The department of Boyaca is famous in Colombia for many reasons: breathtaking mountain landscapes, great hearty food (fitting for a mountainous region), sturdy and resilient inhabitants and, perhaps most importantly from a traveller’s perspective, having the most beautiful and picturesque towns and villages in Colombia where each resident gives his best to maintain its local patch spotless and adorably irresistible to the eyes of any passer-by. As the beautiful towns in Boyaca are also very important in the history of Colombia’s independence, and each town is recognised for a particular reason (i,e handicrafts, food, history, spring waters, etc), we decided to do a short summary of some of the most charming towns in Boyaca that may help you plan your tour around Boyaca if you like to explore it on your own.
Villa de Leyva is definitely the most touristy and popular town in Boyaca. This colonial village frozen in time will make you feel like you have been transported back to the colonial times. Its main plaza is surrounded by magnificent colonial structures and a beautiful parish church, the area of the plaza is about 14000 square meters and ii is considered the largest plaza in Colombia. The town has various historic sites, which are also museums like: La Casa Museo Antonio Nariño, (Antonio Nariño is a Colombian independence hero), the Museo del Carmen, a religious museum exhibiting valuable paintings and religious objects from the 16th century onwards, and the Paleontological Museum, which has a collection of fossils dating from the Cretaceous and Mesozoic period when this area was covered by the sea.
Near Villa de Leyva you can also visit the Archeological Park of Moniquira, also known as “El Infiernito“. This is an old Muisca sanctuary with a solar calendar and huge sculptures to the fertility of the land. You can also visit the Fossil Museum to see the petrified skeleton of a large marine reptile that inhabited this region 120 million years ago. Finally, the Convento Santo Ecce Homo, founded by the Dominican fathers in 1620. is a spectacular stone-and-adobe construction with a lovely courtyard and floors paved with stones quarried in the region, containing ammonites and fossils, including petrified corn and flowers.
Raquira has always been a place where artisans produce pieces of pottery and wool, its name literally means “City of pots” in the native American Chibcha language. The place is full of colour with all the houses, streets and the central square adorned with an infinite variety of pieces made of clay. In Raquira, you could spend some time shopping or learning how to make ceramics in some of the workshops around the town. If you have more time you can also visit the Monasterio de La Candelaria, located about 45 minutes driving from Raquira. The monastery was founded in 1597 by the Augustinian monks and it is still the home of the monks today but also houses a museum exhibiting religious artefact and paintings from the 17th century.
Sutamarchan is famous for two things: Tomatoes and longaniza (a form of sausage originally from Spain). It is less than 30 minutes drive from Raquira, on the way to Villa de Leyva. It is our recommended place for lunch if you want to try one of the most traditional meals in Colombia: “Fritanga” (a mix plate of chorizo, Colombian style black pudding, grilled plantain, arepas (corn pastries), fried cassava and many other pork cuts). It’s definitely not low in cholesterol but utterly delicious!
The tomato is the main product produced in Sutamarchan and exported to the rest of the country. Tons of the fruit are shipped every year from here to Bogota and other cities. From a few years ago, people in Sutamarchan have been celebrating the festival of the Tomato during the first week of June. Celebrations include music, a beauty pageant to crown the “Queen of the tomato”, the competition of the biggest tomato, and the all-important “tomatina” (or tomato fight) a recreation of a similar event that happens every year in the town of Bunol (Spain).
Duitama is located about one hour drive from Villa de Leyva. It is famous for its local neighbourhood called “Pueblito Boyacence” (little Boyaca village). This neighbourhood was built as a representation of the colonial architecture of seven of the most beautiful towns in Boyacá: Villa de Leyva, Tibasosa, Tenza, El Cocuy, Sachica, Monguí and Raquira, and its central square includes a representation of the Muisca culture. Some houses in Pueblito Boyacence are hotels and restaurants, in case you want to stay there or just have lunch.
Tibasosa is about 30 minutes away from Duitama. It is a town with great colonial streets famous for its delicious sweets and other products made of “feijoa”, an endemic fruit produced extensively across in the local farms. Some of the feijoa products available at Tibasosa are sabajon (licour), ice cream and mantecada (iced bun). Tibasosa could be a refreshing stop on your journey to Paipa.
Paipa is a spa town built near lake Sochagota where you can find natural hot water springs, aquatic sports and nice hotels.
Just 5 km away from Paipa, you can visit one of the most important monuments in Colombia, the “Pantano de Vargas” battle memorial. One of the hardest and perhaps the most decisive battle for Colombia’s independence was fought here on July 25th 1819. This independentist troops were exhausted after crossing the Andes through the moorlands of PIsba trying to take the Spaniard army by surprise. The two groups found each other in this wetland and battle ensued. The independentist army fought with the support of a small British contingent sent from England under the command of Colonel James Rooke (who died of his injuries, days after the battle). At the end of the battle, the Spaniard army fled and the rebels commanded by Simon Bolivar emerged victorious.
Chiquinquira is the religious capital of Colombia, famous for its Basilica and home of Our Lady of the rosary of Chiquinquira (declared patron saint of Colombia in 1916). If you are interested in religious tourism the beautiful town of Chiquinquira should be in your destinations list.
Tunja, Boyaca‘s capital city, is not the most touristic destination in Boyaca and is often overlooked by travellers rushing on to Villa de Leyva. However, Tunja has a beautiful colonial architecture and an imposing central square. It is also famous for its colonial churches dating from the 16th century that stand almost untouched by time. if you have time during your tour of Boyaca, it is a geat idea to stop for a few hours in Tunja to visit the main square, the church of Santo Domingo and the church of Santa Clara Real, founded in 1571.
This is but a sample of the wide variety of towns and villages, big and small worth visiting in Boyaca. We invite you to spend time touring this beautiful department of Colombia, you will discover that every own has unique attractions and will captivate you in its own special way.
If you don’t fancy touring Boyaca on your own (or don’t have time to plan your trip), we are pleased to let everyone know that, fro next week we will be offering a new tour around Boyaca and including all the beautiful destinations listed in this post, and more.
If you want to know more, do get in touch and we’ll be more than happy to help.
The Uncover Colombia Team
- Villa de Leyva: An Enclave of Colonial Charm (uncovercolombia.wordpress.com)
- Suggestions for a two-week holiday in Colombia (uncovercolombia.wordpress.com)
- Arts & Crafts (& Sheep) (ayearwithoutpeanutbutter.com)
- Tota Lake, Paradise in the mountains of boyaca (adventuresfreethinker.wordpress.com)