Villa De Leyva



Villa De Leyva, Colombia, is the perfect example of a colonial town and is one of the most popular destinations for tourists. The town, located 110 mi/175 km northeast of Bogota and easily reached on the well-paved road to Tunja, has been declared a national monument. Every building is whitewashed and painted with bottle-green trim. Its main square, paved with cobblestones and centered on an inviting fountain, is one of the largest in all of South America. The cathedral is among the simplest in Colombia, but the town is blessed with attractions, such as the Iglesia y Convento de Carmen.

Even if you're not staying in town, drop in to see the Hosteria del Molino la Mesopotamia (, an old mill from 1568 transformed into a rambling ranch-style hotel filled with antiques. The little town has several dozen colonial-era hotels plus several good restaurants.

Allow at least two days for exploring, with one day given to sights north of town. Don't miss the Pozos Azules (jade-colored lakes good for swimming); the Museo El Fosil (displaying the fossil of a crocodilelike kronosaurus); Parque Arqueologico de Monquira (a pre-Hispanic site); and Convento del Santo Ecco Humo (a fascinating former convent, now a museum).

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