A place full of history, prehistory, and beautiful landscapes

Time seems to have stopped in Villa de Leyva, a municipality of Boyacá that retains traces of its colonial past in its architecture.

Without a doubt, this town is one of the most beautiful in Colombia, and is famed for its historic importance and magnificent square, which was recognized as a National Monument in 1954.

In fact, the Plaza Mayor in Villa de Leyva is the largest in Colombia and one of the most impressive in South America, with over 150,000 square feet.

In addition to its colonial architecture, Villa de Leyva is characterized by its many rural landscapes, which extend from the moor to the desert.

Thanks to the great number of activities that Villa de Leyva offers, it's the perfect place for lovers of history, science, the arts, culture, and nature.

Central Square in Villa de Leyva
Photo: Courtesy Sebastian Sanint

What is there to do in Villa de Leyva?

First of all, let's put on some comfortable shoes, and get ready to tour the municipality because you've got a date with history, and maybe even prehistory.

In Villa de Leyva, you'll find the incredible Plaza Mayor, which is characterized by its colonial style, with stone flooring, a fountain in the middle, buildings with their original architecture. The City Hall offices, museums, hotels, and shopping passages are located in these buildings. ​​​

The magnificent Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, built in 1604, is also near the square. The building exhibits colonial baroque architecture and still has its altarpieces carved from wood and covered in gold.

If you leave the historic center of the city, you can also find other attractions, such as the Museo Prehistórico, which has sculptures of dinosaurs and fossils that were found in the area.

There's also the city's paleontology museum, the Museo Paleontológico, which has fossils from the Cretaceous period. It has 2,425 pieces in its collections and 441 exhibited pieces. The building that houses these treasures is itself an architectural gem from 1570, during colonial times.

Villa de Leyva also has a fossil museum, the Museo El Fósil, founded in 1977 by the initiative of local farmers after a pliosaur specimen, Kronosaurus boyacensis hampe, was discovered during agricultural work. This specimen is currently the most complete pliosaur fossil ever found in the world.

Lastly, we recommend you take a tour of the desert area to reach the marvelous Pozos Azules (blue pools) which are just a little over a mile from Villa de Leyva.

The Pozos Azules are two man-made pools that, although they are on private property, can be visited for an entry fee.

This location offers an incomparable view, as the greenish-blue of the pools changes depending on the temperature, and serves as a striking contrast against the desert and nature. It is, undoubtedly, one of the places you should visit while you're in Villa de Leyva.

Night view in Central Square of Villa de Leyva
Photo: Courtesy Mario Carvajal

Unique experiences

Villa de Leyva is an ideal place to visit any time of year because it has so many things to offer. However, it's always good to jot down a few specific festivals on your calendar that are particularly worth attending.

One of them is the Festival del Árbol (Tree Festival), whose main theme is the protection of the environment. Those dedicated to environmental work and the cultivation and preservation of different types of plants help display and sell a variety of ornamental, exotic, native, and medicinal plants. This event also offers cultural activities.

Two very important events are the Villa Film Festival and the International Independent Film Festival, events dedicated to the art of filmmaking, including screenings, workshops, conferences, and recreational experiences.

There's also the National Wind and Kite Festival, which is celebrated in August and lets you enjoy the region's strong winds by flying kites and enjoying shows full of color and creativity.

In December, the Christmas lights in Villa de Leyva offer an incomparable view, and are accompanied by an alternating program that offers painting exhibitions, choirs, and other activities.

Thanks to the favorable conditions of Villa de Leyva's night sky, the municipality is an exception place for star gazing. In fact, the municipality holds an Astronomy Festival, which give the public an opportunity to admire the stars using telescopes installed in the Plaza Mayor.

National Wind and Kite Festival
Photo: Courtesy ProColombia

Activities you won't want to miss out on

In addition to all the aforementioned activities, Villa de Leyva offers countless alternatives, such as strolling through town, and letting go of all your cares to enjoy shopping and sampling local cuisines. In fact, the municipality's different ways of preparing meats like suckling pig and rabbit are very famous.

Villa de Leyva also has many options for hiking and extreme sports enthusiasts, such as rappelling, rappelling down waterfalls, and zip lines.

You should also visit the Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, where you'll find the sacred Lake Iguaque which, according to Muisca mythology, is the cradle of humanity. The Muisca's mother goddess, Bachué, is fabled to have emerged from the lake, for which reason the Muisca believe that pilgrimage to the sacred lake cleans the soul purifies the spirit.

Recommendations

  • Villa de Leyva is located about 25 miles to the west of Tunja, capital of the department of Boyacá, which makes it very easy to reach by land from there or from Bogotá.
  • In Villa de Leyva, you will find a great number of hotels, hostels, and camping areas. There are also many tourism companies that provide plans catered to all tastes.
  • Keep in mind that the average temperature in Villa de Leyva is around 64 °F. Sometimes, during the day, it can get hot, but it's best to bring a jacket to wear at night. And, of course, wearing sunscreen is essential.
  • If you are going to visit the Pozos Azules, hike, or participate in any other outdoor activities in Villa de Leyva, don't forget to bring along appropriate clothing and shoes. Keep in mind that swimming in the Pozos Azules is not allows, as the water isn't suitable for swimming.
  • With these simple recommendations, you're ready to enjoy one of the best destinations for a weekend getaway. So, come visit Villa de Leyva and feel the rhythm of this charming town, located in the beautiful department of Boyacá.
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