Villa de Leyva

Walking the cobbled streets of Villa de Leyva, especially in the early morning, takes you back three centuries. The clip-clop of burros laden with the produce from nearby farms, the ringing of bells for early-morning mass, and the sun reflecting off the whitewashed buildings along the Plaza Mayor evoke the times when the Spanish ruled over newly conquered lands.

Villa de Leyva carefully preserves its colonial atmosphere—even new buildings must meet rigorous standards—although on weekends, as the myriad of hotels and restaurants fill up, some of the charm is lost under the weight of the crowds. It's best to come on weekdays, when you're more likely to find cheaper accommodations, and that slow, gentle pace of life that makes Villa de Leyva famous. The town's location is as dramatic as its architecture, lodged between lush green fields and forests to the north and an arid desert to the south. You can easily walk between these two wildly divergent climatic zones.

Come in August, when the winds are up, to catch the annual kite festival, or in December, for the festival of lights fireworks display.

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