Tell any Columbian you made the ancient colonial town of Villa de Leyva part of your trip through Columbia and you get raving descriptions of its beauty and nothing but praise for your good judgment. Located only 160 kilometers north of Bogota, it is a very, very popular weekend destination for city dwellers, who enjoy the clean air and dry climate in this charming town.
Having visited countless “most beautiful colonial towns” all over Latino America, we immediately noticed this one was different. Who has ever seen a plaza 120 meters x 120 meters in seize, all cobble stone with a tiny fountain in its center, surrounded by beautifully restored colonial homes? By the way, cobble stone streets here means a kind of terrain even tough to walk in trekking shoes.
Apart from the giant plaza, Villa de Leyva’s architecture differs from those of other famous colonial towns. All houses here are painted in elegant white, not the colorful melange of Salvador or Olinda in Brazil, Trinidad in Cuba or Cuidad Bolivar in Venezuela. But above all, it is extensive, not a tiny wee historic center with run-down barrios a few blocks away. Even the area further out – easily recognizable by its paved streets – is well-maintained and worth a visit.
Already in 1954 Villa de Leyva was declared a national monument for preserving its colonial character, so do not expect a hidden gem. Its enterprising inhabitants have turned their colonial homes into beautiful “hospedajes” or Boutique hotels, trendy restaurants or pricy handicraft shops. Monday to Thursday, the town is relatively tourist-free, it is on weekends, December to February and during the “Semana Santa” that the place is packed.
Hospedaria La Roca, right on Plaza Mayor is where we stayed for € 30,- per night including breakfast. So it does not qualify as a budget hostel, but it was worth every peso. Actually it is the place we enjoyed most so far, three weeks into the trip! The beautifully renovated colonial building is drowning in flowers and plants. The owner, a Dona who tightly controls the ongoing on her premises from a tiny bench, simply added another building behind the one facing the plaza. So it is delightfully quiet, although centralissimo.
At this point Restaurant Antique needs to be applauded. Again maybe not budget, for € 11,- per person, we enjoyed such tasty, exquisite food that it will always be remembered!