Villa de Leyva is a charming colonial town in Boyacá Colombia that offers an enchanting experience to every traveler. From its cobblestone streets to its centuries-old Spanish colonial architecture, Villa de Leyva is a town that seems to have paused in time.
This comprehensive guide covers the best tours from Bogotá to Villa de Leyva, what you must see in Villa de Leyva and why you should visit this magical town. Villa de Leyva is the perfect day trip or overnight getaway from Bogotá.
A Day Trip To Villa de Leyva in Boyacá From Bogotá Colombia
A Journey Back in Time: The History of Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva, a town founded in the late 16th century (June 12, 1572), is one of the most well-preserved colonial towns in Colombia. It’s on the Colombian National Heritage List and is being considered for listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Little has changed in Villa de Leyva over the centuries. And the town’s unique rural landscape offers an enchanting experience for history buffs, nature lovers and active travelers.
The architecture of Villa de Leyva has remained mostly untouched since its construction, offering a glimpse into the past that few other places can. Most of the architecture is original and the streets and main plaza are still paved with cobblestones. The surrounding countryside is pristine and untouched.
Planning Your Visit: How Long to Stay in Villa de Leyva
While many foreign travelers choose to visit Villa de Leyva as a day trip from Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia, it’s advisable to stay for at least two days to fully enjoy the town. This allows ample time to explore its cobblestone streets, colonial buildings, museums and other attractions without rushing.
Villa de Leyva is approximately 3 hours by car from Bogotá.
Making the Most of Your Visit: Best Tours from Bogota to Villa de Leyva
There are several ways to reach Villa de Leyva from Bogotá. The most convenient and comfortable option is to book a tour.
These tours often include stops at other interesting sites along the way, such as the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira, the traditional village of Cucunuba and the Boyaca Bridge, a memorial site for an important battle for independence.
Travel To Villa de Leyva By Bus
The cheapest way to get to Villa de Leyva is by public bus. There are several bus companies to choose from, with tickets costing around $35,000 Colombian pesos ($8.40USD) one way.
Travel to Villa de Leyva With a Tour
If you prefer a more organized trip, consider booking a tour. These tours often include transport, accommodation and guided visits to various attractions in and around Villa de Leyva.
For less than 450000 Colombian pesos ($107USD) per person you can book a private English speaking tour guide and vehicle to tour Villa de Leyva and a couple of other sites in the region.
Travel to Villa de Leyva By Car
You won’t be able to find an Uber willing to take you to Villa de Leyva. And I wouldn’t suggest taking a taxi from Bogotá to Villa de Leyva, because taxis are often dangerous drivers. But you do have three (3) options to get to Villa de Leyva by car:
First, you can use InDrive, an app that operates like Uber. But the difference with InDrive is that you can see the prices offered by different drivers with a range of vehicles. And with Indrive you can communicate with the driver in advance, setting prices and telling them if you’ll be making a round trip that day. I’ve previously written about what InDrive is and how it operates in Colombia.
Your second option is to rent a car and drive yourself to Villa de Leyva. Unlike driving in Bogotá, the drive to Villa de Leyva is quite peaceful. And would be manageable for an average driver.
Your third option to get to Villa de Leyva by car is to use a private transfer service. This is my preferred option as I know the price in advance and that the driver is reputable and safe. Private transfers are very cheap in Colombia and they allow you to spend the trip just gazing out the window.
Top Attractions: What You Must See in Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva is not just about its charming streets and colonial architecture. The town and its surroundings offer a variety of attractions that cater to different interests.
Villa de Leyva itself is filled with vibrant restaurants, bars, artisan studios, galleries and museums. Yet the surrounding countryside is alive with opportunities to go hiking, horseback riding in Pozos Azules, dirt biking or my personal favourite, visiting a winery to sample the vino!
Plaza Mayor, the largest town square in Colombia, is a must-visit. Surrounded by old colonial buildings, it’s the perfect spot to relax and soak in the town’s ambiance. Or to snap a sneaky Instagram selfie or two.
If you spend the night in Villa de Leyva the restaurants surrounding the Plaza Mayor offer a relaxed ambience. Sit with a glass of wine and watch the sun set over the town, while waiting for your dinner to be served.
Pro tip: Try the local asado (barbecued meats) or trout in the restaurants surrounding the Plaza Mayor. And pair your meal with a local wine from the region.
The Old Cobblestone Streets of Villa de leyva
Wandering the cobblestone streets leading from the main square is an experience in itself. These streets, lined with well-preserved colonial buildings, are perfect for leisurely walks and photography.
As cliche as it might sound, a walk through the narrow cobblestone streets of Villa de Leyva is like stepping back in time. From local dogs (and locals) just napping in the shade, to old men playing chess, Villa de Leyva’s cobble stone streets deserve to be explored.
Pro Tip: Stop by and explore some of the tiny shops and pick up a local souvenir.
Bonus Tip: If a local offers you a shot of aguardiente it’s rude to refuse.
Casa Terracotta just outside villa de leyva
A few minutes outside of town, you’ll find the Casa Terracotta, a house made entirely out of clay. It’s considered the largest piece of pottery in the world and is definitely worth a visit.
For a small entry fee of 35000 Colombian pesos ($8.40USD), you can explore the house’s many rooms, each showcasing unique designs and built-in furniture.
Paleontological Museum of Boyacá
If you’re interested in fossils and ancient history, a visit to the Paleontological Museum is a must. The museum showcases the region’s rich paleontological heritage, with more than 500 pieces from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
Now, I don’t want to be a downer. But I found this museum a little less interesting than, say, the surrounding towns and country side or the regions vineyards. But if you’re really into old bones or have children, this museum is for you.
The Seven Emerald Ponds (Pozos Azules)
A short distance from Villa de Leyva, you’ll find Pozos Azules, seven man-made ponds known for their stunning emerald color. These mineral-rich pools offer a beautiful contrast to the surrounding semi-desert and pine forests.
The best way to see the Pozos Azules is on horseback. Take a horseback tour through the countryside surrounding Villa de Leyva and visit the Pozos Azules. But don’t worry, the horses are extremely well trained. Plus the staff watch over you and take care of everything.
Beyond the Town: Excursions from Villa de Leyva
If you have more than a day to spare, consider making excursions to the surrounding areas in the Department of Boyacá. The region has many quaint little towns and lakes. And is definitely worth visiting!
When you stay for more than a single day, you can visit the Casa Museo Antonio Narino or go quad biking around the countryside. If you’re a wine lover, don’t miss the chance to visit Marques de Villa de Leyva for some wine tasting (my favourite!).
Where to Eat: The Best Local Dishes in Villa de Leyva
When in Villa de Leyva, make sure to try the “menu del dia ” in one of the many local restaurants. This traditional Colombian menu includes soup or a side salad, a choice of meat, white rice, potatoes, fried plantain, a fruit juice and sometimes even a dessert.
A ‘menu del dia’ will cost anywhere from 8000 Colombian pesos to 20000 pesos ($2-$5USD) and is typically served at lunch. Delicious and affordable!
If you’re wanting to try something more fancy, I can’t stop raving about the asado and the trout. Particularly the trout in Villa de Leyva. The trout is fantastic and should be sampled from one of the many restaurants surrounding the Plaza Mayor on any visit to Villa de Leyva.
Where to Stay: Best Accommodations in Villa de Leyva
There are plenty of accommodation options in Villa de Leyva to suit different budgets and preferences. Some top-reviewed options include:
Practical Tips for Visiting Villa de Leyva
Remember to pack a jacket as the temperature can drop at night. Also, wear comfortable shoes for walking on the town’s cobblestone streets.
Lastly, don’t forget bring a hat and apply sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun. The high altitude sun around Villa de Leyva, particularly in the Plaza Mayor at midday, is intense.
Is Villa de Leyva Safe?
Villa de Leyva is generally safe for tourists. However, as with any travel destination, it’s always a good idea to stay vigilant, especially when walking around at night. But compared to a larger city, it’s very safe.
Villa de Leyva is a relaxed country town. With a small town vibe where everyone knows everyone else. It’s not the sort of place where you need to be looking over your shoulder constantly. And it provides a welcome respite from large cities like Bogotá.
Visiting Villa de Leyva provides a unique opportunity to step back in time and experience the charm of a Colombian colonial town. Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, nature or you’re just looking for a peaceful retreat, Villa de Leyva has something to offer you.
Don’t miss the chance to include this magical town in your Colombian itinerary!
I hope this guide has given you a better understanding of the things to do in Villa de Leyva. With its rich history, stunning architecture and natural beauty, it’s a destination that should not be missed.
Where Can I Get More Information On Bogotá?
I’ve made my Bogotá Colombia City Guide available on this website. And I would strongly recommend you read it before traveling to Colombia. It will help you navigate Bogotá and Colombian society.
My Bogotá Colombia City Guide will save you a lot of time and a significant amount of money on your trip to Colombia. Colombia is not the sort of destination in which you can just arrive unprepared.
Read the Bogotá Colombia City Guide here.