After the bustle of Bogota and it’s cooler temps, we were stoked to arrive in Villa de Leyva with the sun shining and a bead forming across the forehead after 5 mins walking! It wasn’t quite hitting the high 30’s that we saw in Central America, but it was hot enough to give me a chance to get the guns out and Cel to expose the pins!

 

Villa de Leyva

Cel is so excited about something that she’s jumping for joy

 

A bit about Villa de Leyva

The town itself is pretty small, we found that out as we walked around it about 3 times in our first hour desperately trying to find somewhere for lunch (turns out the restaurants shut down around 4pm and open up again at 6!) About 10,000 Colombians call it home, with a whole heap more from Bogota calling it their holiday spot. It’s all centred around a large plaza (pic above) and is what you’d expect from a colonial town – nice buildings, cobbled streets and plenty of places to eat and drink. One of the best parts of the town is the surrounding countryside, on one end you’ve got massive hills and cliffs, while at the other end it falls into rolling countryside (which we thought was very similar to what we saw in Tuscany, Italy).

 

Casa Rana

View from our bedroom at Casa Rana (40,000 COP p/night)

 

Villa de Leyva

Got the self timer working on this one!

 

Villa de Leyva

Awesome scenery from the town square

 

Villa de Leyva

Villa de Leyva turns it on for our arrival!

 

It’s all a bit easy to let the time float by, wandering the streets, stopping for outstanding coffee, taking picture after picture of yet another colonial building and filling yourself on freshly baked empanadas (like a small pastie) for less than $1.  Cel even took it upon herself to start practising leap frog, as she is sure that it will be in the next Olympics – the evidence of her form is below.

 

Villa de Leyva

Cel lining up the height

Villa de Leyva

The approach…

Villa de Leyva

the mount…

Villa de Leyva

the dismount

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Villa de Leyva Cafe

Los Gallos – The Chickens…not sure why you’d call a cafe that, but it had decent coffee.

 

Taking to the Countryside

It’s not often that you find a house that is a tourist attraction, where the owner of the house is not old, famous or wrote books. Colombia changed the script on us in Villa de Leyva, we were actually quite intrigued about going to visit a house in the countryside – the main reason: it was hand made from terracotta. Now even then you might be thinking, ok it’s just a house, but it was something you had to do to fully appreciate just how unique / impressive this place was. It’s owned by a local guy who has decided to build his house completely out of terracotta – aside from a few fixtures and fitting such as taps, elements and windows. It was the first stop on our countryside adventure, 20 minutes down a farm road brought us to the glowing orange house. It’s 2 stories, with bathrooms, bedrooms, a kitchen and a BBQ located on the roof – along with a bunch of seats that have been moulded into the roof. Not sure how well the pictures will do it justice but here is a flavour:

 

Villa de Leyva Terracotta House

King of the terracotta castle

 

Villa de Leyva Terracotta House

The entrance way and kitchen

 

Villa de Leyva Terracotta House

A new meaning to – cooking with terracotta

 

Villa de Leyva Terracotta House

Making the tiles by hand, slow process I’d imagine

 

Villa de Leyva Terracotta House

The stairs onto the roof – perfect for posing

 

Villa de Leyva Terracotta House

Cel making herself at home on the rooftop

 

After the open home visit, we decided to continue on the country road for a while, we deciphered a few signs and realised we were on a loop track that (after 16km) would take us back into Villa de Leyva. In need of exercise and enjoying the sun we carried on through the farmland, past holiday homes, animals and locals tending to their crops. About 12km into the journey we found a small tienda (shop) and decided it was beer / drink time. Pulling up a chair next to a few locals farmers who were also of the opinion that beer was fine after midday, we sat there and watched as a mound of thick clouds moved in. Next minute it was pouring down, 30 mins and another beer later, it was still raining. Cel made the call that it was time to toughen up and start the trek – well within 3 mins we were soaked through. Laughing our way along the road and looking like a couple of tourist idiots, we were tooted at my a vehicle behind. A nice (wealthy) family from Bogota had taken pity on us and stopped their Audi to ask if we’d like a ride into town. We jumped at the chance and ended up chatting with the family all the way back to town (the Dad spoke english) it was a great experience and was clearly quicker and drier than the alternative option!

 

Villa de Leyva Countryside

Walking through the countryside

 

The Power Hour

It’s relatively common knowledge that you don’t go walking into the countryside when it’s dark. There are a few opportunistic people about who are happy to be in the countryside waiting for you to arrive with your nice camera and money – I’ll let you figure out the rest. In our situation, it was 5pm and we were really keen to head up to the mirador (lookout) behind the town square. We were unsure on how long it would take but again Cel decided that we were doing it. 20 mins later we were hauling ourselves up a cliff face, on route to the viewpoint – the lungs were hurting but we had a time limit so the only option was to push on through! Reaching the summit, after 35 mins, we took stock of Villa de Leyva below, snapped of a few pictures to prove we’d made it and hurtled back down the cliff face – making it back just after 6pm as it started to turn dark. Pretty sure Cel was stoked that this idea had worked out better than the last!

 

Villa de Leyva

Hiking up to the Mirador

 

Villa de Leyva

Late evening adventures finished with a selfie

 

Villa de Leyva

Who better to keep an eye on things from up high?

 

After two nights in Villa de Leyva, we were feeling well exercised, well fed and definitely well caffeinated. We were up for more adventures and just up the road, San Gil had some steep slopes and wild rivers which were calling….

 

One Comment

  1. Latin America: Top 5 Destinations « BrendonFry.com says: December 2, 2012 • 19:02:31

    […] Colonial towns come thick and fast in Latin America. In all fairness though, you can never really get too much of them, provided you’re happy chilling out eating, drinking and walking amongst nice buildings. Nicaragua threw up a couple of back to back colonial towns (Leon and Granada) and Guatemala had one of the more famous ones (Antigua),  but it was one of Colombia’s gems that took the cake. Villa de Leyva is a small town, or maybe you’d call it a village. Home to 10,000 people, the town sports cobblestone streets, white-washed buildings a rugged hill range towering above it and an enormous central plaza – Villa de Leyva has all the makings of a cracking Colonial town. While it was sometimes hard to separate the colonials, it was a mixture of it’s size, outstanding countryside, strong and well made coffee, unique clay buildings and outdoor offerings that allowed Villa de Leyva to take the prize of top 5. The place offers so much for somewhere so little, architecture (including the handmade clay house), history (museum built around a dinosaur fossil), outdoors (walking in the countryside or hiking the hill overlooking town), food and coffee (our favorite was Cafe Los Gallos) and great accommodation. It’s a favored destination for the city dwellers of Bogota, so just make sure you don’t hit it on a long weekend! Plenty more pics and commentary about Villa de Leyva – Small town Colombia […]

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