My name is Frank and I run a travel agency in Bogota, Colombia. Have fun while reading!
Colombia is not only characterized by its natural beauty, there are many spectacular sights in this country. One of them is Villa de Leyva, a magical place that inspires with its cobblestone streets and its beautiful and historical culture.
Colombia is fortunate to have some of the most beautiful cities in the world and without a doubt Villa de Leyva is one of them. The city was founded by the Spanish in 1572 and was originally called Villa de Santa Maria de Leyva. Over the centuries, the village has managed to keep its colonial architecture almost intact. The beautiful original cobblestone streets and houses with white facades can still be admired and enjoyed today.
Thanks to its architecture, its culture and because Villa de Leyva was also the home of independence heroes like Antonio Ricaurte, this place has been a national monument since 1954. The city is also known for its main square, which is not only surrounded by colonial buildings but is also considered to be the largest in Colombia. The square also serves as a meeting point for locals and visitors, at any time of the day and especially on public holidays.
Villa de Leyva is 2,149 meters above sea level and has an average temperature of 18.1° C (64° F). Although it is usually warm, it can still cool down at night. As almost everywhere in Colombia, it can rain at any time. If you want to experience how the colonists of New Granada lived then, you should not miss a visit to Villa de Leyva.
How to get to Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva does not have its own airport. Bogota is the closest city with an airport and is approximately 179 km away. A trip takes between 4 and 5 hours. With an appropriate budget, however, you can fly there by helicopter.
Various buses run from Bogotá to Villa de Leyva. You can therefore take a bus from the Salitre bus terminal or drive to Terminal Norte. There you have to leave the terminal and cross the Autopista. There you will find buses waiting that also drive to Villa de Leyva and the trip is then paid for directly on the bus. However, we definitely recommend organized individual transport.
What to do in Villa de Leyva
In the following we will list various topics.
What to do and see in Villa de Leyva?
In the heart of the city you can find beautiful buildings and incredible places full of curiosities. Some examples are:
Parish Church of Nuestra Señora del Rosario
Opening times: Monday to Saturday from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and on Sunday from 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
The parish church is located right on the main square and is undoubtedly the most important church in Villa de Leyva. It was built in the colonial style and provided with a typical white facade.
Its construction began in 1606 and was then commissioned by the Spanish king (remember that this area was also colonized by the Spanish). Over the years the Church has welcomed various illustrious personalities. For example, Antonio Ricaurte, a hero of Colombian independence, was baptized in this church.
Another historical figure associated with this church is Antonio Nariño. This independence hero was famous for translating human rights. After his death, his bones were kept in the church for a while.
Nuestra Señora del Carmen Church
Opening times (of the Museo del Carmen): Friday to Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The construction of the church began in 1850. In its design, the white facade stands out. The church is in close proximity to the main square. The church has two chapels. The first is dedicated to the Virgen del Carmen and the second houses the image of the Virgen Renovada. This is an icon revered in the region.
You will also find the Museo del Carmen de Arte Religioso (Museum of Religious Art) there. Here you will find more than 100 objects and works of art, some of which were brought directly from Europe.
Other churches are:
- Claustro de San Agustín: The beautiful building has a white facade and blue doors. The monastery was founded in 1573 and abandoned several times. Today it houses the Von Humboldt Institute, which is responsible for researching biodiversity in the region.
- The Discalced Carmelite Monastery: This monastery was founded in 1645. It still serves its religious purpose today. Nuns live here in permanent enclosure. They are dedicated to prayer and the making of religious items.
Parks and places of interest
Main Square or Plaza Mayor
Opening hours: 24 hours
The main square of Villa de Leyva is without a doubt one of the main attractions of the municipality. With 14,000 square meters, it is considered the largest square in the country. The square with its colonial style is fully equipped with paving stones. In the middle is a well that supplied the whole city with water during the colonial times.
The square is also the scene of many iconic festivals. For example the Astronomy Festival, the Kite Festival and the Festival of Lights.
Antonio Ricaurte Park
Opening hours: 24 hours
The small park, also equipped with cobblestones, was created as a tribute to the independence hero Antonio Ricaurte. Parades and military activities usually take place here. In front of the park is the Antonio Ricaurte House Museum.
Antonio Ricaurte House Museum
Opening times: Wednesday to Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The independence hero Antonio Ricaurte was born in this house. The architecture is in the colonial style. The house was restored in 1969. Inside the museum, various items belonging to the hero, such as weapons that he used during the War of Independence, are exhibited. You can also visit the kitchen and bedrooms. The house is considered the nation’s cultural heritage.
Antonio Nariño House Museum
Opening times: Monday to Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
This colonial museum was the last home of the independence hero Antonio Nariño. Guided tours are currently being offered that tell about the meaning of the hero. This house was declared a national monument in 1961.
Antonio Nariño was recognized for the translation of human rights (at that time the Holy Inquisition forbade the proclamation of this manifesto). In this house you can also admire a copy of the original translation and some of the hero’s letters.
The Paleontological Museum of Villa de Leyva
Opening times: Tuesday to Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
On Sunday and public holidays from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Prizes: Public Employees: $ 4,000
General: $ 6,000
Thematic lectures: $ 8,000
Workshops: $ 12,000
Students, teachers and administrators of the Universidad Nacional de Colombia have free entry. The same applies to people under 3 and over 65 years of age.
Villa de Leyva is known for its fossil finds. So if you are a paleontology lover or just a curious person, this museum is a must see. It is located 1.5 km from the main square of Villa de Leyva. There are currently more than 441 objects on display.
Things to do and see outside of Villa de Leyva
Outside the historical city, there are many beautiful and interesting places to visit. Some examples are:
Los Pozos Azules
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Price: $ 12,000 per person
Los Pozos Azules are beautiful artificial lakes located 3 km from the center of Villa de Leyva. These waters have a unique turquoise blue color.
The desert of Villa de Leyva
You can also visit the desert by quad bike. This desert is of particular interest to motocross or mountain biking enthusiasts. In this desert you also meet people who are looking for fossils again and again. The place is located 3.5 km from Villa de Leyva.
The ostrich farm
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Prices: Adult $ 19,000
Child ticket: $ 17,000
Groups: $ 16,000
All tickets include a guided tour and interaction with the animals.
The ostrich farm is 6.5 km from Villa de Leyva. It is an ideal place for families, friends or couples who want to spend a quiet day with these exotic animals. On the farm you can interact with the ostriches and also feed them. There are also other beautiful animals such as llamas and buffalo. In the in-house restaurant you can order buffalo meat burgers, among other things, and you can also buy ostrich eggs in the own souvenir shop.
Monquira Archaeological Park
Opening times: Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Price: Adult: $ 5,000
Students: $ 4,000
The Monquirá Archaeological Park is the ideal place to learn about and surround yourself with pre-Columbian culture. Centuries ago, this place belonged to the Muiscas (one of the main indigenous cultures that inhabited parts of what is now Santander) and was a sacred place.
When the Spaniards arrived at the conquest, they considered this place a pagan site. This created fear among the Catholic believers, so they stayed away from the place. That is why the park is also known as “el infiernito” (the little hell).
At this place, which is about 8 km from Villa de Leyva, one can see thirty phallus-shaped monoliths, which represented fertility for the Indians. This place was also used as an astronomical center by the Muiscas and they predicted phenomena like the solstices. A guided tour through the area is recommended.
Ain Karim vineyard
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Children under the age of 18 are not allowed.
A little outside of Villa de Leyva you will not only find museums or natural sights, but also places to relax. The Ain Karim winery is the perfect place to get to know and taste the delicious wine produced here. The winery is located around 10 km from Villa de Leyva.
Prices and plans
There are various offers on site:
Marqués Plan: For $ 59,000 per person, enjoy a tour of the facilities. The plan also includes 2 glasses of wine and some cheese.
Bronze Plan: For $ 89,000 per person, enjoy a tour of the entire facility. Two glasses of wine will be offered during the visit, selected from the best. There is also a cheese platter, chocolate and Spanish tapas.
Couple Plan: For $ 170,000 per couple, enjoy a romantic plan with your boyfriend or girlfriend. This includes a tour of the facilities. At the end there is a delicious cheese and ham platter, fresh fruit, nuts, dark chocolate, baguette bread, biscuits and two wines of excellent quality. And all of this, in the middle of the beautiful vineyard landscape.
February Plan – Aroma Tasting: This is the ideal workshop for anyone who wants to learn about wine tasting. For $ 170,000 per person, guests have the opportunity to taste 3 of the winery’s best wines, along with a delicious accompaniment.
Picnic Plan: For $ 180,000, enjoy a tour of the entire facility. The plan also includes a leisurely picnic. A cheese and ham platter, wrapped sweets, fresh fruit, dried fruit, chocolates, olives, bread, biscuits and a bottle of wine of your choice are offered. This plan is ideal for couples or families.
Gold Medal Plan: This is the most exclusive of all the plans. For $ 218,000 you can try the 4 most exclusive wines of the production. The plan also includes a tour of the installations. The wines are accompanied by delicious dishes such as a cheese and ham platter, 4 Spanish tapas, fresh fruit, nuts, pralines, olives, baguette bread and biscuits.
Sanctuary of the flora and fauna of Iguaque
Opening times: To get to the Laguna de Iguaque you have to start between 8:00 and 10:00 a.m. After that, no more access is possible.
This destination is considered one of the most beautiful in the Boyacá department. The lagoon is about 16 km from Villa de Leyva and the park entrance can be reached in about 30 minutes.
The Laguna is located in one of the 56 national parks of Colombia, the size of the Santuario de Flora y Fauna de Iguaque covers about 69 square kilometers. The highest point in the park is at 3,800 meters above sea level!
You will also encounter a variety of fauna and flora on a hike. In addition, you will get to know the unique moorland, which can only be found in a few countries in South America. The area used to be sacred territory for the Muisca Indians who settled there hundreds of years ago.
Beautiful animals live here, such as wild rabbits, foxes, armadillos, deer and other exotic species. The main attraction of the park is the sacred lagoon of Iguaque, which was once considered by the Muiscas to be the cradle of mankind. The hike there takes around 6-7 hours and the distance is 8.2 kilometers. You should definitely wear suitable clothes and shoes and we also recommend a guided tour.
The price may vary depending on different circumstances:
Prices for 2021
- For nationals or foreign nationals residing in Colombia between the ages of 5 and 25, the price is $ 13,000.
- Members registered in the Andean Community of Nations (CAN) and aged between 5 and 25 will be charged $ 13,000.
- Colombian nationals or foreign residents over the age of 25 will be charged $ 19,500.
- Members registered in the Andean Community of Nations (CAN) and over 25 years of age will be charged $ 19,500.
- Non-resident foreigners who do not have an agreement with the CAN will be charged $ 55,000.
- Price per vehicle when entering the village
Depending on which vehicle you drive in, fees are also due:
- Motorcycle: $ 10,000
- Car: $ 14,500
- Bus: $ 37,000
- Bus: $ 78,000
Tours to Villa de Leyva
Given the touristic importance of Villa de Leyva, it is possible to book different tours. Some of them are:
Tour from Bogota
Villa de Leyva is only 4-5 hours from the capital, so it is a good and popular destination. Many of the tours that depart from Bogota are day tours. Therefore, there is not enough time to visit all the attractions.
Typically, such a tour includes a private driver waiting for the tour participants while they tour the city. Some tours offer the opportunity to visit some of the natural wonders outside of Villa de Leyva as well. Most of the tours are in Spanish. If you don’t speak Spanish, you should get information from an English-speaking guide beforehand.
These tours are ideal for those looking for a different experience in Villa de Leyva. In the city and even in the neighboring cities there are different providers who offer such tours. These experiences include activities such as horseback riding or riding a 4 × 4 vehicle through the desert from Villa de Leyva, or abseiling in some nearby waterfalls and caving.
A cultural tour takes you to some of the most important points in the village. For example the Casa Museo de Antonio Nariño, the Plaza Mayor, the Casa Museo del Capitán Antonio Ricaurte, the Claustro de San Agustín and other places.
Where to stay in Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva is a small town, so we recommend staying in the historic center. However, if you travel to Villa de Leyva during festivities, you should choose your hotel well, because music and other noise can continue all night long from the main square.
Recommended hotels in Villa de Leyva
Hotel Campanario de la Villa is one of the best hotels in town. My clients usually stay there. This hotel has a swimming pool, a spa and sauna area and I can also recommend the relaxing massage. Although the hotel looks historic, it was recently built. The large inner courtyard with the fountain, the spacious rooms and the viewpoint are great. An upgrade to the Junior Suite is definitely worth it.
Hotel Casa Boutique Villa de Leyva is also a good option. The hotel has a beautiful white facade and blue doors. It is only 200 meters from the main square.
Just one street away from the Antonio Nariño Museum, this hotel impresses with its beautiful architecture. The inner courtyard is filled with Spanish galleries that take visitors back to the history of Colombia. The property is 350 meters from Plaza Mayor.
The Hotel Casa de las Materas is housed in a colonial building. It is located around 200 meters from the main square.
Casa Marsella is an elegant colonial building with beautiful balconies and various flower decorations. The hotel is located around 700 meters from the main square.
When we think of Villa de Leyva, we usually don’t associate this place with parties or alcohol. However, there are several bars in this city where you can have fun in the evenings. Most of these places are located on the main square, because as already mentioned, this square is a central meeting point.
This is one of the most iconic bars in Villa de Leyva. It is located in the main city square. Lots of spirits and cocktails are served here, all accompanied by the best rock music in Spanish and English.
Another bar that is located in Villa de Leyva. A wide variety of spirits and cocktails are served here while enjoying salsa, blues and rock music. The bar is located about 5 minutes from the main square.
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Calle 13 # 9 -72
This bar serves only wine and is located in the main square.
One of the few nightclubs in Villa de Leyva. The Colombians say it has the best “rumba” in town.
Festivals in Villa de Leyva
One of the main features of this beautiful city is the incredible amount of festivals and celebrations that take place throughout the year.
Date: late January or early February
Location: main square
During this event, both locals and visitors can view the wonders of space through telescopes. Villa de Leyva has wonderful views and is known for its perfect stargazing ratios. This is why the Association of Autodidactic Astronomers has been ensuring that a large number of telescopes (80 in 2020) have been set up on the town square since 1997.
Meeting of tastes and knowledge
Date: mid May
Location: main square
An ideal event for locals and visitors alike. The “Encuentro de Sabores y Saberes” is the city’s most important gastronomic event. During this festival, hundreds of people gather in the main square. The main aim of this event is to share and preserve the traditional and ancestral recipes of the region. During these days there will be lectures, workshops and of course the most anticipated part, the tasting of the different dishes in the main square of the village.
Anniversary of the founding of the Villa de Leyva
Date: June 12th (The celebration usually starts on June 10th)
Location: main square
Villa de Leyva is a place where history coexists. The city was founded in 1572 which undoubtedly marks the anniversary as a special date for all locals. During the days of the festival you can watch various religious events, parades, cultural activities and of course fireworks.
The jazz festival
Price: Free (in previous years a voluntary contribution was asked)
Location: main square, city theater
With this festival, which has been taking place since 2011, Villa de Leyva has become an ideal place for jazz lovers. For 3 days, tourists and locals alike can enjoy a variety of groups of this genre. During this festival more than 100 musicians from home and abroad take part.
Virgen del Carmen festivities
Date: It takes place in mid-July and lasts 5 days.
Casa Marsella: main square, Camilo Torres Park, Iglesia del Carmen and other iconic places in the city. This is one of the most important religious festivals in the community. These days are used to worship the Virgen del Carmen, which has many followers in Colombia.
This festival may be religious, but there are lots of fun activities too. For example, the horse and cattle fair usually takes place at the same time, so that children and young people can take leisurely rides.
During the event there will also be several Eucharists, musical activities, workshops for children and a fireworks display.
National wind and kite festival
Location: main square
Without a doubt one of the most iconic and popular events in Villa de Leyva. For 3 days, children, families, friends and experts can have fun flying a kite and take advantage of the August winds. All kinds of cool designs can be seen during this event. In addition to the fun, there is also a competition to determine who has the best kite.
Festival of Lights
Date: December 6th and 7th
Location: main square
This festival is by far the most beautiful festival in Villa de Leyva. On December 6th and 7th, visitors and locals alike can enjoy fireworks held in honor of the Immaculate Conception. This is also a competition where different fireworks masters compete against each other and then it is decided who created the best fireworks.
Where to eat in Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva is also prepared for tourists from all over the world in the culinary field. Below is a selection of good restaurants:
A typical meat restaurant, perfect for all carnivores.
It’s curious that one of the city’s most iconic restaurants (even recommended on the mayor’s website) doesn’t serve Colombian food, but German. Well-stored meat, German sausages and iconic products of the Germanic land are served in this restaurant. It’s a gastronomic experience not to be missed.
This restaurant is a 5-minute drive from Villa de Leyva. It offers a wide variety of products, with the meat dishes and hamburgers standing out.
The best time to visit Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva can be visited at any time of the year. The various cultural, historical and natural attractions are accessible at all times. I personally recommend visiting this beautiful city in early December, or more precisely during the Festival of Lights. I had the opportunity to take part in this festival some time ago, and it’s something wonderful because you not only enjoy the incredible fireworks, but share them with the whole city.
Also in mid-August is worth it, because the kite festival is also very exciting.
Transport in Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva is a relatively small town and attractions within the town are easy to walk to. The city also has a bus terminal, which ensures connections with nearby cities and Bogota. However, if you want to reach sights outside the city, taxis can be found at the bus terminal. If you need further transport options, it is worth visiting the website of Coomultransvilla, which offers all types of transport in Villa de Leyva.
What I like and what I don’t like about Villa de Leyva
I love the atmosphere of Villa de Leyva because you really feel like you’ve been transported back in time. The city is a real dream during the week and embodies the historical legacy of Colombia.
On weekends, public holidays and festivities, however, things look very different. Villa de Leyva is then flooded by crowds and cars are parked all over the place, blocking the whole city. Plus, the noise during the festivities can keep you up all night.
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