Day three in Colombia meant flight number three on Avianca Airlines! A return flight to Bogota, so that we could travel on wards to our next destination Villa de Leyva. A beautiful mountain village that I couldn’t wait to get to.
Pit Stip – Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira
On route to Villa de Leyva a good pit stop is to visit the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira. Created and built within the tunnels of a redundant salt mine 200 metres underground. You can feel the chills and smell the sea as you walk down into the mine. The mine is actually a functioning Roman Catholic Church that receives as many as 3,000 visitors on Sundays. You don’t have to be religious to come here and you should appreciate the architecture. You often have to have a guide when you pay for an entrance ticket but they speak English very well and entrance tickets cost around £11.00.
Back on the Road…
After chilling off sufficiently underground, it was another 2 hours on the road to Villa de Leyva. Eventually we arrived and were greeted by armed forces. Nowadays their presence in Colombia is comforting for the locals. Villa de Leyva was founded by a Spaniard in 1572 and the Spanish architectural influence in the village is very apparent. White washed houses with red roofs and pretty courtyards. You could be in Southern Spain for all you know. The village was declared a National Monument on December 17th, 1954 to preserve it’s architecture. The main attraction is the 14,000 square metre plaza. Believed to be one of the largest cobbled squares in South America. The Hotel Campanario is a beautiful hotel in the village but is a little more on the pricey side.
Attractions – La Casa Terracotta
An interesting attraction to the village is La Casa Terracotta, also known as the Flintstone’s house. The house from the outside is very distinct looking like a huge brown, dried mud-house, with wrought iron window frames. We jumped out and went to explore! Inside was almost like a maze with random small rooms going off in all directions from the main living room. Mosaics dressed every sink and shower room in the house. The roof formed another level to the house, you could virtually walk all over the roof. The house took about 14 years to build. The owner charges about £1.60 to visit his house nowadays.
A Game of Tejo!
If you want to get down with the locals you can find a warehouse in Villa de Leyva where they play an old traditional Colombian game ‘ Tejo’. The game involves throwing a metal weight at a soft clay target. With the aim to hitting the paper bullseye’s which are filled with gunpowder and exploded if you hit them successfully. We all eventually looked like locals – weight in one hand and a beer in the other.
If you are feeling arty then visit the nearby artesian town of Raquira. The town looks like something out of a western filmset. Visit a local pottery workshop, we were greeted by a friendly face. Then ecouraged to gather around him whilst he chatted away in Spanish, demonstrating his art in pottery. He showed off by creating three perfect pieces with his eyes closed! Guess what, we were up next. Afterwards you can visit their shop where they sold their products which worked out as pence in GBP.
La Candelaria Monastery is also worth a visit. The grounds are beautiful but may not be of interest to those who are not religious.
Villa de Leyva is a beautiful mountain village that gets popular and busy during the weekends with locals and tourists alike. Wander the streets to get the best out of the village and to take in the beauty, there are various cafes, boutique shops, restaurants and delicious ice cream shops.
Mosquito’s are rarely found in Villa de Leyva due to it’s altitude. I did get bitten here (the only time I did whilst in Colombia) but was not a dangerous mosquito.