Villa de Leyva is the Barichara of Boyaca. In case you didn’t know, Barichara is called the “Prettiest Town in Colombia,” but Villa de Leyva gives Barichara a run for its money. Villa de Leyva can only be accessed by road, as far I know, but the drive is well worth it as the views and changes in landscape are spectacular. Most people arrive to Villa de Leyva via Bogota, which allows for strategic stops in places like el Puente de Boyaca, the small town of Samaca, and any road stop stand that sells hot and freshly made almojabanas that are famously delicious in all Boyaca.
But, on to Villa de Levya itself. Villa de Leyva is a unique town. Although it’s located within the boundaries of Boyaca, it gives off a vibe that is a combination of down to earth Boyaca, adventurous Santander, and the colonial Colombia of years passed. As soon as you begin to walk the cobblestoned streets of Villa de Leyva, you feel like you’ve been transported back to the era of independence when Simón Bolívar was rallying support across the South American continent and Antonio Nariño was dreaming of an independent Colombia. Below you are the uneven cobblestones, beside you are the white washed walls of colonial style buildings and all around you are traces of the town that existed when Antonio Nariño arrived to die.
Even so, this colonial age town has a lot to offer the modern traveler. The first thing anyone arriving to this enchanting town should do is spend some time getting lost among the colonial and romantic streets. While you’re walking be sure to check out some of the local artisans and their handicrafts often housed in stores that no occupy the colonial homes. If the heat of Villa de Leyva gets to you, you are sure to come across some wonderful shops selling homemade cream-pops (like popsicles but made with milk) to cool you down—be sure to try several flavors!
Close to the town plaza is a museum dedicated to the aforementioned independence fighter, Antonio Nariño. The museum is located in one of two locations where historians believe the famous leader died, and houses an impressive collection of both historical objects as well as objects that once belonged to Nariño, including letters he wrote before he died.
Right outside Villa de Leyva is a regional vineyard that produces award winning wine as well as a unique wine made from the Colombian fruit feijoa. I am no wine connoisseur, but do enjoy trying local wines and supporting local industry. This regional wine can both be bought in local stores as well as drunken by the cup or bottle in local restaurants.
When not roaming the charming and historical streets of the town, you can also take part in many outdoor activities. For instance, you can go horseback riding on several trails around the outskirts of town, you can hike around la Periquera and see around seven different waterfalls, or you can take a trip to los pozos azules (some natural turquoise colored pools that have formed in a desert like zone), which can also be reached via horseback.
If you are looking for a weekend escape from Bogota or want to visit an amazingly charming and down to earth colonial town in Colombia, Villa de Leyva is the destination for you. I promise, you won’t be sorry for adding it to your itinerary!
Paige M. Poole
About the author:
“Paige M. Poole is an Alabamian and traveler at heart who has settled, for now, in Barranquilla, Colombia, and earns her living as an English professor at the Instituto de Idiomas (Language Institute) at la Universidad del Norte (University of the North). When not teaching English, she enjoys blogging, traveling, relaxing on the beach, and spending time with her partner and two cats, Milo and Sophie. You can see more of Paige’s traveling experiences in her personal blog www.trotamunda.wordpress.com
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