Holiday in Colombia (2): Villa de Leyva

After a difficult night’s sleep because of jet-lag, today was spent around and in the town of Villa de Leyva, with a morning trip west to two interesting locations outside town and an afternoon walking tour of the town itself. The valley in which all these places are located is some 7,000 feet (2,144 metres), but altitude has not proved to a problem and the surrounding hills make for a wonderfully picturesque setting.

The first morning visit was to the Convento del Santo Ecce Homo which was founded by Dominican friars in 1620. It is no longer a religious institution, but instead a state-owned establishment hosting conferences and other events.

When we arrived, we found that there was a film crew there shooting a documentary about Simon Bolivar, the liberator of Colombia from the Spanish, and we were offered five minutes to look around. This was clearly unacceptable and in fact we managed a good hour in this magnificent location. The experience of the pretty courtyard, surrounded on four sides by cloisters, was enhanced by the presence of characters in colonial costumes acting as extras in the production of the film, while the chapel has a resplendent golden altarpiece with a small image of Ecce Homo.  

The second visit of the morning was to the Museo El Fosil – the first time that I have been to a location devoted entirely to fossils. This small museum contains – in the exact location in which it was found in 1977 – the world’s most complete fossil of a kronosaurus which was a large, marine reptile that lived locally – when the valley was ocean – some 80 million years ago. 

We returned to town where we were given a few hours to have lunch and a rest. Then our guide Almando took us on a walking tour of the centre of the beautifully preserved town of Villa de Leyva which was founded in 1572 by order of the first president of the New Kingdom of Granada Andres Diaz Venero de Leyva. This is a town of cobbled streets and whitewashed houses with attractive doors, windows and balconies. The main square – the largest in Colombia – is surrounded by colonial buildings, including the main church Nuestra Señora del Rosario which was built between 1608-1665.  

As we have been wandering around, Silvia and I have been getting to know our travelling companions. All of them are incredibly well-travelled and one (a single woman) has visited an amazing 160 countries.  


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