This is a travel blog for desktop travelers and other ramblers who want to know the world just a little bit better.

Right now I am living in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where I'll be settled for a while. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Back in Time in Villa de Leyva

After one week in Bogota, we are ready to leave, but struggle for a few days choosing where we actually want to go. There are several factors involved: where do we want to be and not want to be during the high/holiday season?; how are the roads after the recent deluge of rain?; where may we want to find an apartment and settle for a couple months? Since we do not have the answers to any of those questions we decide to leave for Villa de Leyva, a small town a few hours from Bogota and highly recommended.

Villa de Leyva is Colombia's best preserved colonial town. It was founded in 1572 and has been majestically untouched by modernity. The white walled buildings run along old cobblestone streets. Coming straight from Bogota the first thing I notice is the lack of graffiti and traffic. The town is small, quiet and safe, a stark contrast from the commotion of the capital.
This former home is over 400 years old
Villa de Leyva's beauty puts the town on everyone's travel list. It is very popular with weekenders from Bogota (and very quiet during the week). In our hostel we meet long term backpackers, expats, normal North Americans and Europeans on short vacations, and Colombians visiting for just a night. There are restaurants, bars and plenty of artisinal shops. We also experience our first foreigner tourist gouging in Colombia. At a local restaurant we order and pay exactly the same as the locals, but get less food on our plate. We had come to expect this treatment in Asia (especially in Thailand and Bali), but kind of disappointed to see it here. By the way, we hear Bolivia and Peru are much worse.

The Plaza Mayor is the largest plaza in Colombia
After two nights near the plaza we head uphill and out of town to be closer to nature. Also, because this new hostel has free wifi and kitchen facilities. There actually not much to do in Villa de Leyva, but we end up staying for a week. It is the first time in about six months that Mika and I have bought groceries and prepared our own meals more than two nights in a row.

The walk to our hostel
Around Villa de Leya there are a few natural and man made activities. Nothing stands out as a "must see", but they do make nice stops if walking or on bicycle for the day. We skip the ostrich farm, winery and huge dinosaur theme park (open but just 40% completed) and opt to walk to some natural beauty.

The Pozos Azules (blue pools) are seven lakes of various shades of blue sitting in the desert. These pools are remnants of the great ocean that covered Colombia millions of years ago. They are on private property, and we pay 2,000 Colombian Pesos (US $1) to enter.
Pozos Azules
Another remnant of the former ocean is the huge number of fossils found in the area. A few decades ago a farmer found an almost intact fossil of a giant pilosaur. They left it exactly where it was and built a small fossil museum around it. We pay 4000 COP to enter.

El Fósil
Saturday is market day in Villa de Leyva. We decide to head down and pick up some produce. It is a small market suitable for this small town. Shoes, hats, clothing and fruits and vegetables are on sale with a few stalls open for lunch.
A fruit seller
Sausage, potatos and beer seems to be a favorite for lunch at the market

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