Best time to visit Villa de Leyva
At the weekend Villa de Leyva floods with tourists from Bogotá, both national and international. Time it right however, and you will have this beautiful little spot mostly to yourself, and have your choice of accommodation without needing to plan far in advance.
Villa de Leyva was definitely a ‘going with the flow’ choice for us. It wasn’t somewhere that we’d been longing to go, in fact we’d never really considered heading north out of Bogotá for a few days – our very loose idea of a plan was always to go west and head to the coffee region. For those of you that have read our previous blogs, you will know that we were held up in Bogotá because of some unforeseen, but necessary dental work I had done. It took around one week and four appointments for everything to be finished, and because of the amount of work I’d had done, we didn’t want to just rush into a 10 hour journey incase the pain I had didn’t reduce like the dentist said it would.
A few locals had mentioned to us a lovely little place to the north of the city called Villa de Leyva, just a three hour ride away. They spoke so highly of it and its beautiful colonial buildings that a plan started to form in our minds. We decided that we could easily spend a couple of days in this place before returning to Bogotá and continuing with our forward travel. That way, if my teeth didn’t behave themselves we would be close enough to return to the dentist for help.
Where to stay in Villa de Leyva
We booked our accommodation at Casa de Hospedaje Las Orquideas, and memorised the directions for travel we had come across on several other travel blogs, and set off for our mini adventure. Unfortunately, the directions were all out of date, and the stress free journey we had envisioned wasn’t quite realised. With the help of a friendly Colombian lady, to who we will be eternally grateful, we were able to figure out a new travel route and managed to arrive into Villa de Leyva around about the time we had originally hoped.
Our accommodation was a short five minute walk away from where the bus terminated – although I should mention that nothing is really far away from anything else in Villa de Leyva! We were greeted by a beautiful garden, large kitchen and living room, and three bedrooms that used a shared bathroom. As we were staying midweek the other rooms were empty and so we ended up with the whole place to ourselves!
The friendly owners, who lived offsite, couldn’t speak any English and so for the two days we were there we had fun with our basic Spanish and Google Translate. Once we had checked in, we were taken to our room and greeted by this wonderful view from private balcony. Needless to say, we immediately fell in love with the place!
A beautiful evening
That evening we wandered the town’s romantic streets while deciding where to go for dinner. How can such a small place have so many Italian restaurants with amazing reviews?! We settled on Santa Lucia, a small pizzeria with lovely decor, which had a few locals sat down inside. The pizza was fantastic! Although the food in Villa de Leyva might be on the pricier side by Colombian standards, you will definitely be in for a great meal! For a large pizza to share and two beers we paid around 55,000 COP (roughly £15) which isn’t bank breaking in UK terms but it of course depends on your travel budget.
After a lovely meal, we sat outside Boca, one of the small bars in the main square, just admiring the view. I’m sure some of the places in the square are overpriced because of their location, but we were surprised when two beers in such a lovely setting cost less than 10,000 COP (£2.50).
A great view of Villa de Leyva
The next day was our only full day in the small town and there’s a surprising amount of choice as to what you can do. Organised tours can take you on nature hikes, there’s an old monastery about five miles away, or even hot springs to visit. After being cooped up in the city of Bogotá, where we had walked very little, we wanted to stretch our legs and decided to go for a hike to meet Jesus! As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Colombia is a very Catholic country on the whole, and so it came as no surprise that a large statue of Jesus had been placed up in the mountain, overlooking Villa de Leyva. For us, the draw may have been more to do with the wonderful views rather than pilgrim duty. You can find walking directions at the bottom of this page.
A visit to the unique Casa Terracota
After a break with cake from the French patisserie, Pastelería Francesa, across the road from where we were staying (YUM! A definite must if you visit the town!!), we were back out exploring. Our next stop was Casa Terracota!
The house is about a 30 minute walk away from the centre of town, take a look at the map here, with an entrance fee of 10,000 COP per person (about £2.50). It’s worth the time as the path takes you along quiet streets, past small restaurants, sleeping dogs and the local school, letting you glimpse a different side to the town.
Casa Terracotta translates to the Terracotta House and is a crazy but beautiful piece of art. The house was finished in around 2012 and is the child of the architect Octavio Mendoza Morales. The idea was to build a house that would be environmentally friendly, pleasing to view, and completely functional. So much thought has gone into the details of the house, including a full kitchen, master bedroom, guest bedrooms, toilets, showers fully functioning with running water, and a roof terrace with seating and great views of the surrounding mountains.
On the way back to our accommodation we had a lovely ‘menu del dia’ (menu of the day), at La Tienda de Teresa. For 11,000 COP (roughly £3) we got a two course lunch with a fresh fruit juice and small desert, which had all been made with love. We’d definitely encourage you to make a stop here if you’re ever in town! We’re not the only ones who think this place is awesome, the walls are covered in messages from previous customers. Be aware that they close early, around 5-7pm depending on the day, and the menu of the day is only on at lunch time.
So in summary, we really enjoyed our stay in Villa de Leyva. It’s not the most spectacular place to visit in Colombia, but it has so much charm. We could easily have stayed for more than the two nights we did just making the most of those little streets and the view from that balcony!
Planning your own trip to Villa de Leyva? Check out our travel directions from Bogotá (updated for 2017/2018).
Directions for hike to Jesus statue and great views
If you want to do the hike, be aware that it’s pretty steep in parts and you will need to climb over lots of rocks so make sure you wear good footwear. It can also be pretty hard on the knees on the way down. In total, with a stop at the top, it took us about one and a half hours to get up there and return to the town. Tip – don’t do want we did, make sure you take plenty of water with you!
Getting there you want to head for Calle 12 and walk south (away from the main square) towards the sports court, you will see a gate to the left hand side that you can walk through.
Once through the gate, head towards this sign in the top left hand side of the field. Here it is on the map.
From here you simple keep heading upwards, although there’s no set path as such the way is quite obvious and there are signs and fences to stop you from straying too far. There are also signs like this painted on the floor that look like this.
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