Villa de Leyva: Busy colonial beauty

Villa de Lleyva is a small village that is characterised by its magnificent colonial architecture throughout with very little dilution from more modern buildings owing to its national monument status. It’s a retreat for Bogotan’s (about 3h away, direct busses available) and a tourist magnet. The streets were pretty crowded during my visit, exaggerated by the large concert scheduled for that day. In my view, the drive-in (1.5h from Tunja) is as valuable an experience as the village itself. If you have time, take a mountain bike tour to get away from the hustle and bustle take in the stunning surroundings.

The full name of the village is Villa de Nuestra Señora de Santa Maria de Leyva (City of our lady santa maria de Leyva) and was inaugurated in 1572 by Lieutenant Hernan Suarez de Villalobos. Nestled into the picturesque Zaquencipa valley it was declared a national monument already in 1954 – the key to the fantastic preservation of its Colonial architecture today. The price level in town was pretty steep for Colombia with even a spot on the camping ground setting you back about USD10/night from memory (probably due to the festival).

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Traditional breakfast: In Colombia you have many options for breakfast. A common one in the Andean region are soups such as Caldo de Costilla (beef soup with veg – a great cure for hangovers ‘Guayabo’ though not required that day) or Calentado (soup of beans, rice, egg, arepa, chorizo, chicharron). Very tasty even though first glance it admittedly can look a little odd to a European.

Mountain bike tours: There are plenty tour operators about offering guided and unguided trips (bikes for COP10,000/h). Have a look at tripadvisor (Ciclotrip seems a good outfit). Sadly, I didn’t have time having been there just for the day, which I regret a wii bit especially after the great day on the bike I had enjoyed in San Agustin – the mountainous country is just great for bikers.

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