A beautiful weekend retreat in the hills above Bogota, Villa de Leyva is a picturesque colonial town of cobbled streets, elegant churches and white-washed townhouses to rival the likes of even Cartagena.
Founded in 1572 by the conquistador Hernán Suárez de Villalobos, the town boasts a magnificent central plaza, the largest in the Americas, which radiates out in all directions. The historic architecture is simply glorious. Elegant wooden balconies are awash with bougainvillea while terracotta tiled courtyards provide the perfect shade from the afternoon sun. Accommodation is rustic yet full of character with homely guesthouses the ideal base for exploring. Outside town, the elegant convent at Ecce Homo and ornate Tunja church offer attractive side-trips while the fascinating “El Fósil” Museum houses a near complete skeleton of a 110 million year-old Kronosaurus, testament to the area’s prehistoric origins. Yet no visit to Villa de Leyva is complete without taking in the mesmerising Salt Cathedral at Zipaquirá. Huge caverns etched out from an 18th century salt-mine have been transformed into an eye-catching Roman Catholic church, beautiful and hugely atmospheric!
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