love to chat with their customers. The location is ideal (right on the main plaza next to the bell tower), so you can sit inside the cute little coffee shop and watch people pass by on the plaza, or you can sit out back on their patio and enjoy a great view of the bell tower. They also serve tasty desserts and little sandwiches. edit
Prices rise on weekends and holidays.
- Hostel del Carmen, Calle 10B (just off Carrera 10 between Calle's 10 and 11, yellow signs either side of the Calle indicating where it is). checkout: 12:00. Right in town off one of the cobbled streets, very near the bus terminal (c. 5 min walk) and main square (c. 5 mins walk), free wifi and well stocked kitchen free to use and hot (electric) showers. Dorms and private rooms with ensuites, televisions and a pretty courtyard full of plants. Friendly owners that let you alone which is pleasant. Very quiet hostel although beds in room 10 are VERY uncomfortable 60 000 Cop private double ensuite with breakfast 50 000 Cop without breakfast (week prices). edit
- Casa Viena, . checkout: 12:00. It is situated a 15min walk outside of the city and offers therefore a nice and silent atmosphere.It has only 3 rooms .Its more a homestay than a hotel, free wifi and kitchen private rooms double : 38000 - 50000 available edit
- Hospederia La Villa, Calle 12 No 10-11 (SW corner of the Plaza Mayor), ☎ 732-0848. Great location at a cheap price. Wifi. Single without bath : 20,000 COP / with bath : 30,000 COP. Double with shower: 40,000 COP. Check for bugs and rotting rafters (Apr 2014).. edit
- Duruelo Hotel, (Straight up from Plaza Mayor, on hillside overlooking town), ☎ (0987) 320-222, . Nice Spanish Colonial Hotel with many amenities. The rooms are cascading up the hillside surrounded by beautiful flowers and landscaping. The upper terraces require climbing many stairs. 4 pools, spa, gymnasium, jacuzzi, restaurants with room service and wireless internet. Has many local tours available. Horseback riding, Mountain bikes, Mini golf and more. About $110 per double room/night (weekend in March '06). edit
- Zona de camping, (corner of Calle 10 and Carrera 10), ☎ 311 5507 687. Grass field surrounded by walls. Showers and toilets on site. 7,000 COP per person. edit
- Hostal Renacer (colombian highlands), . checkout: 12:00. It is situated a 15min walk outside of the city and offers therefore a nice and silent atmosphere. free wifi and kitchen, bike for rent (13000 for 6 hours, 25000 for a day), dorms start from 15.000, privates available. 12.000 per person for camping. edit
- Hostal Rana, Calle 10a No. 10 - 31, (Two blocks from the plaza, down K10.), ☎ 311 464 2969, . Dorms, spacious and clean rooms with and without ensuite. There's a good common area, wifi and you can use the outdoor kitchen to cook. from 20,000 COP. edit
- El Solar Hostel, Carrera 6 No. 14 - 06 (South east area of town), ☎ 311 832 7919, . Very Simple no frills hostel. The place has a large yard and is more like camping. It has private rooms and dorms. Martha, the host, makes the place a warm and inviting. No hot water, and outhouse bathrooms and kitchen. A spacious lawn that some choose to camp on. Free Wifi near office. edit
- Hotel Campestre El Pozzo, Carrera 12 con calle 4 Salida al Fosil, ☎ 7321247/3212567701. edit
- Hospedaje Casa Quinta La Pepita (""address="), (East side of Carerra 7 between calle 11 and calle 10, closer to 11), ☎ 300 4947341 ([email protected]). Nice quaint hospedaje with a real homely feel. The owner, Cielo, is very kind and is quite helpful. The camping area is located in a beautiful yard surrounded by guava, mandarin, Charimoya and lime trees, bathrooms are clean, hot showers, kitchen access, free coffee, and good wifi. Cielo rents bikes for $20,000 for a half day (but is very relaxed about time out). Rooms for $20,000 a person/ Camping is $12,000 a person. edit
- Casa Hotel San Pedro, Kilómetro 2.5 Vía Bomberos,Mirador De La Villa (2.5 Kms away from the main plaza), ☎ 310 253 30 21, . Beautiful, luxury, boutique hotel with great city views. Big, comfortable rooms with wifi. Has a restaurant on-site. Breakfast included and room service available. $195.000 COP for a couple. Special prices available throughout the year. (5.657623,-73.514721) edit
- Hotel Esquina Colonial (Esquina Colonial - hotel), Tr 10 8-61 (Across Terpel gas station), ☎ +57(8)7320005, . checkin: 3om; checkout: 11am. Beautiful budget hotel, newly built with a charming colonial style. The rooms have a minimalist decoration but are comfortable, pleasant and offer all the basic services and necessary privacy in a delightful microclimate that is neither cold nor hot, in a quiet environment of a beautiful city of cobbled streets and colonial touch. COP120000. edit
Around Villa de Leyva are several attraction which can be visited as a day trip :
- El Fósil, (About 5.5km on the road to Santa Sofía), . Open : M-Su 7am-6pm. Nearly complete fossil of a chronosaur. Entrance: Adults: COP $6000 / Children: COP $4000. edit
- Granja de avestruces, (On the road to Santa Sofia, turn left 15 m before El Fosíl). Ostrich farm. edit
- El Infernito, (About 7.5 kilometers down the road to Santa Sofía). A Muisca Indian astronomy observatory and a collection giant phallus statues. Entrance : COP$6.000. edit
- Pinturas & petroglifos, (Around 10km down the road to Santa Sofía. The site is hard to find on your own.). Rock paintings and petroglyphs. edit
- Convento Santo Ecce Homo, (About 16km down the road to Santa Sofía). Open M-Su 9am-6pm. Monastery founded in 1620 now open to the public. Entrance : COP$5.000. edit
- Raquira. Village famous for its pottery. With the souvenir shops it's a bit artificial. Bus connections are infrequent and schedules tend to change if there aren't enough people. edit
- La Candelaria desert. About 7 km east of Raquira. edit
- Santuario de flora y fauna Iguaque. Open : 8 am to 6 pm. Natural Sanctuary which is home to Laguna Iguaque and several other lagunas at an altitude of 3600m. Buses drop you off about 3km from the entrance. From there to Laguna Iguaque and back takes about 7 hours. At the entrance there is a hotel, camping area and restaurant. Bring warm clothes. Foreigners : 23,000 COP / Colombians : 8,000 COP / Students and kids : 4,000 COP. edit
- La Periquera, (15 Km from town, on the way to Arcabuco). A camping site known for its 7 waterfalls. The walking track does a loop, first going down along the successive waterfalls and then coming back up along the mountain edge. Rappel down the waterfalls possible. Entrance : 5,000 COP. edit
- Pozo Azules, (3 km from town (follow Carerra 12)). 3 blue coloured lakes. (5,000 COP). edit
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