Utopia at Villa De Leyva

Villa De Leyva is a picturesque colonial town located in the Boyaca region of Colombia. A 3 hour bus ride from Bogota brought me to this charming place. You only need to spend a weekend here, which makes it a popular destination for the locals.

Visiting Villa De Leyva felt like I had stepped back in time and was experiencing the colonial way of life.  On a sunny Saturday, I ambled around randomly exploring the lanes and narrow alleys of this happy place.

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Quiet lanes lined with white washed homes, will welcome you as you enter Villa De Leyva. I explored the neighborhood on foot, which was great as it introduced me to the architecture and history of this place.

The doors and windows have a story to share. The blues, greens and yellows are a symphony of beauty and design.

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An interesting door telling a story of a forgotten era

The pretty houses, cobbled stone lanes and friendly people will make you want to live here.

The air is cool and the atmosphere is pleasant. There is a calming silence in spite of the tourists.

I took my time to appreciate the iron and wood patterns and got wonderfully lost in the maze of this enchanting place.

Iglesia de Nuestra Senora del Rosario was the highlight of my visit here.

Churches of colonial heritage are generally white washed and have a simple exterior. But don’t be deceived by this. The interiors are almost always richly decorated with gold altars and stained glass windows.

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Iglesia de Nuestra Senora del Rosario

The belief could be that you should live a simple life without too much of materialistic comforts, however your soul should be rich with a life pleasing to God. After visiting similar churches across the world, this is just my theory on this kind of architecture.

The church could be visited in the day and in the evening as it has a unique look at both times.

Plaza Mayor surrounds Iglesia de Nuestra Senora del Rosario.

A variety of events are held throughout the year in the town square. If you would like to know whats on, check the events online before arriving.

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Plaza Mayor, the town square

Shops, boutiques and restaurants line the plaza. I took some time out from all the walking, by having coffee in a shop which doubled as a bakery. The owners kids and helpers were having their lunch when I walked in.

They invited me over to join them. Lunch was simple, a plate of rice and beans. Chatting with me in Spanish, while I sipped my coffee, they were intrigued to know more about where I came from.

Locals came in to buy bread and cakes. The smell of freshly baked croissants was irresistible and I had to order one 🙂

Sounds of laughter and friendly chatter filled the air.

These kind of serendipitous connections is just what I am looking for, where the conversations are easy and free flowing and the connections are genuine.

Now coming back to the church, my understanding was correct. Even though the outside was a simple white wash, the church inside has an incredibly decorated altar gilded in gold.

An amazing piece of art made by hand, and difficult to replicate in today’s modern times.

A wedding mass was in progress when I visited and I was happy to witness this joyous event.

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A wedding in progress, inside the church

Statues of the Virgin Mary, Jesus and the saints are found at the altar.

I was humbled by the thought that they have survived a few centuries, of listening to the prayers of thousands of people, seen visitors from all over the world  and are still standing patiently 🙂

Iglesia del Carmen is a few steps away from Iglesia de Nuestra. The statue of the Virgin Mary stands on a high pole outside the church.

It is a picture perfect structure of stone and red tiles. A carpet of green grass and trees dropping with lovely flowers welcome you.

A relaxing afternoon here after lunch will keep your up your spirits.

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White washed exteriors again made me wonder about the grand interiors. Sadly the church was closed due to the lunch hours.

A museum stands opposite the church and can be explored if you want to kill time. I would advise skipping it.

Quaint shops selling souvenirs, trinkets and ceramics are tucked away in the alleys and lanes.

I had a happy time window shopping and checking out what was on sale.

Mochilla bags are indigenous to Colombia and are found everywhere. These bags are hand knitted by local women. The traditional colors are earth tones, but you will also see colorful versions.

Buy one of these to support the local arts.

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Mochilla Bags

There was an assortment of things on sale, from traditional confectionery, capes, jewelry, and pottery.

One of the shops was even selling Chinese and Indian souvenirs…hmmm, I wondered why? Maybe it was exotic for the locals. Now this was strange for me 🙂

My hostel was a few minutes walk outside of the town square. I had to pass the local village to get to my hostel.

It was interesting to see how the locals lived. They probably worked in the restaurants, shops and bakeries in town. Their houses were a far cry from the pretty houses tucked in those cobbled stoned lanes.

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The local village

Kids playing football, horses grazing blissfully, ladies going about their chores were some of sights I encountered on my way back to the hostel. This was the real Villa De Leyva for me.

I even came across a single screen theater which was mostly empty. I guess it had seen better days. It was playing an old black and white movie. Back in the day it could have been the only means on entertainment for this town.

The people define the personality of the town. Friendly, laid back and welcoming is how I would describe the people of Villa De Leyva.

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Happy kids

The simple things in life make them happy. Freshly baked bread, simple food, an occasion to celebrate, like a wedding, some lollipops or a lazy dog for company can brighten up their day.

Villa De Leyva seems like a Utopian life.

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