Villa de Leyva
Introduction to Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva was declared a national monument in 1954 and the colonial town seems like it has been stopped in time ever since with its beautifully preserved whitewashed buildings and cobblestone streets. Located 93 miles (150km) north from Bogotá the perfectly preserved colonial town is a popular weekend getaway for Bogotanos looking for a break from the bustling capital city. The cobblestone streets, Spanish-style villas, and small-town pace give Villa de Leyva a charming, frozen-in-time feel. Villa de Leyva and the surrounding countryside are among the safest places in Colombia to wonder off the beaten track and do a bit of exploring with multiple waterfalls, a nearby desert, adventure-sport opportunities, and even a couple of vineyards, there’s plenty of exploring to do….so what are you waiting for, get out there!
What not to miss in Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva Town
Villa de Leyva’s main attraction is its large cobblestone plaza, which at 393.7 ft. by 393.7 ft. (120m by 120m) is one of the largest town squares in the Americas. Located on the main plaza, the Iglesia Parroquial de Villa de Leyva was constructed in 1604, and it was here that independence hero Antonio Nariño lived from 1823 to 1846.
La Periquera Waterfalls
Located just outside of the town of Villa de Leyva are the picturesque La Periquera Falls where you’ll have the opportunity to go for a swim in its refreshing water at the foot of these stunning falls.
Visit the Fossil Museum about 0.6 miles (1km) northeast of Villa de Leyva. Here you’ll be able to marvel at the thousands of fossils and huge dinosaurs found in Villa de Leyva’s surrounding desert and dating back to the period when the area was a sea bed (100 to 150 million years ago).
Gondava Dinosaur Park
This theme park has built 31 species in real life size. It is a great place for families and very well set up. There are fun little boat rides on a lake where you can spot aquatic dinosaurs, an excavation area and a maze where you’ll be hunted by a raptor and other dinosaurs.
Raquira is about 30 minutes by car from Villa de Leyva. It is a fun little town with local artists and artisans displaying their works of art and craftsmanship. It makes a great stop on the way to Villa de Leyva or on the way back to Bogota.
The Guatavita Lagoon is a former sacred site of the Muisca indigenous tribe, who inhabited the central highlands of what is now Colombia. Nearby, the town of Guatavita is a beautiful town, with white-washed Spanish colonial buildings, a bullring and a small a crafts center.
Located outside of Villa de Leyva you will find El Infiernito, the sacred site of the Muiscas. You will have the opportunity to walk around the ruins of an ancient Muisca settlement, where the Pre-Columbian indigenous community used to perform religious ceremonies, spiritual purification rites and, observational astronomy.
What you need to know
When to go
The climate in Villa de Leyva is warm and temperate with the highest rainfall being mostly in the winter with relatively little rain in the summer. Villa de Leyva is well known for its festivals. The driest month is July, with 1.3 inches (33mm) of rain and October is the wettest month with an average of 5.5 inches (140mm) of rainfall. March is the warmest month of the year with average temperatures of 63.5°F (17.5°C). With an average of 61.1°F (16.2°C), July is the coldest month of the year in Villa de Leyva.
If you want to see something different, have unforgettable moments and interact with the locals, we recommend that you plan your visit to Villa de Leyva during these festivals:
Lights Festival: Visitors can enjoy the night on the streets romantically filled with lights during the month of December. During this festival all visitors and locals celebrate the tradition of lighting candles and lanterns, as a prelude to Christmas.
Wind and Kites Festival: In August every year, the main plaza of Villa de Leyva and other open spaces are filled with kites of different colors and styles to enjoy the winds that characterize the climate of this region. Visitors can admire the handmade kites of all sizes, forms and colors during a contest where the competitors have the opportunity to show their ingenuity, creativity and skill.
Astronomy Festival: In February astronomy amateurs and professionals can enjoy a weekend full of stars and planets. During the day visitors can observe the sun through telescopes displayed all around the main plaza and attend the conferences where the main theme is astronomy and other interesting topics. At night the observation of stars and planets is the main attraction that can last until very late.
How to get there
Villa de Leyva’s bus terminal is just 3 blocks southwest of the Plaza Major. A number buses run daily between Bogota bus station and Villa de Leyva with the trip time typically being about 4 hours. Arriving at the bus terminal in Villa de Leyva you’ll be within walking distance from most hotels. If you have a lot of luggage, you may want to consider taking a short taxi ride, especially if you’re staying in one of the many countryside farms or inns on the outskirts of the town.
Where to stay
Due to its popularity with Bogotanos and tourists alike, Villa de Leyva has a large selection of hotels to suit all price ranges. Accommodation availability and cost rise on the weekend and especially during the high seasons including, Semana Santa (March/April) and between December 20 and January 15. Most of the hotels and lodges in Villa de Leyva are charming and contain unique colonial styles that make it relatively difficult to make a bad choice when it comes to deciding on where to stay.
Villa de Leyva is small enough to be covered on foot, although you may want to rent a bicycle if you’re going to see the dinosaur fossil and Muisca Observatory.
To visit the surrounding villages like Raquira you would need a taxi or to book a tour as they are difficult to get to by bus.