The jewel of Boyacá! Just 3-4 hours from Bogotá, Villa de Leyva is a well-preserved step back in time. It’s a popular city break from Bogotá, and whilst being a chilled place with fresh air it’s also packed with things to do. It’s known as one of Colombia’s white towns, and you’ll notice that all buildings are painted white with green or brown woodwork.
Villa de Leyva changes depending on the day of the week you’re visiting. Saturdays do hold the town’s weekly markets, and there can be a party atmosphere on the square on those days. Come Monday, the place is a ghost town. Mondays and Tuesdays tend to be the business off-days after the rush of the weekend, so later in the week is a better time to visit if you want to have a full choice of places to eat and drink (though even at the beginning of the week you’ll have no shortage of options).
What to do in Villa de Leyva
There’s a huge amount of things to do and see in and around Villa de Leyva, so we’re just going to leave an in-no-way exhaustive list right here:
7 Things to do in Villa de Leyva:
1. Chill in Plaza Mayor at sunset
This is number 1 for a reason. There’s nothing that shouts BOYACÁ like watching old men in traditional hats and chequered shirts congregate outside coffee shops on the square as the light fades. Pavement culture is huge here, so make sure you give locals a friendly ‘buenas’ as you walk past.
2. Hike to La Periquera Waterfall
Google maps is actually wrong in that it tells you to go down a dirt track and then turn right into someone’s property called El Reuso. If you end up here, turn back up the hill and turn left at the Parador el Uvalito store. That’s a trek we could have done without 😉 Be warned that the charge to see the waterfall is 20,000 COP each for the guide, no matter how big your group is, and parking is 5,000. This might sound small, but it’s pretty extortionate by Colombian standards. It’s a 45 minute hike too, so as 2 of our group weren’t that bothered, we ended up not actually going to see La Peliquera after driving there. Perhaps going as part of an organised day would have been better.
3. Make a splash in Pozo Azul
Villa de Leyva’s Pozo Azul is a large turquoise blue pool in the middle of nowhere, usually accessed by ATV or jeep tour. You can pay a little extra to swim in the pozo; the water looks very refreshing! In all honesty, we expected it to look a little more natural in terms of the surroundings; it feels more like a man-made reservoir. Walk a little up from the pools and you’ll see amazing views of the valley.
4. Marvel at the Sol Muisca Territorio Ancestral
The indigenous Muisca people who once inhabited the Boyacá region had a thing for celebrating fertility, and they did so by creating this monumental area of giant stone penis carvings. Again, it’s a few miles out of town!
5. Rawr at dinosaur fossils
While there are dinosaur fossils and footprints at a few places, perhaps the most impressive is the aquatic dinosaur fossil at Mueso El Fósil discovered by a farmer a few years ago when heavy rain washed away the soil. This bugger is huge, and while the museum doesn’t offer a huge amount of info, there are lots more fossils there on show. This is a little out of town on the aptly named Via de Fósil, but visiting this fossil is included in lots of the ATV and jeep tours. Entry is 8,000 COP (£2).
6. Dance on the roof of the Terracotta House
Although this place has zero historical significance – it was just made as an architectural feat with tourism in mind – it’s an interesting place to wander around. A few music videos have been filmed here with some pretty big artists. It’s just a little while out of town, so you can either walk there or book a taxi or tour to get there if you don’t have a hire car.
7. Get tipsy on a vineyard tour
If you haven’t made it out to Argentina or Chile yet, this could be the perfect place to check out a little of the wine-producing activity in Colombia. Check out what’s happening down at Viñedo Ain Karim.
Pretty much all of the above activities (obviously apart from number 1) can be organised through one of the many tour agencies on and around Plaza Mayor. Most will have similar pricing, but if you have a big group you can try to barter a deal. You will normally be offered a bike, jeep or ATV tour. On our first visit to Villa de Leyva, we opted for the ATVs and had a great time. We just chose the cheapest tour agency we could find at about 45,000 COP (Sept 18), which was a little up from the Museo del Chocolate off Plaza Mayor. To be honest though, perhaps spending a little more wouldn’t have hurt, as the guide was pretty low on conversation.
The second time we visited Villa de Leyva, we had a hire car, which made it a lot easier to pick and choose what we wanted to go and see.
Where to eat in Villa de Leyva
If you’ve got loose purse strings and you can’t get enough of cheese, get yourself down to Casa San Pedro, where they offer a cheese-infused pasta. They prepare it at your table, swirling the pasta around in a giant vat of cheese until it melts its way around the spaghetti. The other menu items are pretty good, too!
There is a court-type place on the BBC corner of Plaza Mayor (Carrera 9), which on our first visit to Villa de Leyva we skipped because it seemed a bit tourist-trappy and we didn’t realise how vast it was, but on our second visit we gave it a whirl and were pleasantly surprised. There’s everything from artisanal ice cream to vegetarian stir-fry, plus a couple of bars. The Mexican restaurant there makes some pretty mean chilli nachos!
For something more local and much cheaper, our 100%, straight-up, with-a-doubt fave is Villa Pollo chicken shop on Carrera 9. It’s rough around the edges, but the chicken, rice and salad are INSANELY good. We’ve had around 9 eat-out meals during our time in Villa de Leyva and this accounted for 3 of them 😉
Where to grab a hot drink in Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva has no shortage of places to cosy up with a drink. Our first favourite is Chocolatt, where the first question you’ll be asked is ‘Would you like to try a new chocolate flavour?’ and the second question is ‘Do you want your chocolate to eat or to drink?’. We definitely recommend buying a hot chocolate here, and if you’re looking for a bar to nibble the white chocolate with lemon is PENG.
For coffee and cakes, La Galleta is a beaut, and so is Bom Bon, or you could try a café on the main square and sit outside on a bench like a local.
Where to stay in Villa de Leyva
If you’d prefer to stay in the town of Villa de Leyva, there are a number of options. Hostel Magma is well rated and a few blocks from the centre, and Los Golondrinas is a wonderful B&B where Eufenia will make you feel right at home.
Should you have a hire car of some sort, and a few people in your group, we highly recommend clubbing together to stay at Casa El Quijote. It’s just outside of town, hence wanting the car, but it’s the most beautiful open-air house where one side of wall is completely cut away. It’s blissfully quiet and has amazing views. The photos just don’t do it justice!
How to get to Villa de Leyva from Bogotá
By bus, the journey is around 3.5-4 hours. Buses leave regularly from the Terminal Salitre in Bogotá, but to return make sure you check at the terminal in advance as the bus times are a little sporadic on some days of the week. If you hire a car and drive, note that there are 4 tolls on the way there and 3 on the way back. You’ll need between 8k and 13k COP (March 2019) for each, so stock up on cash!
You could technically go for just a day trip to Villa de Leyva from Bogotá, but with how early you’d have to wake up to catch the first bus it doesn’t really seem worth it.
If you don’t have time for a weekend break, make sure you check out some of the Bogotá day trips in our Bogotá Breaks section.
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