The town of Villa de Leyva is about a 4-hour drive from Bogotá. Built in the 16th century and one of the best preserved colonial cities in Colombia. And to preserve it, it was declared a national monument in 1954. A popular base in the weekends for residents of Bogotá due to the peaceful location and environment. Villa de Leyva is a nice place to go and the area offers many activities. From museums to eating ice cream and from mountainous landscape to the hidden gem Ràquira. You can easily enjoy 3 days in Villa de Leyva and the surrounding area. What is there to do in Villa de Leyva and the surrounding area, and how do you get there and back?
Villa de Leyva was built in colonial times and the houses are white with balconies. The architectural style has a calm and authentic appearance. It is therefore advisable to walk through the streets and absorb the atmospheres. The main square of Villa de Leyva is Plaza Mayor de Villa de Leyva. It is a large central square where festivities take place on special days. You will also find the cathedral on the square and around the square nice and cozy places to eat and drink. Do you feel like good bread, then walk to Astral, Artisan Bread Workshop (Google). This bakery has delicious fresh bread for sale a few blocks from the main square. You can eat well at El Divino, where several restaurants share a courtyard. You can eat a delicious ice cream at Heladería Blugelato or Gelatería Santa Lucía.
The Pozos Azules are about a 30-minute walk from Villa de Leyva. These are small water pools with clear and blue water, located in a beautiful setting. Through a walking path of about 40 minutes you walk along 7 water pools. You walk down the first part and then walk up again. The pools are on private property, so you can’t just visit them. You pay an entrance fee of 12,000 pesos/€3 per person. A very reasonable price for a morning or afternoon activity. The setting is beautiful, with constant views of the mountain ranges, and that alone is worth going to.
Villa de Leyva has several museums. There are a number of archaeological museums such as the Museo del Fosil and the Museo Paleontológico de Villa de Leyva. But the Museo del Chocolate also seems to be worth a visit. Especially the chocolate beer is said to be very tasty.
The area around Villa de Leyva is also known for the many terracotta that can be found in the ground. That is why there is La Casa de Terracotta just outside the center. The entrance fee is 40,000 pesos/€10 for adults and then you can view the house inside and out, the garden and the surroundings.
Tejo is an ancient game played throughout Colombia. Each region has its own variants and rules and it is a popular game among the population. The trick is to detonate small explosives, which are in an inclined container with a kind of clay, by throwing a metal disc (tejo) on it. The distances from the throw to the box is about 8 meters. You play in 2 teams and you can earn points if you have thrown or detonated as close as possible to the explosives. The first team to reach 21 points wins. But the rules are a bit different everywhere, so it might be a little different where you’re going to play it.
Paso de Ángel
About an hour’s drive from Villa de Leyva, a hiking trail with suspension bridges has been constructed that crosses mountain ridges and peaks. This walk, Paso de Ángel, takes about 3 hours and is best done with a tour and a guide. You can find a tour agency in many places in the center that you can go with. There are several activities to do in the region and the more extensive activities cost about 60,000 pesos/€15 per person.
The surroundings of Villa de Leyva are beautiful. The town is located next to the Paramo de Iguaque National Park, which is mountainous. Even if you come from Bogotá you drive the last part through the mountains and you have beautiful views. The area is perfect for cycling. You can rent bicycles at several places in the center. In that case, ask for a ‘bicicleta de montaña’, because the roads are not always good and you will have no problem with this with this bike with fat tires. You often rent a bicycle for 10,000 pesos/€2.50 per hour. Also ask if a helmet is included. Sometimes you rent it separately for 2,000 pesos/€0.50 per hour. If you are unlucky, you can contact your landlord and they will come and pick you up.
Due to the mild climate, the area around Villa de Leyva is very suitable for growing grape plants. That is why you will also find a number of vineyards around Villa de Leyva. You can visit the vineyard for a guided tour, where you learn the process from grape to wine and you can also taste wine. Often several packages are offered, which vary in offer and price from about €15 – €30.
The hidden gem Ràquira is definitely worth a visit. This small colorful town is about 40 minutes away (by bus or taxi). The center consists of no more than a number of streets and a central square. But the houses are brightly colored and each door is different. The village is also known for its terracotta. You will therefore also find many shops that offer terracotta products. Think of flower and plant pots, wind hangers, candle holders, piggy banks and cups and saucers. Often made in the factory, but hand painted and glazed in the in-house shop. If you are lucky you will see someone working in the store. The many houses with color and balconies make Ràquira a very cozy village to entertain you for a few hours. This makes it a very suitable day activity from Villa de Leyva. You get to Ràquira by catching a minibus from the bus station in Villa de Leyva for 8,000 pesos/€2. The bus leaves several times in the morning (7.30 and 9 a.m., and then again in the afternoon at 12.30 p.m.). The bus returns from the main square in Ràquira. You can buy tickets in advance at the shop on the right corner on the square when you have your back to the church. There you can also ask when the bus will return (at least at 4 and 5.30 pm)
You can also take a taxi. Then you can go whenever you want and it takes a little less time. You pay between 45,000 and 50,000 pesos/€11.25 – €12.50.
How do you get there and back?
You arrive in Villa de Leyva by bus from Bogotá or Tunja. From Tunja it is about an hour’s drive and from Bogotá between 4 and 5 hours, depending on the type of bus and the traffic in Bogotá. If you come from Bogotá, you can depart from Terminal de Transportes del Norte or from Terminal de Transportes Salitre. Salitre is the most famous and largest bus station in Bogota. It can be difficult to know which bus company leaves for Villa de Leyva at what time. It is therefore advisable to check in advance via the website of, for example, Redbus at what time and day you want to leave and which bus company will be there. That saves a lot of searching at the bus station itself. You can also book your tickets via Redbus, so you are assured of a seat. If you travel with a tour bus, count on a ride of about 5 hours from Salitre, if you travel with a minibus, it will take you about 4 hours (depending on how busy Bogotá itself is). The tickets cost 30,000 pesos/€7.50 one way.
If you want to travel further or back from Villa de Leyva, you depart from the small central bus station, wherever you arrive. From there, buses leave quite regularly daily to Bogotá, but also to surrounding villages and towns such as Tunja or Ràquira.