Villa de Leyva is considered a national monument in Colombia, and it’s easy to see why as you stroll through the rustic cobbled streets and feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
The charming village nestled among the hills of Boyaca department, about five hours north of Bogota, is picturesque gem built around a vast stone square surrounded by white colonial style buildings all set against a backdrop of rolling hills.
Its proximity to the capital makes it a great spot for a weekend getaway, and it’s easy to get to by bus. Some people might try to tell you it only takes three hours, but don’t be fooled by this into thinking you can go for a day.
It’s not quite close enough for a daytrip, and is definitely worth spending at least one night or two.
You can get to Villa de Leyva by taking a bus to Tunja from Portal Norte, then at the terminal in Tunja change to another bus or minivan which takes you to Villa de Leyva. The length of the journey will depend on the condition of the road at the time. When I went, there were massive roadworks which meant delays.
There’s lots of accommodation in the village, ranging from expensive hotel to mid-range posadas and cheapo backpackers. You can book in advance or just turn up and find somewhere to stay once you get there.
My first stop was the tourist information office, where the very helpful staff gave me a map and some good tips on where to stay and which museums to visit.
If you’re arriving by bus, walk straight up the street the terminal is on to the plaza principal. The tourist info office is on the next corner after you walk past the church. If you get lost, you can ask one of the many police officers patrolling the area.
Once you’ve checked in and oriented yourself, all that’s left to do is lose yourself wandering through the beautiful cobbled streets.
The museums are hit-and-miss, and while some of them were fairly interesting a decent way to pass time, none of the ones I visited stood out for me.
A few kilometres out of the village you can visit the Pozos Azules, beautiful blue green bodies of water.
You can walk if you’re feeling fit and adventurous, or hop in a cab and ask the driver to show you around.