Villa de Leyva is a scenic old colonial town a few hours outside Bogota. Most of the buildings are painted white, the streets in the center of town are cobblestone (and yet there were still bike cops, bumping around slowly and uncomfortably), and it´s easy to imagine yourself having slipped back in time a few hundred years. Except, those beautiful colonial buildings now house ritzy boutique shops and upscale restaurants and the town is full of rich Bogotans out for a long weekend wearing designer sunglasses.
There wasn’t a lot to do in town other than wander around and enjoy the architecture, which really is impressive- this is one of the best preserved places we’ve ever seen. We enjoyed our stay; it was relaxing and pretty, we caught up on some reading. I checked Wikipedia for reminders of what to write about, and learned that the town has a ¨variety of exquisite gastronomical pleasures¨ for which it is known. But the restaurants mostly looked too expensive for us and we had pizza every night.
Back in some prehistoric age Villa de Leyva was part of a huge inland sea, and there are tons of fossils left over from that era. The most impressive is creatively known as ¨El Fosíl¨ and is a nearly complete skeleton of a Kronosaurus located a short taxi ride out of town. The Kronosaurus was big, maybe 20 feet long, with an alarming percentage of its length devoted to its giant head. It looked like a demonic hybrid of dolphin and alligator, and was really cool to see.
While we were in town they were shooting scenes for what I´m pretty sure (thanks to the aforementioned Wikipedia) was a Zorro themed soap opera in the very pretty central plaza. We had fun drinking coffee and watching the action. We spent four days in town and it was a bit more than plenty, but we enjoyed Villa de Leyva. On our way out we stopped in the nearby town of Tunja at the Red Cross office and purchased a couple Yellow Fever vaccinations, which we wanted to have for the coast, for about $30 each. Not bad, at home they would have been at least $150.