Villa de Leyva Travel Guide

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calle, Villa de Leyva

calle, Villa de Leyva

Andrew Bertram

Villa de leyva is Located some 150 kilometres from Bogota, or about three hours by car, through the nicest of landscapes. Made out of small winding streets, lined up with orange roofed white houses, and surrounded by hills, the village is a charming place to spend some time. It boasts one of the biggest cobbled-stoned squares in South America.

The Hosteria del "Molino de la Mesopotamia" used to be an old mill but has been turned into a hotel packed to the top with antiques. You can also visit the birthplace of Antonio Ricaurte and the house in which Antonio Nariño lived. The latter translated the 'Rights of Man' into Spanish and both of them became important figures in the Spanish Independence Movement.

There are a number of attractive places to visit nearby Villa de Leyva. The Iguaque National Park, for a nice walk. Ráquira is a small and very colorful town about 30 min. away, where you can find every kind of typical pottery and souvenirs. Horse riding, canoeing  and country walks are very popular as the landscapes are really wonderful.

The Hosteria Duruelo with a new spa, very nice pools and a superb view may be the best hotel in town, but not the best food... Also charming are Hosteria San Antonio and Hotel San Agustín.

There are some nice restaurants in town, for pasta and italian food try El Camaleon, right on main square in Casa Quintero. For fondue, try  La Gata also at Casa Quintero and for sandwiches, cakes and ajiaco, try La Mision. For lebanese fare Zarina is a good place.


Villa de Leyva was founded on June 12 th 1572, by Captain Hernan Suárez de Villalobos, as instructed by the first president of the New Kingdom of Granada Sr. Andres Díaz Venero de Leyva. Initially Villa de Leyva was established close to the Indian Astronomic Observatory in a place called Zaquencipá Valley, and then twelve years later was moved to its actual location. During the colonisation, Villa de Leyva was a principal producer of oil olive and some cereals, especially wheat and barley. It was chosen as a favorite place for Spanish families and especially as place to rest for viceroys.

Villa de Leyva was home of the Captain Antonio Ricaurte, a hero in the San Mateo battle during the war of independence. The General and President of the New Republic Antonio Nariño spent his last days in this town. In 1812 there was the meeting of the first congress of the United Provinces. In 1830 the construction of the road to connect Villa de Leyva with Tunja which passed by Arcabuco began. The construction of this road started the development of this beautiful village. In 1954 Villa de Leyva was declared a National Monument.

The architecture of Villa de Leyva has a Spanish style. You can see in the construction of most of the houses in the village, their wonderful balconies, arcs and main doors (it is possible to appreciate this in the old buildings such as Casa del Primer Congreso, Casa de Don Antonio Narioño, Casa de La Real Fabrica de Licores, Claustro de San Agustín). Villa de Leyva is a place of inspiration to poets and writers. They can find peace in its stone paved streets or just contemplating the majestic main square, unique in Latin-America.

Villa de Leyva is located at 2.143 meters above sea level, with a lovely temperature of 18 o C and a population of 12.000 inhabitants. Its size is 128 km 2 . Villa de Leyva’s borders are: Arcabuco and Gachantiva in the north, Sachica and Chíquiza to the south, Chíquiza and San Pedro de Iguaque to the east and Santa Sofia, Sutamarchan and Gachantiva to the west.

The Iguaque’s Sanctuary of Flora and Fauna is an ecological reserve (6.700 hectares). It is home to a great variety of native species and is a part of the National Parks Unit. The reserve goes from 2.800 to 3.800 meters above sea level, and it is possible to see different kinds of ecosystems like the Andean high jungle, and the Stunted Jungle which reaches the majestic Moor called Paramo. Apart from these reasons, The Iguaque Sanctuary is also a very important reserve of water for the entire region. Also, it has eight glacier lakes, one of which contains the origins of the Bachue legend.

A variety of fossils have been found around Villa de Leyva. These have been deemed important because of their sizes and their very relevant contributions made to paleontological investigations. Found in 1945, The Plesiosaurus is more than 115 million years old, and is part of the National Geological Museum’s collection. It is also the finding place of The Ichtyosaurus, a marine reptile that lived between 110 and 115 million years ago, which is 8 meters long and without a tail, and is very similar to another similar specimen found in A ustralia. These discoveries show that Villa de Leyva was emersed by the sea before the Andes Mountains wer e formed.

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