Villa de Leyva, Colombia – colonial town with colossal public square

What’s there to know about Villa de Leyva in central Colombia?

Main Square, Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Colossal public square. Photo credit: Benjamin White

Firstly, that it is home to the largest public square in Colombia.

It’s worth pointing out that the square, and much of the historic centre of Villa de Leyva, is paved with large, awkward cobblestones. They look terrific, but they are treacherous for those in flip-flops. Fellow Australians, you might want to consider wearing sturdy walking shoes whilst you are moving about town.

Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Photo credit: Benjamin White

Secondly, this is the hometown of Antonio Ricaurte, a captain in Simón Bolívar’s revolutionary army, who, in 1815, at the age of 28, lit a barrel of gunpowder in an ammunition depot, killing himself and a number of royalist soldiers. The destruction of the enemy stronghold helped the revoutionary army go on to win the Battle of San Mateo.

Antonio Ricaurte earned himself everlasting renown as a martyr.

Casa de Antonio Ricaurte

Antonio Ricaurte statue, Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Statue of Antonio Ricaurte outside his home in Villa de Leyva. Photo credit: Benjamin White

You can visit the home of Antonio Ricuarte in Villa de Leyva, although it is a museum – filled with personal memorabilia and military paraphernalia – rather than a period house.

Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

There are several interesting period homes in Villa de Leyva, including the home of Antonio Amador José de Nariño, who is famous for having translated The Rights of Man into Spanish – a document that suggests public uprising is condonable when the government fails to look after its own people.

Florentino Ariza

Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Photo credit: Benjamin White

Villa de Leyva is mentioned in Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez’s work, Love in the Time of Cholera. Protagonist, Florentino Ariza – played in the 2007 movie by Javier Bardem – is sent here to work as a telegraph operator in an attempt to put distance between himself and the enchantress, Fermina Daza.

El Fósil

El Fósil, Villa de Leyva, Colombia

El Fósil. Photo credit: Benjamin White

El Fósil is a near-complete kronosaur skeleton. The skeleton hasn’t been transported into a museum, as you might assume from the photo above. Instead the skeleton has been left in the ground as it was found, and the museum has been built around it.

El Fósil is five kilometres from Villa de Leyva, easily reached by bicycle.

Practical information:

Villa de Leyva is a 3.5 hour bus ride from the capital, Bogotá.

More on central Colombia:

Take a peek inside the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá

Bogotá – worth a visit?

La Candelaria Street Art, Bogotá

Barichara – the place to eat fat-bottomed ants

Posts on southern Colombia:

Popayán – the White City

The enigmatic statuary of San Agustín 

Posts on northern Colombia:

La Ciudad Perdida – impressions from the four day hike to the Lost City

Santa Marta – unpretentious colonial town

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