We first heard about Villa de Leyva while sitting in a kitchen in Ollytantambo, Peru. We had just met two lovely Americans (Cassie and Jason) who had travelled down from Colombia and couldn’t stop telling us that we had to visit this little town outside of Bogota. They were so enthusiastic about our holiday that they drew us a map detailing where we should stay and which of the restaurants we should try. The next time we heard about Villa da Leyva was in Costeno Beach, Colombia where we met two lovely British travellers (Camilla and Chris) who spoke to us with equal enthusiasm. It turned out though that they had not been there either but had had a similar discussion with Cassie and Jason (who should perhaps join the Colombian department of tourism).
Villa de Leyva is an amazing old Colonial town in the countryside outside of Bogota. It is a 4 hour bus ride direct from the main bus terminal. There are limited buses that run directly but don’t worry if you miss these – there are regular buses via Tunja throughout the day.
The town is absolutely charming. It has the largest plaza in the Americas (120m by 120m!), delightful cobbled streets, beautiful colonial buildings and is packed full of craft shops. It is a popular weekend destination for people from Bogota so is busy on the weekends but nice and quiet during the week.
Through a series of unexpected events (a closed hostel and then a full hostel) we ended up staying with a local family right on the square for 4 nights. This was not enough time! It We had only just started to work out where our favourite coffee shops were, not yet tried all the restaurants, not walked up the hill to see the town from above (it was so cold and rainy!) and only had one disastrous attempt to have my hair done! If we did not have a flight booked back to the UK so soon, we would definitely have extended our stay. We did manage to fit in as many empanadas as possible in Empanadas Horneadas and a giant piece of carrot cake at Tortes y Tartes and join our host family for a delicious 3 course meal at the culinary school (only 9000 COP) – all thanks to the fabulous recomendations we received back in that other small village in Peru.