Fortunately for us, no one told Villa de Leyva about the 21st Century and so it sits about an hour north of Bogotá, almost entirely untouched by modernization. Cobblestone streets and whitewashed buildings make the town as close to a genuine colonial town as you are likely to find in South America. Somewhat unexpectedly, the town’s charming central plaza is said to be the biggest in South America, and is certainly the biggest in the country. Here in the plaza, and around the town, new restaurants and shops are opening up all the time to accommodate the new tourists that Villa de Leyva is attracting, giving the town a lively and dynamic restaurant scene. The result is that those who plan to see the town in a day are inevitably drawn in to staying longer, captivated by the town’s rustic ambiance and excellent dining.
There are two buses directly from Bogotá to Villa de Leyva, leaving at 5am and 2pm. For an indirect but more frequent route, you can take the Transmilenio to Portal del Norte (1hr) and take a bus from here to Tunja. In Tunja buses to Villa de Leyva run every 15 minutes until 7pm.
What to do in Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva is the perfect town for aimlessly wandering through streets and, as such, the best thing to do here is just to meander. There are two colonial houses particularly worth visiting. The first is the house in which Antonio Nariño lived, and the second is known as the Casa del Primer Congreso. Villa de Leyva is also home to one of the best museums of religious art in Colombia: the Monasterio de las Carmelitas Descalzas. Taxis offer trips around the surrounding attractions, which come highly recommended. On Saturday there’s a bustling market in the central Plaza that peaks in the morning.