Considering leaving the hustle and bustle of Bogotá behind to visit the charming colonial town of Villa de Leyva? For me, it was an easy choice!
From standing in awe of Colombia’s largest plaza, roaming along cobblestone streets, and admiring the 600-year-old colonial buildings, to hiking in the lush Andean mountains, tasting local wines, and seeing “The Fossil”… Countless incredible things to do await you in idyllic Villa de Leyva, Colombia!
During my month-long stint living in Bogotá, I took a weekend trip to discover all of the best things to do in Villa de Leyva. And I’m so glad I did!
To visit the quaint town of Villa de Leyva is as close as you can get to transporting yourself back to the 1600s. And I think you’re going to love it.
This travel guide to Villa de Leyva includes everything you need to know – from the best things to do in Villa de Leyva, where to eat, where to stay, how to get there, and more! Let’s get to it.
Feel free to use this table of contents to jump to specific sections of this Villa de Leyva guide, or simply read on!
Here are 17 of the best things to do in Villa de Leyva, Boyacá.
Table of Contents
- 17 Lovely Things to Do in Villa de Leyva, Colombia
- 2. Pop into the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Rosario
- 3. Roam the Quaint Cobblestone Streets
- 4. Visit the Local Vineyards
- 5. Hike in the Igaque National Park
- 6. See “El Fósil” at the Fossil Museum
- 7. Browse the Saturday Market
- 8. Dine at All of the Delicious Cafés & Restaurants
- 9. Try Milhojas at La Galleta Pasteleria Café
- 10. Visit the Casa Museo Antonio Nariño
- 11. Drink Craft Beer at Cervecería HISCA
- 12. Pop into the Local Artisans’ Shops
- 13. See the Casa Terracota
- Where to Stay in Villa de Leyva
- How to Get to Villa de Leyva (from Bogotá)
- Things to Do in Villa de Leyva: Quick FAQs
- Did you know…
17 Lovely Things to Do in Villa de Leyva, Colombia
1. People-Watch in the Plaza Mayor
When you arrive in the Plaza Mayor (the main square), you’ll be taken aback by the sheer size of it. This is the largest downtown plaza in the entire country, after all… It’s over 150,000 square feet!
Lining the square, you’ll find a number of restaurants, museums, hotels, city hall, and, of course, the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Rosario.
Being here will truly make you feel as if you’ve gone back in time. And of course, this plaza is the ultimate people-watching spot in town.
Soak in the slowness of this tiny town, out in the Colombian Andes.
2. Pop into the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Rosario
The showstopper of the Plaza, the magnificent Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Church of Our Lady of the Rosary) is a simple, colonial-baroque-style church that was constructed in 1608. While the white-washed stone church is quite simple overall, the wooden altar drips in gold. The main event.
Popping into this church is a non-negotiable!
3. Roam the Quaint Cobblestone Streets
Intricate wooden shutters. Bougainvilleas. White-washed stone buildings. Cobblestones. Soaring mountains. And overflowing flower pots. All of these details make up the ridiculously charming colonial atmosphere that is Villa de Leyva.
One of the best things to do in this town, is, of course, wandering aimlessly. When you do, you’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time; as friendly locals wave at you; as you stop in for a coffee and a pastry; as you see stray dogs running by.
For sure, the best time to explore is at sunrise, before the streets fill up with tourists and artisans hawking souvenirs.
4. Visit the Local Vineyards
There are a couple of wineries just outside of Villa de Leyva, and within a 15-minute drive of one another:
- Viñedo Ain Karim
- Viñedo Umaña Dajud
About the Experience
I visited Viñedo Ain Karim, and I was blown away by the unexpected beauty of the place!
I loved roaming around the grounds, with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon in hand, taking in views of the hilly, enchanting landscape. Viñedo Ain Karim imports its grape vines from Napa Valley and France, so the wine was surprisingly good.
This winery offers all types of tours and experiences, from educational walks around the winery to guided wine tastings and cheese pairings. You can reserve your spot here, but note that tours are offered in Spanish only.
If you don’t want to do a tour, you can just purchase the “Plan de Compra,” committing to spend 80,000 COP (about $18 USD) per person in the bar (equating to about 2 glasses of wine). This is what we did, without a reservation.
I didn’t visit Viñedo Umaña Dajud, but I know that they offer roughly the same vineyard tour and tasting experiences. Check them out here.
We took a taxi to the winery, and arranged for our driver to pick us up again about 90 minutes later.
5. Hike in the Igaque National Park
Villa de Leyva is situated in a high-altitude valley, bordering the Igaque National Park. Needless to say, there are quite a few hiking and biking trails to explore in the nearby hills.
To reach the trails, head to the Plaza de Mercado on foot, and continue down the path toward the foothills. You will reach a sign marking the beginning of the national park.
Our early-morning hike in the Igaque National Park was the best thing we did in Villa de Leyva. The owner of our hotel graciously offered to take us on a guided hike, leading the way up to an amazing viewpoint overlooking the town and the lush greenery of Boyacá.
The trail we hiked – along with three friendly stray doggies – went to the top of Cerro de la Castellana. It took 2 hours roundtrip.
P.S. I am obsessed with the picture below of the doggies checking out the view after the hike we did together!
Another popular hike to complete is called Mirador del Santo. It peaks when you reach the white statue of Jesus overlooking the valley. The hike up takes about 45 minutes.
If you’re looking for a longer, more strenuous hike (6-7 hours), then you can hike up to Laguna de Iguaqué, a sacred lake up high in the Andes.
No matter which trail you choose, hiking is one of the best things to do in Villa de Leyva!
6. See “El Fósil” at the Fossil Museum
Ready for another unexpectedly interesting experience in Villa de Leyva?
Seeing an almost-complete, absolutely massive fossil from the Early Cretaceous Period (about 120 million years ago) at the Museo El Fosil is a must-do.
Known as “The Fossil” around town, this prehistoric marine reptile is officially called a Monquirasaurus (M. boyacensis). It was more than 9 meters (~29 feet) long, and is on display in the exact place it was discovered. For some, this is the town’s main attraction.
The Fossil Museum also houses a variety of smaller, local fossils.
You’ll have to take a taxi, or ride a bike, to get to this museum. It’s a 10-minute drive from the center of town.
The Fossil Museum is one of the stops you’ll make on this Small-Group, Full-Day Tour to Villa de Leyva Town & Surroundings. That is, if you decide to go to Villa de Leyva on a guided tour. Click here to book it.
7. Browse the Saturday Market
If your visit falls on a Saturday, make sure to visit the town’s bustling, traditional outdoor market. Held just a few blocks from the center of town, at the Plaza De Mercado, it’s easy to find.
At the Saturday Market, you’ll find a marvelous assortment of exotic, fresh fruits and veggies – along with traditional arts and handicrafts.
Don’t miss it!
8. Dine at All of the Delicious Cafés & Restaurants
Villa de Leyva is home to a delicious array of internationally inspired and traditional Colombian eateries. So, naturally, I hunted out all of the best places to eat, caffeinate, and imbibe.
Here they are!
Specialty Coffee at El Fuente de Café
By far, El Fuente de Café is the best coffee shop in town.
As soon as we arrived at the bus station, we bee-lined it here. For a Chemex of Colombian Geisha beans, enjoyed in their small and homey shop.
In true Colombian craft coffee shop form, you can order all types of methods here: V-60, Chemex, French press, etc.
Brunch at Chuska Cocina
Chuska Cocina is Villa de Leyva’s loveliest restaurant, located in the ground floor of Sie Casa Hotel. We had four different dishes, from tortilla soup and ceviche to a fresh garden salad and croquettes. The service was great too.
With more time, I’d have gone here again for dinner.
Farm-Fresh Lunch at Mercado Municipal
Hands down, my favorite meal in Villa de Leyva was at Mercado Municipal. Sitting outdoors, in a quaint courtyard, filled with the smoky aromas of farm-fresh produce and local meats on the grill, we relished in a lovely lunch… Far from the city noise of Bogotá.
Thanks to my server’s recommendation, I went for the Sobrebarriga Prensada, and it was fabulous. As was the heart of palm ceviche.
Dinner at La Maria Bistro
Ask any local, and they’ll tell you that La Maria is their favorite restaurant in town. If you’re in the mood for internationally inspired cuisine (like pizza, burgers, salads, soup, etc.) with a Colombian twist, come here!
9. Try Milhojas at La Galleta Pasteleria Café
While in Villa de Leyva, you have to stop at La Galleta for a sweet treat known as milhojas.
Translated to “one thousand sheets” in English, milhojas consists of layers upon layers of crispy, crunchy puff pastry that are delicately filled with creme patisserie and topped with dulce de leche.
This bakery has been a Villa de Leyva staple since 1994, and the locals love it.
Is this milhojas going to be the best pastry you’ve ever had in your life? No. But it is a cultural experience, and it is delicious still. For 9,500 COP ($2 USD), it’s pretty much non-negotiable.
10. Visit the Casa Museo Antonio Nariño
Another can’t-miss thing to do in Villa de Leyva? Stopping by the Casa Museo Antonio Nariño.
Free to enter, this lovely little museum is the former of home of Antonio Nariño – a key leader in Colombia’s independence movement from the Spanish, and an important human rights activist for all of South America.
His home, originally constructed in the early 17th century, is filled with his personal historical artifacts and art.
The Casa Museo Antonio Nariño is one of the stops you’ll make on this Small-Group, Full-Day Tour to Villa de Leyva Town & Surroundings, if you decide to go to Villa de Leyva on a guided tour. Click here to book it.
11. Drink Craft Beer at Cervecería HISCA
The one and only craft brewery in Villa de Leyva, Cervecería HISCA, offers a few different house brews – and the two we tried were pretty good!
I love supporting Colombia’s artisanal breweries (there aren’t too many yet!), and I reckon you should too.
The back garden is a relaxing oasis, the perfect place to escape Villa de Leyva’s strong sun.
12. Pop into the Local Artisans’ Shops
Villa de Leyva is full of shops, ranging from beautiful homeware shops to tacky souvenir stores. As you roam around, pop into a few shops and see what catches your eye.
One of the most popular is the tourist-packed Museo del Chocolate (Chocolate Museum), where you can try chocolate beer… Personally, I gave it a pass.
P.S. While in Villa de Leyva, I learned that the nearby town of Ráquira is one of the best places to purchase authentic handicrafts in Colombia – specifically, pottery. If you have the time, the one-way journey is 40 minutes long. This traditional town is also known as one of the most beautiful villages in the department of Boyacá.
13. See the Casa Terracota
The Casa Terracota has to be one of the most unique homes on the planet – a work of art, really.
In fact, it’s the largest ceramic home on earth, created by the architect Octavio Mendoza Morales.
A 9-minute drive, or 22-minute walk, from the Plaza Mayor, it costs between 35,000-50,000 COP (about $7-11 USD) to enter the home, depending on the season and day of the week.
The Terracotta House is one of the stops you’ll make on this Small-Group, Full-Day Tour to Villa de Leyva Town & Surroundings, if you decide to go to Villa de Leyva on a guided tour. Click here to book it.
Other Things to Do In & Around Villa de Leyva
If you have more time, here are a few more things to see during your trip:
14. Bike around: Why not rent a bike to explore the surrounding towns and hills on two wheels? From El Fosil and the Terracota House, to the vineyards, there are so many places to explore! Just wear your sunscreen.
15. Parque Arqueológico “El Infiernito” (Little Hell Archaeological Park): Visit “El Infiernito” to see centuries-old archaeo-astrological ruin site of the Muisca people.
16. Pozos Azules: Beautiful blue lakes nearby the town, but you have to pay to enter.
17. Museo Luis Alberto Acuña: An eclectic museum showcasing the art of Luis Alberto Acuña, located in the Plaza Mayor. It was quite a mish-mash of exhibitions, and quite expensive to enter, which is why it’s last on the list!
Where to Stay in Villa de Leyva
If I were you, I’d plan to stay the night in Villa de Leyva. Once the day trippers leave, the streets are a serene scene that transport you back to 1600.
Villa de Leyva is super budget-friendly town. One night in Villa de Leyva will cost anywhere between $12 USD (for a hostel dorm room) to $80 USD (for a very comfortable stay).
Here are my top 3 picks for where to stay in Villa de Leyva, to suit every budget!
Hotel Spa El Giro ($$$)
Hotel Spa El Giro was my top choice, but they were renovating during our visit. Not only because it looks beautiful, but also because they have a pool and offer bikes for rent!
Sie Casa Hotel ($$)
Sie Casa Hotel is a super-chic hotel located in the center of town. It’s very affordable (well, all of these options are!), features a quaint little rooftop for relishing in the serenity of Villa de Leyva, and their in-house restaurant, Chuska Cocina, is also a treat!
OFF Hostel ($)
Located just a few blocks from the Plaza Mayor, OFF Hostel is the perfect choice for budget travelers. OFF Hostel is tucked into a quiet corner of town; the family who runs the place is absolutely lovely; the wifi is good; they have a sauna, and often host live music and drinks in the courtyard. You can choose from a private room or dorm room.
How to Get to Villa de Leyva (from Bogotá)
Getting to Villa de Leyva from Bogotá is easy enough. The one-way journey takes about 3.5 hours by car, without traffic. If you go by bus, add on another hour.
Considering more than 11 million people live in the metropolitan area of Bogotá, it’s important to plan your travel to/from Villa de Leyva outside of rush hours!
Via a Guided Day Trip
If your time in Colombia is limited, or if you don’t feel comfortable taking the bus on your own, then taking a guided day trip is the perfect option for you! It’ll be a long day, no doubt, but you can sleep in the air-conditioned van on the way there/back. On a day trip, you can experience most of the best things to do in Villa de Leyva.
On this Small-Group, Full-Day Tour to Villa de Leyva Town & Surroundings, you will explore the historic center, and learn about the town’s storied past, before heading out to see some of the surrounding area’s gems: Pozos Azules (beautiful blue mineral lakes), Casa Terracotta (an incredible ceramic house), and El Fósil Museum (to see the Monquirasaurus fossil). Click here to book your small group tour.
Your other option is to embark on this Private Tour to Villa de Leyva. Somehow, this tour is actually cheaper! And the beauty of a private tour is the ability to customize your day trip. If you’d rather visit a vineyard, a museum, and the Terracotta House, skipping the Pozos Azules, and El Fosil, the choice is all yours. Whatever you choose, your expert guide will regale you with tales of the town’s history all the same. Click here to book your private tour.
Feeling adventurous? Then, take a direct bus from Bogota and explore Villa de Leyva on your own. Here’s how.
Bussing to Villa de Leyva
From Bogotá Terminal Central Salitre (the central bus station), you can take a direct bus to Villa de Leyva. You can also leave from Terminal del Norte, which may save you some time, depending on where you’re staying in Bogotá.
Ideally, you should plan to leave Bogotá first thing in the morning. Snagging a seat on the a 5:00 or 6:00 AM bus is ideal, as traffic out of the capital city starts to get heavy by 6:30 AM. It’s a good idea to arrive at the bus station at least 30 minutes before your bus departs so you can figure out where to go in time. We took an Uber from our Chapinero apartment to the bus station – which was quite a safe station, by the way.
We chose to travel with a bus company called Flota Valle de Tenza (thanks to their good reviews online), and we had zero issues. They were very prompt, the buses were comfortable and in good condition, and our drivers were very careful. You can find Flota Valle de Tenza’s Bogotá to Villa de Leyva bus schedule here.
Coflonorte, Expreso Gaviota, and Omega are other bus companies offering direct buses to/from Villa de Leyva. You can book all of them online via redBus, or in-person at the bus terminal. Just keep in mind that, if you do purchase in-person, you should arrive early. Buses to/from Villa de Leyva fill up completely on the weekends.
Bussing Back to Bogotá
From the same bus station you arrived at, you’ll take the bus back to the city.
We took a 4:00 PM bus back (as bus travel is always safer in daylight), and we felt that we had the perfect amount of time in Villa de Leyva. However, to avoid peak hour traffic back to Bogotá, you might want to leave later in the evening.
When you arrive back at the Bogotá bus station, there’ll be a line of taxis waiting to take you where you need to go. My experiences with Bogotá taxi drivers have been fraught with attempts of over-charging and other scams… So if I were you, I’d call an Uber! It’s safer that way, anyway.
P.S. Make sure you’re prepared with an eSIM, so you can call an Uber whenever, wherever. Purchasing an eSIM online and instantly connecting my phone up to the cell local network is my latest travel discovery – and wow, it is life-changing.
MORE COLOMBIA TRAVEL INSPIRATION
Things to Do in Villa de Leyva: Quick FAQs
Villa de Leyva, Colombia is absolutely worth visiting! This quaint, historic colonial town is a breath of fresh air compared to Bogotá (where most travelers visit from). From roaming the cobblestone streets and visiting museums, to hiking in the Andes and wine tasting at local wineries, there are so many enriching things to do in Villa de Leyva. Not to mention, Villa de Leyva is a very budget-friendly destination; everything from accommodation to food is quite cheap. Whether you decide to go on a guided day trip or an overnight weekend trip, you’ll love visiting Villa de Leyva. This guide to Villa de Leyva covers all of the best things to do on a quick trip.
Villa de Leyva is known for being a charming colonial town that’s home to the largest plaza in Colombia. It’s also known for it’s many outdoor activities – and of course, its incredible Monquirasaurus fossil. Many travelers visit Villa de Leyva as a day trip from Bogotá.
I’ve heard that the water is safe to drink in Villa de Leyva, though I didn’t drink it personally. I opted for the filtered water offered at my hotel. One of my must-have travel items is this GRAYL GeoPress Water Purifier Bottle, which allows me to drink any water (no matter how sketchy) in a pinch. Having this water bottle eliminates the need to ask this question!
Between 1-2 nights is the ideal amount of time to stay in Villa de Leyva. The town itself is quite small, but there’s plenty to keep you occupied – especially if you plan to explore the surrounding attractions, including the hiking trails and the wineries. I spent one night (two full days) in Villa de Leyva, and I felt it was the perfect amount of time!
Absolutely, yes, Ville de Leyva is worth a visit! There are so many things to do in this enchanting little town, from museums to wineries and hiking trails to restaurants. You’ll love soaking up the colonial atmosphere.
From Bogotá, you can either take a direct bus (about 3.5 hours) by yourself from Bogotá Terminal Central Salitre (the central bus station), or you can go on a guided day trip. This small-group day trip and this private day trip are the two best guided options. This guide to Villa de Leyva includes everything you need to know about getting to Villa de Leyva from Bogota. Read it now!
It takes about 3.5 hours to get from Bogota to Villa de Leyva. You can easily visit this beautiful town in one day (albeit, a long day!) or plan to spend the night there.
Anywhere from 1-2 full days is the right amount of time to spend in Villa de Leyva. Any more, and you may get bored! This is a small town, but it is beautiful – and there are many things to do. From discovering the many museums, visiting the local market, and browsing the shops, to going hiking, wine tasting at the local wineries, and seeing the Terracotta House, 1-2 days in Villa de Leyva will be well spent!
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