One of the crazier sights we found in Villa de Leyva was this small green area that was a peek in the pastoral surroundings of the colonial town. What made it especially odd was a lamb lumbering around in easily the most green patch of land in this otherwise very dry town.
This is a Dominican convent founded in 1620. There is a lovely courtyard and in the rooms around it there are exhibits of colonial art, tools, clothes worn by the monks and more. The chapel is situated along one side of the courtyard and inside it is painted in white with paintings on the walls and statues. In the front there is an impressive guilded retable. You will see quite a lot of fossils walking around in the stone floor and also on the base of one statue in the chapel.
The convent was for a while taken over by the military and later it was abandoned, but in 1920 it was retained by the Dominicans.
By the entrance there is a small shop where you can by wine made in the area, religious souvenirs and snacks.
The entrance fee was 2000 pesos (July 2007).
The convent is open 9 - 17 for visitors.
It is situated 13 km north west of Villa de Leyva.
From El Fósil we went on 2 km to Estación Astronómica Muisca, also called El Infiernito. The Muisca Observatory is dating from the first centuries AD and it was a site for rituals and a place where the Muiscas could determine the seasons. As we arrived we first saw two parallel lines of stone monoliths, which were used to determine the seasons. This was made by measuring the lengths of the shadows made by the stones. In the area there are also several big stone phalluses.
The name El Infiernito (the little hell) was given by the Spaniards to prevent the Indians to continue to visit the place.
The Muisca Observatory is open between 9 - 12 and 14 - 17 on Tuesday - Sunday.
The entrance fee was 3200 pesos (July 2007).
El Fósil is situated 6 km west of Villa de Leyva in an area where there are a lot of fossils. At El Fósil a museum has been built around the fossil of a 120-million-year-old kronosaurus. The kronosaurus is a prehistoric marine reptile looking like a big crocodile. Even if the fossil is big (7metres without the tail) it is the fossil of a baby kronosaurus.
The big fossil of the kronosaurus was found in 1977 and I think it was a very good idea to let it be in the place where it was found and to build a museum around it. At the museum you can see many other Mesozoic and Cretaceous fossils.
The museum is open 8 - 18.
Entrance fee was 2500 pesos (July 2007).
The more we walk away from Plaza Mayor, the more wide open the streets get. Still cobblestone, left and right are beautiful houses of residents. Most of them are surrounded by white walls, sometimes the entrance portals are open and give a glimpse inside. Bougainvillea bushes are growing all over quite often – all in all this adds to the special and magic atmosphere of this lovely village.
All these photos were taen in the streets close to the famous Hosteria del Molino La Mesopotamia, which is northeast of Plaza Mayor.
Take the time and wander around in the streets. Near Plaza Mayor, the streets are quite narrow (as in the photos), and all are cobblestone, so you better should wear comfortable shoes, as otherwise you’ll be in trouble in the evening.
As you walk along, you will also see some houses without balconies, as in the second photo. But even without – they are beautiful in their simple style.
Ah yes, I fully admit that I was in love with these balconies and could not get enough of them…I was ? No, I still am, and now, writing about Villa de Leiva and looking at the photos again, it is time to think about a possibility to go back one day.
A lot of these courtyards do have lovely stone fountains, which, together with a big variety of plants, make a wonderful lush atmosphere to sit and relax.
The one on the photos is also in Carrera 9, next to Restaurante Nueva Granada, nothing special with this house – it is just a house and courtyard, no shops, but the owners do allow the visitors to come in, sit and relax.
The little girl is the baby of my colleague Maria Cristina, adorable cutie !
We have relaxed enough on the balcony and it is time to realise that there is much more to admire in this lovely village. Now it is time to look at the marvellous entrance doors of a lot of houses.
My most favourite is the one on the first photo – it shows sceneries of farm life and also of fossils. Ah, I did not mention this yet, but the area around Villa de Leiva has once been a sea and a lot of fossils dated back to this time (around 100 – 150 million years ago). If you hike around the village, you can maybe still find some. I found at least some tiny ammonites.
Probably my most favourite house in Villa de Leiva is the one next to the Hospedaje El Meson de os Virreyes on Carrera 9. This is also one with a lovely courtyard and each of the rooms belongs to another artist. You can simply walk in there, sit in the courtyard or go upstairs and rest on benches on the balcony, which runs around the whole upstairs floor.
No one would bother if you just come to sit here. It is heavenly cool and fresh here - a good place to flee from the heat.
While wandering around in Villa de Leiva, make sure you peek into some courtyards as well. These are usually open, accessible from the street. Some of the houses do have small museums inside, or an array of handicraft shops, so no one would mind if you step in to admire the scenery.
These balconies were all taken inside houses along Carrera 9, one of the main streets. Note the decoration here – they have wind chimes made of pottery, which also makes lovely souvenirs to buy.
The next set of balconies are located in Carrera 9, the street running east of Plaza Mayor, in SW-NE direction (= the one where the church at the plaza is located).
These now are natural wood, not painted and to be honest, I liked these much better, as it is more, well, natural. But also decorated with flowers all over.
This row of balconies is on one of the houses, circling Plaza Mayor.
Typical for Villa de Leyva - painted in a dark green, flowers in pottery, and pottery as well hanging on the walls.
The other photo is a close-up of the balcony at Plaza Mayor.
Here you also can see what kind of pottery you might want to buy :-)
For the best view of town you have to work a bit. On the Mountian overlooking the town is a Jesus. If you are willing and able to push yourself up a rocky, steep path, you will be well rewarded, Stand with Jesus and you will see all the town and for miles around as well. The Duruello resort has an organized tour at 8 in the morning, but it won't be crowded and only the hearty will make it to the top.