If a visit to Colombia is on your bucket list, make sure to check out Villa de Leyva.
Villa de Leyva is a town and municipality that’s part of the Boyacá Department in Colombia. Originally called Villa de Santa María de Leyva, the town was founded back in 1572 and declared a national monument in 1954.
What makes it so alluring for local and foreign tourist? Well, for starters it’s one of the few places in Colombia to have preserved its original colonial style and architecture, and then there’s the beautiful rural scenery with incredible water springs and reservoirs that come close to the desert.
It’s obvious to everyone who visits that Villa de Leyva is one of the most beautiful towns in Colombia. This is illustrated by the fact that the number of visitors to the town continues to grow year after year. The local and national government are fully aware of this and are working hard to promote the town as one of Colombia’s principal tourist attractions.
It’s true that it retains a certain air of an Andalusian mountain village with its whitewashed houses, gabled roofs and cobbled streets, and it’s not uncommon to see the locals sitting on their doorsteps watching the world go by.
The town’s main square, besides being Leyva’s centre of social life, is believed to be the largest cobbled square in Colombia. We also recommend a visit to the farmer’s market, going for a wander around the streets and chatting with the locals to really get a feel for the slow, relaxed pace of life in the town.
The size of its central square has a well-known historical reason, as many detachments of Spanish soldiers were trained there during the Spanish colonisation of the Americas and they needed someplace to house the troops.
Located 170 kilometres from Bogotá, its cobblestone streets flanked by old colonial buildings, traditional arcades and balconies create the feeling that you’ve travelled back in time.
The Iglesia Mayor, Iglesia del Carmen, Casa Museu Antonio Nariño, Casa Museo Antonio Ricaurte, Convento de San Francisco, Convento del Carmen, Claustro de San Agustín, the Royal Aguardientes Factory and the House of the First Congress are the most notable colonial buildings in the town.
You should also know that Villa de Leyva was below sea level before the Andes Mountains were formed and this is the reason for the many lakes and valleys in the area, and its palaeontological discoveries. The Fossil Museum and the Centre for Paleontological Research give good faith of this.
The best panoramic views of the town are found by heading up to Mirador El Santo. It’s a two-hour walk up and down, and the path starts at the east exit of the town.
It is also very close to the well-known Colombian Coffee Triangle in the Portal del Norte area. But that’s a story for another day…