Ever dreamed of unwinding in a small pueblo and getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city? Villa de Leyva offers just that! Founded in 1572, this quaint colonial town will take you back in time with its cobbled stones, terracotta roofs, and whitewashed buildings. Apart from its magnificent 16th-century architecture, Villa de Leyva is also known for being situated around the largest stone-paved square in South America which was recognized as a National Monument in 1954. To fully immerse yourself in this town frozen in time, here are the key things to do in Villa de Leyva.
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You’ll know that some of the nicest places in Colombia are the smaller towns and the rural spots – including the amazingly lovely, Jardin. Villa de Leyva is another small pueblo that’s deserving of your attention. Here you’ll get great hikes, lovely scenery, incredible fossils, and wine tasting. Yes. Wine tasting. In Colombia. Come on. What are you waiting for?
The Best 11 Things to Do in Villa de Leyva
While it’s not what you immediately think of when you plan a trip to Colombia, it’s one of the more unusual things to do in Villa de Leyva. In Villa de Leyva, they grow wine. And so come to Villa de Leyva and go wine tasting in one of the town’s vineyards! The world-renowned Viñedo Ain Karim should be your first stop. Opened in 1994, the winery imports its vines from France and Napa Valley, producing internationally recognized red, white, and rose wines. Expand your Colombian wine knowledge further by exploring Ain Karim through a guided tour and by taking a picnic. The vineyard has won various awards and international recognition.
You can also check out the Viñedo Umaña Dajud vineyard in Villa de Leyva which only began its small operation in 2015. And for a fully-fledged wine-tasting tour, for those who want a more in-depth look into the process of wine-making This tour to the Marqués de Villa de Leyva is a fabulous way to go wine tasting in Colombia!
The Plaza Mayor is one of the largest cobblestone-paved town squares in South America. It is surrounded by the iconic colonial whitewashed structures that Villa de Leyva is known for. Go inside one of the buildings and treat yourself to some of Villa de Leyva’s food or drinks – the buildings around the square include cafes and restaurants! Right in the center of the Plaza, you can find the fountain, which completes the charm of the town square and creates a lovely atmosphere.
Also, visit the town’s church, Our Lady of the Rosary which was established in 1604. The House of the First Congress sits on the corner of the Plaza which now serves as the location for municipal council meetings. You can also check out various artworks at the Luis Alberto Acuña House Museum, an art museum that was previously the home of artist Luis Alberto Acuña, one of Colombia’s most prominent artists.
Casa Quintero is definitely not to be missed. It’s a colonial mansion turned shopping center that now houses restaurants and shops. You can also check out Casa La Guaca and Casa Juan de Castellanos, also colonial mansions that were restored as shops and restaurants while retaining the charm of the era. Finally, don’t miss the Royal Bridge, the stone bridge which leads you to.. yes more souvenir shops! This tour of Plaza Mayor (and Villa de Leyva) explores the history and architecture of the area and is a fabulous way to get the local track on the town.
3. See Villa de Leyva from above with a hike to Mirador El Santo
Want to see breathtaking views of Villa de Leyva and get a little exercise? This is a short 30-minute to an hour hike to Mirador El Santo. It’s relatively easy, but we recommend avoiding the midday sun! At the top of the Mirador El Santo, there’s a small white statue of Jesus and a stunning location for sunrise and sunset… If you decide to make this an early or late hike, then be sure to bring torches…
To get to the Mirador El Santo from the Plaza Mayor, go to either Calle 12 or Calle 13 and just follow the path.
It’s great to explore a new town, it’s better to do it with a local. This 3-hour bike tour of Villa de Leyva is a fabulous way to explore this Colombian National Heritage Town, admiring its colonial buildings and cobblestone streets. The bike tour also takes you to Valle Escondido, where we’ll see a 17th-century house that was the region’s mill and pre-Columbian site, El Infiernito, which is 2,200 years old! Finally, you’ll get to see Casa Terracotta, a house designed by the architect Octavio Mendoza Morales, made of a single piece of ceramic- there’s more on this later in the article! Sound interesting? Reserve your place here!
If you’re reading this on public WiFi and plan to book a trip, a walking tour, or accommodation, then check out my guide to the best VPNs for Colombia and why (and how you should protect your personal login details).
5. See the historical artifacts at the Museo Paleontologico
Indulge yourself in the knowledge of the past before the town was built by visiting the Museo Paleontologico. Run by the Universidad Nacional, the Villa de Leyva Museum of Paleontology is home to different fossils found in the area of Villa de Leyva dating back to 110 to 130 million years ago. You will be able to see ammonites, prehistoric animals that once lived in the town, an arboretum of palms and oaks, and an Andean forest. While the museum contains a good amount of information on prehistoric fossils, the museum is pretty small, only taking about 30 minutes for you to look around the entire collection.
From the Plaza Mayor, you can walk to the museum in about 15 minutes.
6. Check out the unique structure of the Terracotta House of Villa de Leyva
Not only does Villa de Leyva boast Spanish colonial structures but the pueblo is also home to the iconic Terracotta house. The Terracotta house is entirely made out of clay and is also liveable! Considered the largest piece of pottery in the world, the Terracotta house was designed by architect Octavio Mendoza using the same method that clay artists use when making pots, vases, and other clay objects. All the furniture inside is also made from clay!
Only a 30-minute walk from the Plaza Mayor, the Terracotta House is hard to miss with its earth-colored walls and curvy structure. Just take the road from Santa Sofia, continue past the football field, then a small bridge and it’s the next unpaved road on the right. Walk down there for about 3 minutes and you’re there. It’ll cost you around 10,000 COP to enter and explore both the house and the grounds.
According to the mythology of the Muisca, the indigenous people of Altiplano Cundiboyacense of Colombia, the Laguna de Iguaque is the cradle of humanity. The goddess Bachué appeared from the lagoon with a baby boy in her arms. When the child grew, they got married and populated Earth with their children. Located in the protected area just 10 km away from Villa de Leyva, the 67,500 square kilometer park houses hundreds of different plants and wildlife species.
This is a tough hike. It takes around 7 hours in total. The trail begins at the Casa Piedra which you’ll find on the Villa de Leyva road to Arcabuco. If you’re not taking a guide, then catch a 06:00 or 07:00 bus from Villa de Leyva. You can also take a bus at 08:00, but the afternoon bus back to town is at 16:00, so you may be pushed for time. If you’re hiking from the bus drop-off point, then it’s 2.7km on a gravel road to get to the entrance to the park (and this is where you’ll come back to catch the return bus to Villa de Leyva. After a kilometer then there’s a Refugio with food and drinks for purchase. Then you’ll start to go up in the Andean forest. If you’re here in the wet season, then bring trekking poles. (my guide to the best budget hiking poles is here)
It’s muddy, slippery, rocky and there are lots of roots. When you get to 3300 meters the trail comes out of the forest and you’ll get to the alpine tundra and you’ll be scrambling up a 40% slope. That only lasts for about 200 meters of elevation gain, and then you’ve got 1.5km of pleasant walking. Your return route is the same one you took to get here. Watch the time if you’ve got to catch the bus!
Pozos Azules are several artificial pools that are colored blue-green due to the natural salts and minerals in the soils surrounding them. These 5 pools are artificial wells that were dug by a farmer in the 1970s, the color developed over the years with the deposits of the minerals. When sunlight hits the waters just right, you will be able to see it sporting a bright blue color, so make sure to visit when the sun is out! You can visit Pozo Azules independently and Pozos Azules is only a 40-minute walk from the Plaza Mayor, but we recommend exploring on horseback! This fabulous 2-hour tour will take you to all the best spots for photos and is a lovely way to explore the Pozo Azules.
The Infiernito Archaeological Site also officially known as the Villa de Leyva Archaeological Park is considered another spiritual Muisca site. There are burial mounds here and the site is also lined with 36 menhirs or monoliths which archaeologists considered were used in fertility rituals; it was also a Muisca solar observatory that helped them predict the best planting seasons! More than 100 monoliths have been excavated to date, 54 in a north row and 55 in a south row, aligned in an east-west orientation. This apparently represents the Muisca calendar.
10. Meet the 7-meter prehistoric marine reptile at the El Fosil Museum
The El Fosil Museum is famous for hosting a fossil the size of a bus! The museum houses ancient bones, skeletons, and fossils of species that once roamed the Earth. In particular, it showcases a 120-million-year-old, 7-meter-long Kronosaurus skeleton that is considered the most complete skeleton of its type in the world. The skeleton was discovered in 1977 by local farmers, and the preservation of this creature is what drove the residents of Villa de Leyva to build the El Fosil Museum around it. The museum is pretty much just one room and won’t take long to see.
The museum is about 15 minutes away from the Plaza Major by bus or car, if you’re taking the bus, then take a buseta to Santa Sofia, ask to get off at El Fosil, and then it’s a 10-minute walk from there.
11. Enjoy the peace at the Convento del Santo Ecce Homo
If you’ve explored the hiking around Villa de Leyva, then take it easy on a visit to the Convento del Santo Ecce Homo. Established in 1620, this Dominican monastery of stone and adobe has a regal courtyard. You’ll find stones from the region paving the floor – and check out the fossils you can see in them. There’s also a statue in the chapel that includes fossils. Don’t miss the ceiling, which is original and made of wood and has some stunning images. Also of note is the crucifix in the Capitulary Hall which shows Christ with his eyes open, something of an oddity in South America. Take it a step further and head to the west cloister, where there’s a drawing of Christ, approach it from different angles and it looks like the drawing is opening and closing his eyes!
The convent is easy to reach by bike – it’s about 13 kilometers from Villa de Leyva, or you can take the bus to Santa Sofia, and ask to be dropped off at the Convent drop off, it’ll take you 15 minutes to walk from there.
Once you’re done exploring, then there’s a small coffee shop inside.
Villa de Leyva is surrounded by some of Colombia’s most interesting desert landscapes. The best way to explore this is my motorized transport – and what better way than a quad bike! It’s a great fun experience, and on this tour, you’ll also get to explore the Pozo Azules too! Explore the Villa de Leyva desert on quad bikes here.
Map of Things to Do in Villa De Leyva
You can see the full map of Villa De Leyva’s things to do here.
Where to Stay in Villa de Leyva
There are a host of places to stay in Villa de Leyva – here’s our pick of the luxury places to stay in Villa de Leyva, mid-range places to stay in Villa de Leyva, and budget accommodation in Villa de Leyva.
Hospederia Centro De Convenciones Duruelo, Villa de Leyva: The Hospederia Centro de Convenciones Duruelo is located a short distance from Villa de Leyva, perched atop a hill, allowing views overlooking the city. This exclusive hotel has rooms with balconies, private bathrooms, a seating area, and a security box, while some rooms have a Jacuzzi. The Hospederia Centro de Convenciones Duruelo also has an included breakfast for guests, a spa with an option of a sauna or a Turkish bath, a gym, and WiFi throughout the property. The Hospederia Centro de Convenciones Duruelo is a fabulous hotel with world-class service to stay in Villa de Leyva. Check room availability and rates here.
Hotel Aqua Vita, Villa de Leyva: Just 500 m away from Villa de Leyva’s main square, the Hotel Aqua Vitae offers a great atmosphere and spacious accommodations. Hotel Aqua Vitae’s rooms have private bathrooms with baths, a flat-screen TV, a seating area, and in some rooms, a fireplace and a balcony overlooking the garden area. This top hotel also serves breakfast daily and has a bar and free WiFi. Hotel Aqua Vitae also has wellness facilities that offer massages and wellness packages. When staying at Villa de Leyva, Hotel Aqua Vitae offers a perfect place for you to rest and unwind. See availability here.
Posada Maximura, Villa de Leyva: The Posada Maximura is located just 300 m away from Villa de Leyva’s main square. Posada Maximura’s rooms include a private bathroom with a shower, a safety deposit box, and free WiFi, and in some rooms there are balconies that give guests magnificent views of the city. This hotel also serves breakfast, has play areas for children, a shared lounge area, and a garden. Posada Maximura also offers shuttle services and laundry services for a fee. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly place to stay in Villa de Leyva, Posada Maximura is the place to be. You can check the room rates here.
Where is Villa de Leyva?
Villa de Leyva is located about 165 km from Bogota, the capital city of Colombia. The pueblo is located about 40 km from Tunja, the capital of the department of Boyaca. Villa de Leyva can be visited on a day trip from Bogota if you don’t have so much time. There’s more on day trips from Bogota in our guide here.
How to Get to Villa de Leyva
You can take a direct bus from Bogota to Villa de Leyva in about 3 hours. Check direct buses to Villa de Leyva from Bogota here. (our guide on the best things to do in Bogota is here) Alternatively, take a bus to Tunja (2 hours from Bogota) and then transfer to a local bus from Tunja to Villa de Leyva which takes an hour.
Check bus timetables to Villa de Leyva
- How to go from Bogota to Villa de Leyva
- How to go from Cartagena to Villa de Leyva
- How to go from Medellin to Villa de Leyva
- How to go from Santa Marta to Villa de Leyva
- How to go from Armenia (and Salento) to Village de Levya
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Final Words on the 11 BestThings to Do in Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva is a glorious small Colombia Pueblo and it offers way more than what you’d expect! From hikes to quiet strolls to exciting adventures, Villa de Leyva will not only quench your thirst for adventure – and wine – but it is an awesome place to have a relaxing, chilled-out time as well.
Stock images in this article are courtesy Deposit Photos.
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