After our week-long vacation in Salento, Seth and I promised ourselves we would spend more time exploring Colombia. Thus we decided to spend our most recent puente (May 11-13) in Villa de Leyva, a small colonial town about three hours outside of Bogotá. (You might recognize the town’s name from the painting that we gifted my mom and Ken for Christmas!)
Seth and I woke up early on Saturday morning, took the Transmilenio to the Terminal Norte, took a second bus to Tunja, then took a third bus to Villa de Leyva. Just as our last collectivo began to shake from the transition between the smooth, paved roads of the highways to the rocky, raw “roads” of Villa de Leyva, a fellow passenger yelled, “Bienvenidos a Boyacá!” Everyone laughed.
We arrived in the center of the town around two, found our hostel near Parque Nariño, and immediately set out in search of lunch. Since the weather was nice, we chose a restaurant in the interior courtyard of Casa Quintero, an open-house collection of eateries and boutiques on the southwest face of the Plaza Mayor. At Tierra Buena we enjoyed flavorful (!) dishes of trucha Villa de Leyva (trout with green olives, onions, and plenty of cilantro) and pechuga con jalapeños y cilantro while sipping on a pair of cervezas bien frias. Just as our food arrived, clouds suddenly began to collect and rain began to pour. While the rest of our dining companions sought the warmth and dryness of the indoors, Seth and I remained outside, huddling under our big red umbrella and listening to a couple of gringo guitarists practice their evening set in English.
After lunch we snapped some photos in the plaza, strolled along the roughly cobbled streets, and ducked into some artisan shops. We stumbled upon one particularly well-edited boutique which offered only the most beautiful mochilas Arhuacas and handmade jewelry. I wondered why the shops in Bogotá were not as carefully curated.
On Saturday evening we found another courtyard collection of eateries and boutiques, so we decided to sit down for some red wine and live music. Rain began to pour (yet again), but Seth and I were able to find a table under a covered patio next to a warm fireplace. Al fresco dining is surprisingly hard to come by in Bogotá, especially outside the luxury zones of the Zona G and Zona Rosa, so we were especially thankful to have two consecutive affordable experiences.
The next day we woke up before seven and walked the town in search of breakfast. We decided upon a particular outdoor cafe that I had researched called El Patio Van Gogh. The restaurant/hangout was basically an open lot, which had been dotted with a small outdoor kitchen and a series of picnic tables. Seth and I both ordered the Changua Boyacense, a breakfast soup which consisted of milk, two eggs, almojábana, queso paipa, and cilantro pesto. Served with a hot cup of café con leche, it was by far the most delicious breakfast I had eaten in all of Colombia. I was in culinary heaven.
Bellies full, we began our six-kilometer hike to El Fósil, a museum with an almost complete, 120 million year-old kronosaurus fossil on display, in the same place in which it was found in 1977. Along the way we were surprised by how much the weather and scenery changed. During our short hike we traveled from the slightly humid climate of Villa de Leyva to an extremely hot and dry, desert-like landscape. I was glad to have my new Colombian fedora with me, even if it was only wide enough to shield my face—not my shoulders—from the sun’s intense rays.
We explored the museum for a bit, then sat down for a snack of longaniza con plátano maduro. We then continued along the path to the Estación Astronómica Muisca (El Infiernito). The Spanish named the Muisca Astronomic Observatory—basically, a Stonehenge lite—”Little Hell” because of its many phallic monoliths, a tribute to male fertility.
Sweaty and sunburned, Seth and I walked back to town and prepared to go out for drinks and dinner. We chose a combo boutique/restaurant on one of the two exclusively pedestrian streets, ordered a bottle of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, and relaxed. Post wine, we were hankering for some complex carbohydrates and cheese, so we walked to a little Italian restaurant, La Ricotta, for a calorie fest. Shortly after scarfing down a bowl of Tagliatelle della Zarina (tagliatelle with salmon, vodka, paprika, and pomodoro), I was ready to call it a night.
On Monday morning we returned to El Patio Van Gogh for a tropical breakfast of assorted fruits before boarding a direct bus back to Bogotá. Our trip to Villa de Leyva was exactly what we had wanted it to be: relaxing but slightly eventful. We came home with satisfied stomachs and fond memories.
To see more pictures from Villa de Leyva, click here:
[Tierra Buena: Casa Quintero, Plaza Mayor, Villa de Leyva-Colombia]
[El Patio Van Gogh: Calle 13, Villa de Leyva-Colombia]
[La Ricotta: Carrera 10a # 11-49, Villa de Leyva-Colombia ]