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- 05 Jun 2020, 3 nights
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The small Colombian town of Villa de Leyva started life as a retreat for Spanish nobility. In 1954 it was declared a national monument to preserve the historic cobbled streets and spacious squares and as a result, it's now an important stop for travellers interested in colonial heritage. Outside of town there's plenty of hiking in the forested hills. Or you could just order another coffee and watch the local cowboys swagger past. It's worth saving extra time to explore the indigenous Muisca culture of the area too.
Villa de Leyva hostels often have shared kitchens for guests, while others have barbecues and organise regular campfires. You can sleep in a tent and relax in terraced gardens overlooking the town. You could also stay in a whitewashed village house which has been converted into a hostel, complete with traditional woodwork, but with modern touches like free Wi-Fi. In a Villa de Leyva hostel, you'll usually have the choice between private rooms for small groups, or dorms which are ideal for solo travellers wanting to mingle.
Plaza Mayor is one of Colombia's biggest squares and is the central point of the town. This is where you'll find the Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Rosario church. The bustling Calle 12 and 13 streets run either side, and are home to the lively Saturday market where you can buy Colombian textiles and local food. Shops and restaurants radiate out from Plaza Mayor to the highway that circles the town. Meanwhile, Parque Ecologico La Periquera and other hiking areas lie in the surrounding countryside.
Most sights in and around Villa de Leyva are within walking distance. You can see a fossilised Kronosaurus at the fossil museum, the Museo Paleontológico (a 1-hour walk from Plaza Mayor), or wander round the Terracotta House. This quirky building has been called the biggest piece of pottery in the world. La Periquera (a 40-minute shuttle ride away) is an ecological park with waterfalls where you can swim. You could also visit the nearby Pozos Azules, a series of artificial pools known for their incredible bright blue colour.
To get to Villa de Leyva you can take a bus from Bogotá, which takes around 3 hours. There are also buses that go to the nearby town of Tunja, linked to Villa de Leyva by a 45-minute shuttle bus. The bus station, Terminal de Transporte, is a 7-minute walk south of Plaza Mayor. To get to La Periquera, you can take a shuttle in the direction of Gachancipá from the bus terminal.