Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet – Colombia chapter Boyacá, Santander & Norte de Santander has to say about Villa de Leyva:
One of the most beautiful colonial villages in Colombia, Villa de Leyva is a city frozen in time. Declared a national monument in 1954, the photogenic village has been preserved in its entirety with cobblestone roads and whitewashed buildings.
The city’s physical beauty and mild, dry climate have long attracted outsiders.
Villa de Leyva is a leisurely place made for wandering around charming cobblestone streets, listening to the sound of church bells and enjoying the lazy rhythm of days gone by. Villa de Leyva is also famous for its abundance of fossils from the Cretaceous and Mesozoic periods, when this area was underwater. If you look closely and you’ll notice that fossils have been used as construction materials in floors, walls and pavements.
At 120m by 120m, Plaza Mayor is one of the largest town squares in the Americas. It’s paved with massive cobblestones and surrounded by magnificent colonial structures and a charmingly simple parish church. Only a small Mudejar fountain in its middle, which provided water to the village inhabitants for almost four centuries, interrupts the vast plaza.
Unlike most Colombian cities where the main squares have been named after historic heroes, this one is traditionally and firmly called Plaza Mayor.
The town was founded in 1572. It was originally a retreat for military officers, clergy and nobility. In recent years an influx of wealthy visitors and expats has slowly transformed this once-hidden gem. Boutique hotels, gourmet restaurants and tacky tourist shops are replacing many of the old family hosterías, cafes and the authenticity.
On weekends the narrow alleys can get downright crammed with day-trippers from Bogotá. But thankfully on weekdays the city reverts to a peaceful, bucolic village, one of the loveliest places in Colombia.
Tienda Feroz Arts & Crafts is a great little shop features the unique art of 27 Colombian artists (and a few Mexican ones sprinkled in) and is the spot to pick up items that aren’t typical tourist wares. The owners have backgrounds in illustration, animation and industrial design, so they know their creativity.
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