Monday, August 10, 2009

Villa de Leyva

If you check any Traveller's Guide to Colombia, you will find Villa De Leyva high on the list of NOT TO MISS excursions. Located about 3-4 hours North of Bogotá in the Department of Boyacá, Villa de Leyva is an impressively preserved Spanish Colonial village. The buildings -- mostly over 400 years old -- are immaculately preserved, and as a result, it has been declared a United Nations World Heritage site.

Villa de Leyva caters to the tourist. Every time we have visited (4 times) we hear German, French, English, Italian, Swedish and other European and Asian languages being spoken -- not to mention Spanish and Argentine accents. There are beautiful Colonial Hotels and Farms where you can stay and be pampered -- they even have SPAS. Shops with all sorts of art and artisan works line the streets. There are some amazing restaurants and bread stores!!! Even if you don't speak Spanish, check out the pictures of the hotels and farms (fincas) on this website -- gives the best US hotels a run for their money:


THE HISTORY

Villa de Leyva (meaning the Village of Leyva) was founded in 1572 by Hernán Suarez de Villalobos at the behest of the Governor of the Nuevo Reino de Granada -- Andrés Díaz Venero de Leyva -- hence the name. It was established as an agricultural town, producing olive oil and grains. But, it was also the playground of Colombia's elite -- from the very beginning. Today, a status symbol is to say you have a "Finca" in Villa de Leyva -- kind of like the Hamptons of Colombia. However, it is way less expensive and a night's stay in one of the hotels will not set you back much more than where you are staying in Bogotá.


In 1954, the city itself was declared a National Park and is therefore kept amazingly preserved. Everyone takes care of their home and business. Homes are always freshly painted in white and the contrasting green or black. Streets are cobblestone -- often using the ammonite fossils that are found in abundance in the area (see Wednesday's post for more info on the fossils).



FESTIVALS


This past weekend, the city of Villa de Leyva, held it's Kite Festival. This event is held annually and is famous throughout the country.

Here's a link to the article in El Tiempo:

ALSO YOU CAN ENJOY

Art and ceramic making classes
Mountain biking
Rappelling
Cave Spelunking
Horseback Riding
Hiking
Visiting Vineyards
Seeing & Buying Fossils
Visiting an ancient Chibcha Religious site


While one day may not be enough -- depending on the age of your child -- one day may be all you can do. Earlier this year, I suggested a BEEN THERE DONE THAT escape from Bogotá that can take you on a historical tour of Colombian Independence and Ancient Culture. The first post was on March 23 and continued until March 26



Now, I recommend that you add one more day. On your way back from Sogamoso, take a left at Tunja and go to Villa de Leyva. Leave Friday -- do Battle of Boyacá, Pantano de Vargas, stay Friday night in Paipa. Saturday morning go to Sogamoso and see the museum and then travel to Villa de Leyva. Spend the afternoon exploring the city and then spend the night in one of the many beautiful Hotels. Stay tuned for Wednesday's and Thursday's post to see what you should do on Sunday before heading back to Bogotá. Truly a wonderful field trip no one should miss!!!

Photos:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/adman_as/428450010/sizes/l/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/40122528@N03/3706074903/sizes/o/




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