On my first two visits to Colombia, I had missed out on Villa de Leyva, and now that I am back in this beautiful country, I am determined to check it out. The drive there through the mountains and past lakes is beautiful in itself, and it is tempting to stop everywhere and explore - but we have to stick to our goal: the historic town of Villa de Leyva. As soon as we drive into the cobble stone streets of town, we fall for its charms. Villa de Leyva is small, and I roam around the streets without any plan, following my instinct, and the sunlight. With its typical colonial grid of streets and the mountain range to the east, it is super easy to find your way. The obvious place to start exploring this 16th century town is the Plaza Mayor, or main square: one of the biggest in the Americas, and entirely paved with stones, and surrounded by whitewashed buildings topped with red roofs.
At the southeastern side, there is the Lady of the Rosary church, and all around, there are arches, monumental colonial doors. Right in the middle of the square: a fountain. The cobble stone streets run from here in all directions, and take you to other, smaller squares, parks, churches, and mostly: straight streets with white buildings and green balconies and window shutters. Small shops, restaurants, and hotels: there is plenty to choose from in Villa de Leyva. After a couple of hours of exploring, I head out to the east, and hike the trail next to a small stream, into the mountains. There are some tiny waterfalls, and when I climb out of the narrow canyon, the views of Villa de Leyva are great. Back in town, I taste some ice cream before continuing my walk around town with the setting sun. I sit next to the church on the Plaza Mayor to watch the light disappear from the sky; lanterns are lit, and Villa de Leyva takes on a different, equally romantic, atmosphere. A tasty dinner in a colonial building precedes a night in a colonial hostel right on the main square, and I feel completely immersed into the historic town.
The next day, I want to be out before sunrise, but find the big wooden door closed. It takes some effort to find someone with a key to open; fortunately, I am still outside in time. The sky is still covered in clouds, but now, the town is empty, and I walk the same streets as the day before, without the people and the few cars of the day before. Walking a few blocks east, I find the outdoor market of Villa de Leyva which is surprisingly busy given the early hour, and I cruise the stalls, watch the people, some of whom are dressed in a traditional way, with cowboy hats and ponchos, and end up buying some tasty mangoes before I am on my way down to the main square. There is just enough time for a quick breakfast before I head out to the bus station to catch a bus back to Bogotá; I have to skip the many sights in the neighbourhood of Villa de Leyva, and therefore have a good reason to come back again.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Villa de Leyva (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Villa de Leyva.
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