Villa de Leyva: perhaps the most famous village in Colombia. And not only that. It is also known as one of the most beautiful colonial villages in the country. And rightly so: the picturesque streets, white houses and in the background the mountains are a beautiful combination. Moreover, the surroundings of Villa de Leyva are great for exploring. Unfortunately, these days the village is overrun by tourists, and is quiet only outside the high season. Colombians themselves also love this cute little village. It is therefore well worth a visit. I myself have been there many times by now. In this article you will read all about Villa de Leyva. What to do in the village and surrounding area, where to eat and stay, and practical information.
Villa de Leyva Colombia: the white village in Boyacá
A trip to Villa de Leyva is a trip back in time. The village dates back to the year 1572, and to this day the old village has remained as it is. The white cottage and cobblestone streets are a delight to the eye. In 1954, this photogenic village was even declared a national monument. In recent years, more and more tourists know how to find Villa de Leyva, resulting in many boutique hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops. The village is located at an altitude of nearly 2,200 meters and has a population of about 10,000 people. So the climate there is wonderful: not too hot and not too cold with, temperatures between 15 and 22 degrees.
What to do in Villa de Leyva?
The best thing to do in Villa de Leyva is simply wander around its beautiful streets. Enjoying Colombian village life, delicious food and beautiful views. Marvel at this historic gem close to Bogotá and observe local life. But there is also a lot to do and to visit.
- Trust me: you really want to eat at La Waffleria de La Villa! This pink creperie sells the most delicious crepes and waffles you’ve ever tasted. It is somewhat hidden in the old Casona del Arroyo, but when you find it you will see that it was worth the search!
- Go hiking. Around Villa de Leyva you will find many hiking opportunities through the mountains. One nice one is a hike from the village that leads up to the top of the mountain. It’s a bit of a climb, but it’s worth it. A beautiful view of the village!
- Plaza Mayor: the central square measuring no less than 120 by 120 meters, making it one of the largest squares in South America. It is also really quite impressive I must say, with the old boulders, white buildings and the white church with the mountains in the background.
- Step into one of the beautiful old houses with courtyards. As: Casa Quintero, Casamuseo Antonio Ricaurte and Casa Museo Antonio Nariño.
- Discover the beautiful surroundings of Villa de Leyva (see below).
Surroundings of Villa de Leyva Colombia
In Villa de Leyva you will find several options for touring the area. There is so much to see and do that it will probably take at least two or three days to see it all. You can go out on your own by car, but there are also many tour organizations in the village that organize many day trips from Villa de Leyva.
Del Santo Eccehomo monastery
About 13 kilometers from Villa de Leyva you will find the monastery Ecce Homo. A beautiful structure from the year 1620, whose floors were made with stones excavated from the surrounding area, so the floor contains parts of fossils, among other things. There is no one in the monastery and therefore very pleasantly quiet. The old rooms are decorated as a museum and you will also find a cute chapel. The courtyard consists of a beautifully maintained garden, full of colorful flowers with an old well in the middle. Really a nice place.
Pozos Azules near Villa de Leyva
Just 10 minutes from Villa de Leyva are the Pozos Azules, or blue artificial springs. A place to rest or walk. Nature is beautiful there, with beautiful views.
Vineyard Ain Karim
Normally, wine is produced in France, Spain and Italy, the places where the grapes grow. Or further south in South America. That is why this vineyard is slightly unusual, because who starts a vineyard in the middle of the tropics? An Israeli, to be precise, who decided to set up this vineyard some 25 years ago with the goal of making good quality wine in a tropical country. They researched which grapes are best suited for this purpose and are still experimenting with various grape varieties. Not only is the vineyard beautifully located, but the wine tastes very good. At the vineyard you can take an interesting tour, highly recommended.
Casa Terracota Villa de Leyva
Casa Terracota is perhaps the most famous landmark in the surroundings of Villa de Leyva. It is a house made of clay five hundred square meters in size, which is considered the largest ceramic in the world. The Terracota House was built by architect Octavio Mendoza the same way potters do when they make vases, jars and other objects.
Just a few years ago, the Terracota House was a special attraction where you could take a look for little money. Meanwhile, like Villa de Leyva itself, it has been overrun by tourism and has become enormously expensive to visit. If you do want to go, try to visit outside the busy periods (see below practical).
Museo Comunitario El Fósil
The famous arheological museum El Fósil is about 4 kilometers from Villa de Leyva. The museum was established in 1977 after a specimen of a “Pliosaurus” was discovered during agricultural work. This specimen is the most complete to date and the only one on display “in situ.” This museum also houses more than 500 pieces of the region’s paleontological heritage.
Thermal baths in and around Villa de Leyva
Around Villa de Leyva there are several thermal baths. With La Portada being the most famous thermal bath. La Portada has colonial architecture, like the village, and three thermal pools where you can relax in different temperatures. Located in beautiful surroundings, this is a wonderful place to relax. You will pass the thermal bath if you drive from Bogotá or Tunja to Villa de Leyva, about 5 kilometers before the village.
Souvenir shopping in Ráquira
A little further from Villa de Leyva (25 km.) you will find Ráquira. Known for ceramics and pots, this extremely colorful village is also called the ceramics village of Colombia. Besides ceramics, however, you can find just about any other souvenir you can imagine. Colombians come here to stock up on cheap ceramics, but to buy souvenirs before you fly back home, this place is perfect! Sunday seems to be the best time to visit, as the market is in full swing then.
Visit Villa de Leyva: practical information
How to get to Villa de Leyva?
Very easy: go to Terminal de Transporte in Bogotá, buy a ticket at Módulo 2 or 3 and after a 4-hour drive you will arrive in Villa de Leyva. Find more information such as bus companies and departure times here.
After Villa de Leyva, do you want to travel further into Colombia, or just back to Bogotá? Here you can find the bus station in Villa de Leyva, where you buy your ticket and the buses depart and arrive.
Where to stay.
Villa de Leyva has many hotels, guesthouses and hostels. In all price ranges. So plenty of choice. I myself once stayed at the beautiful but slightly more expensive Hotel Boutique Villa Roma. Would you like to stay more budget with other backpackers? One of the most famous hostels in Villa de Leyva is Hostal Renacer. In a natural setting, just outside the city center.
And there are many other options to stay:
How many days do you need?
The village of Villa de Leyva is not big and seeing all the sights does not take long. One day is enough to soak up the atmosphere, eat waffles and visit museums. However, would you also like to take walks, explore the surrounding area and/or do other activities such as horseback riding or rent bicycles? Then a total of two or three nights should be sufficient.
What is the best travel time?
An important question, because if you come at the wrong time, Villa de Leyva could be a disappointment. The climate in Colombia doesn’t matter much for a moment, but the day you want to arrive does. Definitely try to avoid weekends and high season! Also, when it is Easter, for example, or during other holidays in Colombia: better don’t go there. Since half of Bogotá seems to spend weekends in Villa de Leyva, the feeling of sleepy colonial village is kind of gone at those times. And that would be a pity. So go during the week, then you will have the whole village to yourself and it’s cheaper as well. Here you can read which periods are best avoided.
Villa de Leyva: a perfect mid-week getaway from Bogotá or as a stopover on the way up north. Have you been there?
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