Villa de Leyva is an old colonial town just north east of Bogota, Colombia’s capital city. With a year-round dry, pleasant climate and an average temperature of 16°C / 63°F, the weather is consistent and reliable in every season.
It is easy to reach from Bogota with many buses departing throughout the day, and tends to get busy with the capital’s tourists on the weekends. Most people come to Villa de Leyva for rest and relaxation, which is easy to do against a stunning mountainous backdrop.
If you’re wondering what to do in Villa de Leyva, there are so many options depending on the kind of holiday you’re looking for. We’ve listed some of the most popular things to do in Villa de Leyva below, but first, one thing we know everyone’s looking for – food!
Best restaurants Villa de Leyva
One of the greatest pleasures when travelling is exploring different cuisines, and in Colombia the culinary experiences are bound to be a highlight of your trip.
In Villa de Leyva there are plenty of upscale restaurants, with Plaza Mayor, the town’s central square, being home to many. As you’d expect in any main square, the establishments here are aimed mainly at tourists so the food is not so authentic and the prices are reflective of a tourist audience.
Despite that, as one of South America’s largest squares, it is a fantastic place to sit outside on the plastic chairs and watch the world go by, especially on a warm, dry day!
As far as food goes, we recommend sticking with the locals to really indulge in the local delicacies (and you’ll get more bang for your buck!).
The Saturday Market at the Plaza Mercado is a great place to do just that. Locals come here to shop for groceries for the week ahead and catch up with friends and family over a coffee or a bite to eat provided by one of the many farmers and street vendors.
What are the best outdoor activities in Villa de Leyva?
Colombia is a country of extremes, with mountain ranges and volcanoes dominating the landscape in the centre and tropical, golden-sand shores on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts to the north and west.
The country is a natural playground and for travellers looking for an outdoor adventure, look no further!
If you want to enjoy the environment without strenuous activity, the Vineyard Ain Karim just outside of town is a great place to sit and while away the hours over a bottle (or two) of local wine. It’s also possible to book a tour of the vineyard if you’re interested in learning about the history and production of the wine!
For the hikers out there, make your way up the hill to the Mirador el Santo, a small white statue of Jesus that overlooks the town of Villa de Leyva. The climb up to the viewpoint takes around 1 to 1 and a half hours and there’s some scrambling involved, so you’ll need to be fairly physically fit. Once you reach the top, expect panoramic views of the town and beyond. A spectacular place to watch the sunset.
The Pozos Azules are just a few minutes from Villa de Leyva, a series of manmade mineral-salt pools located in the desert that shine glorious shades of the brightest blue depending on the light and the temperature. The contrast of the water against the desert-sand background is spectacular and the pools are a must-see during your stay in Villa de Leyva.
For history buffs, visit the Infiernito Archaeological Site which sits in the rolling hills near Villa de Leyva. In the early days the Spanish called the site “little hell” because of the Pagan rituals that would be carried out there, and today, you can view the archaeological remains which are said to have been linked to astronomy, agriculture, and religion.
Laguna de Iguaque, located in the Paramo de Iguaque National Park, is a lake located just 6 km from Villa de Leyva and the surrounding area is a declared Flora and Fauna Sanctuary. Come here to marvel at the Sacred Lagoon, where legend has it that goddess Bachué created mankind as she emerged from the waters with a boy in her arms.
Visit the largest piece of pottery in the world, Villa de Leyva’s Terracotta House, a bizarrely shaped gigantic home constructed entirely from clay! The house is fully functional and features a kitchen, bathrooms and several bedrooms. It sounds like a strange choice, but this work of art is a fascinating feature in the Colombian desert region.
Perhaps the most exciting outdoor activity in Ville de Leyva is to descend the Hoyo de la Romera. The 40 metre pit was, according to the legend of the indigenous people, once used as a punishment, in which to throw the local women who committed adultery. Now, with an approved tour company, you can descend into the depths of the hole by rope for a thrilling adventure!
What are the most popular things to do in Villa de Leyva with kids?
If you’re travelling to Villa de Leyva, Colombia, with family, there are a few activities that are particularly enjoyable for the kids.
The Museo El Fósil is a roadside museum built around a fossil the size of a bus. Sure to keep the kids entertained, the fossil is the remains of a dinosaur – a Kronosaurus to be precise – that was discovered by local farmers in 1977. The fossil is said to be 100-150 million years old, and there’s plenty of history to be discovered in this small museum containing many other remains.
To stick with the same theme, Villa de Leyva Paleontological Museum showcases more than 500 displays of dinosaur and prehistoric fossils. The informative museum is filled with educational materials to tell visitors of all ages about the region’s rich supply of fossils, which give thanks to the former sea bed that surrounds the city. In particular, the museum is aimed at the younger ones with guides providing tours in English to pique their curiosity into our prehistoric past.
What are the best day trips from Villa de Leyva?
Just a 3 hour drive away is the Colombian capital, Bogota, making for the perfect day trip from Villa de Leyva. Bringing together the very best of Columbian cultures, Bogota is surrounded by stunning greenery for the perfect escape into nature, and conversely the vibrant nightlife allows you to salsa the night away if you’re looking for a good time.
Some of the best sights to see along the way from Villa de Leyva to Bogota include Raquira, a small town just off the beaten track famous for its artisans who produce jewellery, pottery and souvenirs.
The Nemocon Salt Mine is also a great place to stop, with its colorful lights and reflective pools make this for an exciting trip through salt-mining history. The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira lies hundreds of feet (600, to be precise) underground in an abandoned salt mine. Miners here hollowed out a sanctuary for their daily prayers, and in the 1950’s this was extended to become the Cathedral you can visit today.
If you are travelling with the kids, family-friendly theme park Jaime Duque Park is a fantastic attraction outside of Villa de Leyva, focussed on imparting cultural and historical knowledge on its visitors through replicas of significant global monuments such as the Taj Mahal and Moscow’s Red Square.