Discover the Natural Attractions of Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Villa de Leyva is a beautiful colonial town. It is part of the “Network of Colombian Heritage Villages”, located in the province of Ricaurte in the department of Boyacá.

Moreover, the town was founded in 1572 under the name of Villa de Santa María de Leyva and later recognized as a national monument in 1954 because of the beauty of its colonial architecture.

 

It is located 40 km west of Tunja, capital of the department, and 165 km from Bogota, capital of the country.

This town is very famous for its historical importance and its magnificent square. In fact, the Plaza Mayor of Villa de Leyva is the largest in Colombia and one of the most imposing in South America with its 14 thousand square meters.

The Diversity of Nature in Villa de Leyva

In addition to its colonial architecture, Villa de Leyva is characterized by its varied rural landscapes, and ecosystem ranging from paramo to desert. Also, the town is framed by two branches of the eastern mountain range of the Andes.

Due to its great offer, Villa de Leyva is ideal to encounter history, science, art, culture, and nature. It also has an important value in terms of paleontology, anthropology and archeology.

If you want to know more about the paleontological richness of Villa de Leyva visit our entry The Paleontologist’s Perfect Fossil Trip in Villa de Leyva, Colombia.

Dry areas in the mountains around Villa de Leyva
High Andean Forest Landscape, Iguaque ©Hernán Lopera, Natural National Parks System Archives
Paramo, Iguaque, ©Hernán Lopera, Natural National Parks System Archives

Villa de Leyva Natural Attractions

Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary.

This park belongs to the National Natural Park System, created by Agreement No. 33 of 1977. It is located between the municipalities of Villa de Leyva, Arcabuco, and Chíquiza.

The park has an area of 6,750 hectares, and it is associated with the Pómeca River basin to the north and the Hoya del Río Chíquiza to the south. Additionally, the sanctuary has eight lagoons formed in the cloudy páramo. There you can see deer, weasels, and three species of woodpeckers, among other animals.

Lagoons of Iguaque, ©Hernán Lopera, Natural National Parks System Archives

The entrance to Iguaque Park is through the road that leads from Villa de Leyva to Arcabuco. The Sanctuary is open to the public for ecotourism and it offers three cabins located in the sectors “Carrizal”, “Chaina” and San Pedro de Iguaque.

Important recommendations

  • To visit the Iguaque Sanctuary, it is necessary to bring adequate clothing for cold weather and moorland.
  • Also to bring garbage bags, a backpack instead of a suitcase, food that provides enough calories and beverages.
  • If you are going to camp, bring complete camping equipment, sleeping bag and sleeping bag.
  • People who suffer from hypertension, hypotension or mountain sickness should be cautious because the hike requires great physical effort.

The Mythic Iguaque Lagoon

Also called San Pedro Lagoon. It belongs to the Sanctuary of Fauna and Flora, has an area of 850 square meters, and is located at an altitude of 3,800 meters above sea level.

Laguna de Iguaque, Sanctuary of Fauna and Flora Iguaque, department of Boyacá, Colombia. © Creative Commons

According to Muisca mythology, the Iguaque Lagoon is the cradle of humanity because the mother of that civilization emerged from its waters. From this lagoon emerged Bachué, mother of the Muiscas.

This is why this place is considered a sanctuary and a mythical place full of legends.

The Hidden Valley (Valle Escondido)

It is located at 2050 meters above sea level in the Salto and La Lavandera trail in the Las Vegas sector. The access to Valle Escondido is by an unpaved road that is in good condition, half an hour from the town center.

Valle Escondido, Villa de Leyva, Colombia ©Luis Cadavid

This beautiful valley is found by turning right by the Hacienda El Cárcamo. Among the attractions offered in addition to the lush landscape is the old Primavera Mill.

Pozo de la Vieja (Well of La Vieja)

It is located in Vereda El Roble, 6 km from the town of Villa de Leyva via Gachantivá through Alto de los Migueles. Its waters come from the Caño River.

Pozo de la Vieja ©Pozo de la Vieja

Speleology

Factory Caves

This site is located on the road that goes to the municipality of Santa Sofia, approximately 20 kilometers from Villa de Leyva. It is a natural cave formed by a subway river.

It is a place you can visit to practice speleology. This cave is not very humid, so there are few stalactites and bats are their permanent companions.

El Hayal Waterfall

This waterfall is located on the road that goes from the municipality of Santa Sofia to the municipality of Moniquirá, approximately 6 kilometers away from Villa de Leyva.

It is a natural rock formation with a gigantic grotto of approximately 150 meters high. There you will find waterfalls of 25 meters.

Speleology at Hoyo La Romera, Villa de Leyva, Colombia ©EcoTravel Villa de Leyva

The Hole of La Romera

The “Hoyo de La Romera” is located on the road that goes from the municipality of Santa Sofía to Moniquirá.

The hole is of great magnitude, with a drop of approximately 40 meters. There is speculation that this hole may have been used by the indigenous people to go to other towns.

People say that after 12 meters of ascent, there is a small cave. This cave is presumed to be the beginning of a road that leads to the municipality of Monguí (Boyacá), located almost 150 kilometers away.

It is also known as “El Hoyo de Los Infieles”. Legend has it that it was a place of punishment for women who were unfaithful to their husbands. They were thrown from the edge of the hole. It can be said that its original name was “El Hoyo de las Rameras” (The Hookers’ Hole).

The Blue Wells (Pozos Azules)

It is located 3 km from Villa de Leyva to Santa Sofia. You can go by car, horseback, bicycle or walking (30 minutes).

Pozos Azules are artificial wells that have taken this color by the action of salts and minerals in the soil.

Viewpoints

You will find beautiful viewpoints from which you can observe the breathtaking scenery of this territory, some of these are:

Colina el Santo Viewpoint

Located at 2,400 meters above sea level, to the northeast of the urban center, a 45-minute walk along a road with little demarcation.

From there, you can see the urban center of Villa de Leyva and the imposing mountains of its surroundings.

Colina del Santo Viewpoint, Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Alto de las Cometas

From this viewpoint, you can see the entire urban center immersed in the contrasting landscape of the lowlands and the mountainous area. It is located in the desert area, one kilometer from the village on the road to “Fósil”.

Alto de los Migueles

It is located approximately 5 km from the urban center, taking the road that leaves the cemetery of Villa de Leyva. From this viewpoint, you can see to the east where the landscape changes abruptly.

Cerro de Leyva

On this hill, there is a high Andean forest remnant where you can find foxes, rabbits, beacons, birds, and deer.

Stargazing

Astronomical Observatory

The observatory is an ideal place to observe the sky, the depths of the universe, to enjoy spectacular nights, to recognize constellations, to observe planets, nebulae, galaxies, shooting stars, to follow diverse phenomena and to marvel at mythical stories about the cosmos!

Night at Villa de Leyva – Facetas Boyacá

It has several telescopes and devices for the observation of the celestial vault. You will be able to explore the deep sky and also to observe sunspots and solar flares.

Besides this, there is also a space museum called Kosmos, ideal for visiting with your kids and family. The museum specializes in archeoastronomy, exobiology, history of flight, and space travel.

Finally, the museum also has a collection of meteorites unique in Colombia, and a planetarium ideal for projections.

For more stargazing destinations in Colombia visit our entry The 7 Most Beautiful Places to Go Stargazing in Colombia.

Horseback Riding

Without a doubt, getting to know Villa de Leyva is an adventure that you can make the most of through these horseback tours.

The ride consists of crossing the desert of La Candelaria towards the valley of Villa de Leyva. You will leave from La Candelaria Monastery, in the middle of the desert.

Horseback Riding Villa de Leyva ©envilladeleyva.com

Finally, once you arrive in the town, you will be able to make a walk city tour and visit its main colonial attractions:

  1. The Main Square of the town, considered the largest in Colombia.
  2. The Casa del Cabildo, a historical relic near the main square.
  3. The Casa de Nariño, a museum dedicated to preserving historical material from the colonial era.
  4. The Cloister of San Agustin, the first church of the town.

I hope you liked this brief guide of natural destinations in Villa de Leyva. If you want to know more, or schedule your trip, do not hesitate to contact us.

References
About the author

Sara Colmenares

Current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism – environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.